Saturday, August 14, 2010
Salad Crunchies and a Missing Purse
I've been going through my room the last few days pulling out anything I can find that may come in handy for teaching English. I stumbled upon this...It's a piece of my writing that I feel like expresses my emotions in a way that I usually can't quite get across on paper.
I miss my grandmother. It would be so encouraging to hear her cheering me on during this new season in my life.
I thought I'd share it:
That was when I noticed it: a dramatically different side of the woman that taught me how to love, how to pray, and how to show proper tea etiquette should the Queen of England ever invite me to dine in her presence.
There we were at the Brass Pig⎯my cousin, my sister, and me ⎯a quaint tea shop that offered more than mere crumpets and Earl Grey. For us, it proved tradition and good exchange. And don’t let the name fool you. The only “pork” visible there was perhaps the dancing pigs located on the hundreds of Christmas ornaments or teapots for sale in the front room. There was a significance to the Brass Pig which only the right company could explain, and without my grandmother, I am sure that the charm would not have had the same effect.
And on this particular day, like other days where we shared meals together, my grandmother ordered her salad. I always felt that my own mother’s healthy tactics evolved from my grandmother’s influence, and this part of the story, if you knew us Poiriers, is as normal as eating cereal in the morning. I can remember that salad coming out with no crunchies on top and the attitude of disgust which was thrown so rashly at our innocent waitress. Now, describing a simple order at a restaurant and one incident involving my grandmother’s change of mannerisms is not enough for you to fully get the concept of what I am trying to portray. For one cannot understand the way she used to be unless given a chance to see the beauty of her spirit and mannerisms beforehand. So shift with me in your thoughts and leave that table in the quaint tea shop for a moment as I describe the woman I once knew and understood.
My grandmother was a woman of manners. She was a woman that knew how to be a true wife and homemaker. I can remember listening to her talk of recipes and tea times. The house was impeccable. Never did I see a room that had not been dusted or vacuumed. I began to think that dust did not exist at “Happy Hill”, as we liked to refer to my grandparent’s home, for I cannot note one instant that this powdery film dared to rest upon my grandmother’s furniture. It would have been considered a crime⎯just as hanging pictures too high or daring to set foot on the formal living room’s blue carpet as a minor (forbidden for animals and children under the age of fourteen) became. Never was it OK to rest your elbows upon a surface of any kind, but if you wanted to commit a sin you might try doing so at the dinner table. I can remember countless times of accidently “smashing the fairies” as it came to be called. I am now trained correctly and dare say that I ever want to obliterate another creature due to my lapse in table etiquette.
She was a woman of faith. I can remember nights at “Happy Hill” where fear would overshadow my little mind as I lay in the purple room surrounded by the howling wind through the thick layers of woods encompassing the densely concealed home. I have fond memories of the many instances that my grandmother would pray with me for long periods of time. Why is it that the human spirit feels in some cases another’s prayers are more adequate than their own? I always felt this way during those summers in Ohio when constant fear dictated my thoughts. I felt that she understood this about me, and as a result, perceived it her job to push my mind to encounter God on its own. She wanted me to realize that I too had the same power as she in protecting my thoughts from the evil one. In this I never knew how to thank her, for I felt that she understood the Lord in a way that I had only begun to, and perhaps this wasn’t something you thank someone for but simply accept.
Alta Poirier, my grandmother, had a way of making bread so the aroma filled the room at the precise moment I walked into the kitchen after a long drive from our home in North Carolina. She had a way of listening to me sing and egging me on for more despite the fact that she was hopelessly tone deaf—and we all knew it—which caused me to wonder if she could even tell if I sang well or just loved watching me try. She had a way of framing all of the grandchildrens’ artwork despite my sister’s admittedly less than average attempts at drawing the Nativity. She had a way of making herself unique and memorable to me.
Now, follow me back to the Brass Pig, the irritated waitress, and the place where things began to surface in my mind due to salad crunchies.
Crunchies: a salad topper that adds extra zing and power to a salad
⎯Just in case you weren’t too sure about it⎯I am not saying that these toppings affected the way my grandmother acted, but they were a part in me understanding something about her. The something that was completely different than the normal Alta Poirier I had always known. She was intense when she needed to be, but only in situations of some significance. The fact that she was bent out of shape for our waitress forgetting to put crunchie noodles on a salad weighed a little on my mind. I didn’t know how to take it exactly. It was just off. No one else would have noticed so much, but I did. I knew her enough to know that there was too much frustration in her normally soothing voice. There was an intensity that seemed to point at herself rather than the waitress. Forgetfulness just wasn’t an option. Not with the waitress. Not with her. She knew it was happening.
Yeah, I know you can’t be convinced that someone has a disease from a simple encounter at a tea shop with salad toppings, and I wasn’t at the time. I didn’t know what to think, for I was more irritated than anything. I saw something in her being that I never had seen before.
After that, things became more intense. It was as if the disease had a checklist of deterioration techniques to follow and would slowly accomplish each extremely effectively. The list was and is different with every family member, but for my personal list it was salad crunchies first. It escalated to forgotten family recipes and missing purses, to the point of an introduction every time I saw her. First the tears come fast and hard, and you don’t know how to comfort yourself, let alone your family. Then you get this sort of numbness where you can’t quite express how you feel, for you consider yourself wrong for not crying when the rest of your loved ones can’t hold it together with one glimpse or mention of her name.
My mother said something to me the other day that struck me. She told me she regretted in some ways that we hadn’t lived closer to Happy Hill. That my grandmother couldn’t have been at my birthday celebration and countless piano recitals. And as I sat there contemplating the words she had spoken, that’s when it hit me. Maybe I hadn’t even gotten the chance to truly know her; know her in a way that was more like a friend than an authority figure; know her as another type of mother to me; know her habits and life style; her major likes and dislikes. But it’s too late now, that lady before me is not my grandmother. I’ve convinced myself of this. Her eyes don’t know me, and her mind can’t figure me out. My grandmother is gone. For all that seems to be left is a memory and a shell of the woman that could put me to sleep with a prayer and the moments of baking bread and long talks of table manners that I might have taken for granted otherwise.
So instead, I try and picture her there with me. Clapping and cheering as I graduate from college. Sitting at my wedding where the man I love recites his vows to stay with me in sickness and in health just as my grandfather painfully has. Listening to me lead worship and realizing that I am beginning to accept and grasp the love of my heavenly Father that she once told me about. Blessing my first child. And the pictures sort of vanish away into a space called reality as she looks at me in that home⎯almost past me with those eyes⎯and holds her dinner fork up in confusion, wondering what exactly she’s supposed to accomplish with it.