Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bow tie horrors

I woke up alone this morning, something of a shock after almost forty years. My wife left me for her granddaughter, only a door away, in the bedroom her mother slept in for most of her childhood. Our granddaughter is in third grade, and her favorite thing in life, apparently, is weekend sleepovers with her friends, events which--according to her mother--she has far too many of.

This grandparent sleepover, however, comes not by choice but directive. Last Friday she came down with H1N1, one of more than a few in her school, and the doctor thought it best that she stay far away from her little month-old baby brother. She stayed home for a couple of days, and her baby brother came here (with Mom and big brother); and now, the contagious part of her affliction behind her, everyone simply switched places.

Just exactly why our minds flashback the way they do is beyond me, but as I crept out of the room early this morning, an ancient childhood memory played in sepia tones on the screen of my memory, something so far out of the subterranean past that I'm surprised I even remember. In 1954, for reasons totally unknown, I stayed with my grandma and grandpa, right downtown, Oostburg, Wisconsin, where Grandpa had a blacksmith shop that was, right then, turning into what we used to call a "filling station."

What I'm saying is, once upon at time way back when, I stayed at Grandma's house too, and I remember, somehow, having to go to school, just a healthy block away or so, marching off down the street from the opposite direction. And what I'll never, ever forget--who knows why?--is the almost unspeakable humiliation of having to wear a bow tie. It must have come with me, I suppose--I can't imagine Grandma would have simply grabbed one of out of Grandpa's closet or something--but she made me wear a bow tie to school, forced it on me, as if not wearing it would be unthinkable for "a scholar"--that's what she called me. That's what I remember--a bowtie is somehow fitting, I suppose, on a scholar.

Of course, Grandma was really old. She went to school before the first World War. Grandma buried a brother, her only brother, when he didn't return from the trenches of France. Grandma raised her children in the Depression. What I'm saying is that when I was a boy, Grandma was really old.

Yesterday, my granddaughter and I went to the greenhouse at the college and shot pictures of plants. She says she wants to come along with me some Saturday morning, and I thought some fun with a little digital camera would be in order--and a way of making sure she didn't get bored staying at her grandparents'. Hence, the picture at the top.

But this morning, creeping down the stairs in utter darkness, I suffered another one of those horrific senior seizures because suddenly my own grandmother, eons old, came back to me in a creepy memory more than a half-century in the dust. Try as I might, I couldn't help remembering that, even then, to me, a five-year-old, my beloved Grandma seemed absolutely ancient, a museum piece, someone beloved yet curious, and, well, embarrassing as a bow tie.

So, in complete darkness before five this morning, my granddaughter asleep in the room at the head of stairs, I'm descending steps, hands up on the wall like an old man to keep my balance, caught up somewhere half way between deadly serious bouts of giggles and tears.

Offer me a thousand dollars, and I won't do it. I won't say one blessed thing about she'll wear today when she trots off to school. You can count on that.


Janet said...

Precious memories - I'm so sorry about the bow tie - but honestly, would your memory be as sweet without it? Doesn't that little bit kind of add to the 'character' you remember as your grandmother. I'm sure your granddaughter has equally 'interesting' thoughts about you...certainly worth the giggle on the way down the stairs- Thanks for the glimpse...

Stacie said...

LOL, I just love you Jim! :)