We found two portraits of my Grandfather tucked into cobwebs this weekend. One was done by a famous impressionist painter who happened to be a family friend and is the same painter who did my Grandmother's portraits. Painted when Grandfather was older, it's done in muted greens and sickly pinks and the man in the painting looks unhealthy and miserable. Mom said it looked like how she remembered him.
The other was a formal portrait of Grandfather in full-dress arrogantly challenging the viewer. My mom said that was how he saw himself. And obviously why he was so unhappy in the other painting.
When questioned about what we should do with them, my Mom almost giggled and then had her guy hang them in the front hallway with a pastel of Uncle as a child hanging on top so that when Uncle comes up next month, they are the first things he sees. And then Mom laughed and laughed and laughed.
You see my grandfather was a Navy Captain. And when the Navy didn't want him anymore because his heart kept misfiring, he became an angry alcoholic former Navy Captain who taught at the exclusive boys school for rich unmanageable boys. Oh, and a very angry alcoholic who found fault in every one and every thing and wasn't very pleasant to be around.
My Mom did what she could to stay out of his way, she graduated high school at sixteen, which was the earliest they would let her out, and went off to college as far away as possible. My Uncle, who was seven years younger, was stuck being a disappointment because he refused to join the Navy and was rejected from the Air Force because he's colorblind. This is a guy who is not only a brilliant photographer but also a wicked smart man who became a professor of biology and an expert in sarcasm and witty retorts. My Grandfather was an alcoholic racist and not at all in the running for Father of the Year.
When my Grandmother died twenty years ago, we found a clay sculpture someone had done of my Grandfather in a crate tucked inside the top shelf of her bedroom closet. The clay was still moist and tacky. Uncrated, the sculpture sat on the table while we all discussed what to do with it and then Uncle, who like Mom has "never seen the benefit of therapy" proceeded to rearrange the artist's vision to match his own vision of his father. He gleefully scrapped and twisted and rolled and manipulated the clay for hours while we watched and Mom and Uncle told stories.
This was the final result.
And what he still looks like twenty years later.
Don't tell me therapy doesn't work.
My first dollhouse in America wasn't made out of wood and it didn't resemble a Country Estate or a Victorian mansion or even a Disney Castle. No, my first dollhouse was made out of a cardboard box wrapped in wrapping paper with construction paper doors and aluminum foil windows and origami birds on the roof and snails on the side of the house.
And my first dollhouse wasn't for Barbie and her friends. I didn't even have a Barbie let alone any of her friends. No, my first dollhouse was home to four clothespin dolls with glued on outfits and drawn on marker faces. Which meant my clothespin dolls didn't have fancy pink cars or removable shoes or the dozens of outfits that I could change them into to. Heck, my clothespin dolls didn't even have an outfit that could be removed.
We didn't get any of the fancy toys we saw on the many millions of commercials that hypnotized us from dawn to dusk because we were poor. Very poor. Came from Kenya with two children, two trunks and none of her twelve-years at IBM money to live on in her mother's house and try and rebuild a life poor.
Now, when you're expecting a Barbie and friends and pink beach castle and a plethora of other shiny things, a cardboard house with clothespin people is quite a bit of a letdown. But so is finding out years later that your father was using you as a bargaining tool and threatening to kidnap you and stash you in an orphanage until your mother did what he told her because rearranging her face didn’t work. That the hush-hush, “Bring only what you can pack in one bag” trip out of the country to live in America suddenly made sense.
I did not know that when I got cardboard dollhouse. I just knew, like the un-afro, un-accented kid surrounding us, that it was 'different' like me. And because the un-afro, unaccented kids let me know that 'different' was not good, a cardboard dollhouse was not good. And clothespin dolls were definitely not good either. And because they were 'different' and not good, I wasn’t very nice to Mom when she gave me the dollhouse.
There have been lots of not very nice to Mom moments over my years but this weekend when we found Cardboard Dollhouse, I remembered that one. And I after I apologized for being a shit, I took a moment to thank her. Because of her, I can look at a cardboard box and see a house or stove or UPS truck. Because of her, I have a backbone and innate frugality and a sense of humor that finds a snail on the side of a cardboard house amusing and absolutely necessary.
