This morning my aunt (my mother’s 1st cousin) shared this:
I love this shot. [picture of kitchen table not included] Reminds me of the dining room of my Great-Grandma Goldie McCleary Walker. If I stare long enough Great-Grandpa Herschel materializes, saying, “Goldie, get these kids something to eat! Want some ice cream, kid?” Grandma would be fussing with items atop the sideboard turn around and laugh, then take the few steps into the kitchen.
Soon, I would be settled at the table with Grandpa, attending to coloring books and crayons pulled from the floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinet behind me, a cold bowl of ice cream in the crook of one arm. They are always laughing in my memory, he in his dark trousers, light shirt and light blue cardigan, she in her trim, starched cotton dress, stockings and sturdy shoes.
Grandma Goldie always wore her hair pinned up in the back, and I remember the shock of finding her one night (when I had been allowed to sleep over) to be standing in front of the mirror in the lamplight of her otherwise dark bedroom in a long, white nightgown, pulling the pins from her head. I watched the long, white hair fall in an unwinding coil down the center of her back. I had no idea she had so much hair. I must have gasped, because she turned around and seemed surprised, almost embarrassed to find me there. I was whisked back to the spare room across the hall, into the tall bed with its many covers, tucked in and kissed goodnight. There I was left to stare at the ancient daguerreotype of a couple on their wedding day, reportedly ancestors of mine, staring their somber stare from the wall facing the bed. They won the staring contest as I fell asleep and dreamt of them, silent and bouncing in a horse-drawn buggy in the cinema of my mind.
But all that was forgotten the next morning as I helped Grandma Goldie fix bacon and eggs, and laugh along with her as she told little stories and sang old church hymns.
Most of my best memories are centered around cooking, eating, and the joining of bodies around a dining table. This legacy continued with Herschel and Goldie’s son, my paternal grandfather Paul and grandmother, Ruth Alvord. “Ruth, get these kids something to eat!,” he would say, slapping the top of the dining table, his stub of a cigar in the corner of his mouth, his hat tipped jauntily on his bald head. It’s no wonder I’ve battled the bulge all my life. Grandpa Paul once told me in my 30s I was “gettin’ a little broad in the beam, baby.” I told him he had only himself to blame. He winced and grinned, patted me on the back. “Let’s see what we’ve got in the fridge, kid.”
Grandad Paul had this gruff voice and this mouth that made him look like a radio talk show host. Their house was full of mysteries to discover and stories to share.
I don’t have to explain myself. I can keep quiet. I can think all my thoughts to myself. But I write them because they mean something to me. “You knew in five minutes, but I knew in a sentence.”
I fell asleep and dreamed of 1152. I dreamed of a blue dress and green grass and gray stone buildings. I dreamed of death and fire and cats. This is why. I write because I remember. I would never ask you to give a fuck; I only ask you to be able to explain why you do not.