Friday, December 12, 2008

A strange memory


Sitting on that swing with all of my girl cousins, I can almost taste that sweet juiciness of watermelon in my mouth, as the aunts and mothers frantically cleaned for my grandmothers return home from the hospital. That summer of 1967, Mizz Nowlin, as we all called her, had suffered the last of several devestating strokes that would soon lead to her death. The stink of the nearby papermill was always with us, as was the constant hissing and rumbling of the trains loading and unloading just yards from where we sat. Suddenly we noticed a large hole in the tree holding up the swing, a hole we had never noticed before. We speculated for hours about what might live in that hole and finally we settled on bats. Yes, bats lived in that hole in the tree, so that, of course, called for a song (because we SANG about everything). The littlest and most talented of us came up with this..."There's a bat in the hole in the tree.", (sang to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.")This activity kept us occupied for quite a while.
Later, an ambulance pulled up into the driveway and we watched from the swing as they unloaded my old granny into her newly delivered hospital bed. The aunts and mothers fussed over her for what seemed like days, curling her hair, applying rouge to her pale face and getting her into her nicest dressing gown. Finally, they let us in briefly, to file by her bed and kiss her and say nice things to her, then we were shuffled back outside. Soon, she called us back in to administer a stern yet puzzling warning about dead wasps and how they can still sting you. We still to this day, do not know what she meant by that. She said many strange things that day, but it was one of her last days on earth so we decided, surely it must have been something deep and meaningful.
Nowadays, my grandmother, also known as Mrs. Nowlin, lurks about in the corners of my adult mind and doles out warnings and I-told-you-so's. She is that voice of reason that just won't shut up. She ambles about in my life and reminds me of how hard times were when she was raising my mother and aunts, and how wasteful and frivolous I am. Suddenly, my mother appears beside her and nods her head in agreement. Am I hopelessly lost? I ask them. They look at each other, chuckle, then fade back into obscurity. Well, thanks for nothin', I think.

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