Grandmothers

Yesterday we had lunch at my sister’s house. Veggie sandwiches, fruit salad, my niece’s deviled eggs and my mom’s lemon cake, and buckets of peaches from the tree out back, small and lopsided and so heavy with juice that they had to be eaten over the kitchen sink. We drank pineapple wine, lightened with seltzer, and shuffled around with our plates in hand to perch as we always do: the men at one table, talking about cars and airplanes; women at the other, taking on the problems of the world.

My grandmother was there, tiny as a child but swathed in purple glass beads, firmly wigged, her lipstick applied with the brush she keeps in a caddy on her dressing table. She smells of lavender powder, and the skin seems to drape over her cheekbones and pool like a velvet curtain around her neck, all folds and soft creases in the fabric of her. She’s the smartest person at the table, holding forth in ladylike Aussie tones on the topics of religion (nonsense!), reality shows (did you see The Batchelor, dearie?), and politics, tossing up her gnarled hands and raising her hand-drawn eyebrows about the foolishness of the Republican party (what a bunch of children!). She’s got life pretty well figured out. She keeps my mom hopping.

When she said goodbye to Drew, she patted his chest and adjusted his collar, ran her little hand across his shoulder as he smiled down at her and promised to keep us well.

Photograph by Joyce Tenneson

This Friday we’re planning to drive up to see his grandmother, who lives in Arizona. She’s about the same age as my grandma, but has only recently moved from her trailer in the desert–where she used to sweep the dirt in the front yard to keep it neat, which worked surprisingly well–to the assisted living home where she lives now. Everyone in Drew’s enormous family loves Nana to bits. She’s incredibly warm and kind and doted-upon in the best possible way, a way that makes you feel she’s earned it. I think it will be said at her eulogy that everyone loved her, everyone was her friend.

Drew and I may never see our grandmothers again once we move away. I promised mine real letters, on paper, with handwriting and postage stamps. Maybe I’ll load them up with pressed flowers and tiny packets of beach sand, or pictures of us with our hair damp with rain, grinning like tourists at the door of our home.

I hope she’ll collect a stack of those letters and tie them with a ribbon.

Do you still have a grandma? If not, do you remember yours?

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