Saturday, November 19, 2011
My Grandma was the most impossibly beautiful woman. She was always perfectly polished and accessorized. Looking at her was like looking directly at the most beautiful of days gone by. She had the most exquisite things & for her, every day was a reason to get dressed up. I used to play with one of her old "pocket books" where I kept my crayons & coloring books. It was a black velvet handbag with gold closures & a very short gold chain link shoulder strap. Even as a child I remember thinking that bag was the very essence of Grandma.
My Grandma & I were best friends. We had sleepovers all the time. I don't remember where my parents were ever "going to" when I got dropped off at Grandma's, mostly because I was just happy to be at her house. Even though she sold that home when I was little, I still think of that place as hers. I could draw a picture even today of what that house looked like. I have very little memory of the front part of that house, except for a memory I have of the day my Aunt taught me how to spell my Grandma's last name. Other than that, my memories are of the "back" of the house. On our every day visits to my Grandma's, which was located in the backyard of St. Petersburg High School, we always entered through the back door. The back door of course led into the kitchen, which is where the most important "happenings" took place. Although I don't remember the lessons, I do remember that's where I learned what it was like to cook. I watched her closely as she carefully constructed whatever my dinner would be, which was usually hot dogs, mac & cheese & green beans. I remember seeing her open that can of green beans & even though that can looked just like the one I open at my house even to this day, the green beans Grandma made tasted different. No matter how hard I try, I can't get a can of green beans to taste the way hers did. The back of the house was also where her bedroom & my bedroom were. Although she has many grandchildren & at the time of her passing, she was Great Grandma to many sweet little ones, including my genius nieces, she & I had a special friendship. I was the only Grandchild that lived in Florida with her, so I got her undivided attention on a regular basis. My bedroom at her house was just the back room. My bed was a twin sized pull out couch & when it was all made up it was covered with Raggedy Anne & Andy bedding. I remember feeling safe there, and like that was exactly where I belonged. My parents might not have actually gone any where, but I had gone to Grandma's & that was very special to me.
My Grandma listened to every word I said. I used to complain to her about my Mom & at the time I wasn't aware that she wasn't just my Grandma, she was also the mother of the woman I was complaining about. But Grandma never let on that it bothered her. She patiently listened & she'd offer a lifetime of encouragement, feedback & "coping mechanisms" for how to understand my Mom, who at the time was very confusing to me. She nudged me gently in the right direction, but once I reached the destination she had in mind, she always let me believe it had been my idea all along.
My Grandma picked me up from school & took me to all of my activities. I remember riding in her car when the residents of South St. Pete were rioting over police brutality. When I think about that now I think about how frightened she must have been, but also how committed she must have felt to get her grandchild out of harm's way & how even then I wasn't afraid because I was with her. She picked me up from school even into high school. In fact I got my driver's license at the end of Sophomore year of high school & I didn't drive 1 day that year. Even though I was qualified to operate a car in Florida, I still let her pick me up. I don't know why, but I think it was out of a sense of duty or vocation. Taking care of me & making sure I was ok was her calling, & because I knew that job filled her cup, I think I let her do it even after there wasn't a real need.
That's the thing about My Grandma. She was exceptional at a lot of things that were totally unrelated to me, or my brother, her other grandchildren, or even her children, but she made it her business to make sure we were ok, no matter what. Even in the last few years of her life, when the love of mine came along, she made it her business to ensure that he would be a part of our family forever. She didn't remember much those days, but she never forgot that he'd promised her we'd get married. And we're keeping that promise, just a few short months from now.
I could never express my gratitude for having known & been educated by a lady like Frances Burroughs. She was the picture of polish, patience & love. I can only say that if I do my very best, & I'm careful to honor her memory, I'll be half the woman she was.