And sadly, because of her, I still have damn Cardboard Dollhouse because who can throw out a memory of a love like that?
Husband, make room, I’m bringing home a lifetime of memories. And you get to hold me while I pack them away.
Sorry to have gone AWOL there. I've been dealing/negotiating/fighting/processing all things Mom and aging and change. It's been funny but not been fun.
I'm currently in my Grandmother's house in Pebble Beach. Don't get excited. It's not a fancy Pebble Beach house. It's a basic ranch that they built themselves in the 40's with a bit of help from the government and Evil Grandmother (what my Grandmother called her Mother-in-law.) My Grandmother died 20 years ago. The house hasn't really changed despite having had my Grandmother's friend and Mom's Guy living here since. The toys we played with are still in the cabinet next to the fire place. Mom's shell collection from her school project still tucked in another cabinet, albeit now heavily covered in dust and spiders and their dinner leftovers. And I'm tucked in the tiny bed in Mom's childhood bedroom with a whole host of memories- and spiders and their dinner leftovers. It's funny but not fun.
Yesterday, I cleaned out the hallway closet and found a receipt from 1996 in the pocket of one of Grandmother's coats along with a fragile tissue. Also in the closet were the TV trays she ate off when tennis was on and a parasol of my Mom's from when they were stationed in China. Oh, and a very large pissed off Black Widow who had happily been living in there for years - likely the 20 since it was last opened.
This purging of life is... depressing and difficult and downright creepy but doing it along side a woman who is very slowly losing the memories of that life... well, I thought I knew pain with Broken Ankle. This is worse.
So if I'm AWOL off and on for a bit know it's not because I don't have anything to say. It's because the words are covered in feelings too raw to form sentences. And I'm often too teary to find the funny, small moments that we/I need.
Small moments like this: my Mother is currently trying to find a doctor who will perform her colonoscopy without knocking her out. Because she wants to watch. Apparently it's very difficult to find one who will willing shove a tube up your bum while you're awake and watching and commenting as you round the 'corners' or stop for pictures.
My Mother - taking the control part of control freak to another level.
Silver lining to all this, I'm in California. And this beach, Spanish Bay, is where we took our Christmas Day walk every year. Of course, it's a lot colder and less populated on December 25 but it still doesn't suck. Forgive the sideways video. I'm on my phone with spotty internet because Grandmother's house stopped evolving when she died.
One of my favorite, absolutely FAVORITE things about Nashville, Tennessee is the wildlife. I mean, in the last month we’ve seen a Bobcat stalking a Woodchuck, Owls hunting Pepper the Wannabe Cat for dinner and even two young Red Tailed Hawks playing morning tag in our backyard. Love that!
What I don’t love about Nashville, Tennessee is that along with the awesome wildlife, we have a plethora of bugs and things that creep and crawl. Like, for example, the massive Spider that made a big sticky web in front of the patio door this weekend. The massive sticky web I found and removed on Tuesday BEFORE I stepped into it but didn’t realize he’d rebuilt it and proceeded to step INTO it yesterday FACE FIRST.
Luckily I saw said gigantic, probably poisonous and totally deadly, Spider on the wall after I did the “Eeeek!!! WHATTHE HECKIT’SONMYFREAKIN’FACE!!!” dance, so I know she isn’t now nesting in my hair, laying eggs that will emerge during the middle of the night to swarm my body and bite me for food.
Even luckier, Husband’s security camera caught the “Eeeek!!! WHATTHEHECKIT’SON MYFREAKIN’FACE!!!” dance, and subsequent de-webbing for your viewing pleasure.
Add in your own soundtrack of screeching as you enjoy these blurry security camera pictures of my pain. And don't feel so bad for Spider. She built the damn web again last night and almost got me again!
UPDATE: She's back! Night four of web making. This isn't the actual size of the spider. IT'S BIGGER THAN THIS!!!
7am. In car taking FIL (FatherInLaw) to the airport after his 20 day annual eating and weight gaining visit.
FIL: I have an exercise machine in my bedroom.
Husband: Yeah. But you don't use it.
Me: Husband has an exercise machine in his bedroom too. Me!
(And because it's early and I've just alluded to s.e.x. I laugh hysterically. FIL does not.)
Husband: Yeah. I don't use that either. I just put clothes on it.
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me