Today would have been my Grandma's birthday. It's the first one that's passed since she died last October. It feels really odd because I often forget she's not with us anymore and think, "Wow, I need to go see Grams" or "Grams would love this" and then remember that she's gone.My grandmother was what can only be described as a force. A thin woman, with perfectly styled hair (she never missed an appointment with the 'beauty parlor'- up until her very last months) and a great sense of style, Norma Chase was excellent with appearances. Her house was always perfectly in order, and she could throw a party like nobody's business. She loved fancy clothes and shoes, and adored her grandchildren.
Seems wrong somehow to speak ill of the dead on her birthday, but it's impossible to describe this woman without at least mentioning her stormy (but intensely loving) relationship with my mother, and anyone else she couldn't control completely. But, a mention is all we'll have for now, for today I feel like celebrating the woman who, despite all her stubborn flaws, her love for vodka, and her mean streak, was one of the most powerful influences on my life. It's true, that like each of us, she had her demons. She refused God until, literally, she was on her deathbed, but in honor of the woman who bought me my pink boombox in 1987, let's save those stories for another time.
Today, I am remembering my Grandmother's kitchen. It was a really incredible place. In it, she was the queen. Yellow appliances, (including a double oven and countertop range) brown wooden cabinets with black handles, drawers full and organized with ony the appropriate items, (was there a junk drawer? I don't remember) and a great view of her perfect backyard. I can recall the contents of each cabinet right now... because nothing ever changed. There was a drawer that had things for entertaining, including fancy drink stirrers (swizzle sticks) and little sweaters to put on glasses. There was a drawer of IRONED dishcloths, some embroidered with the days of the week. Pots & pans in one giant cabinet that pulled out on a tray so you could get to the back. Ah, this kitchen was so fun to just explore... but it's not about the kitchen cabinets today, either.
There was a giant eat at bar that wrapped around the entire kitchen, separating it from the dining room. It was brown with maybe a pebble-type pattern. Around it were these huge barstools where we would eat most meals. I have many memories from this spot, and my memory for my grandmother's birthday today takes place here.
Every now and again, Grams would sit me down, late at night, (after my shower, where she had such lovely things as cream rinse for my hair) on these barstools at the counter. She'd go to the fridge and get out her pink frost nail polish (yes, she also kept batteries in there... I don't know why, but I assume it was the right thing to do, since she always knew these things) and her "Diamond Deb" nail file. She'd first tell me how gross my nails were, and how I'd never find a husband because I had so much dirt under there. It was totally worth it though, because then she would expertly, perfectly, "do" my nails. She'd take off all the rough spots and corners. Then she'd push back my cuticles, and then paint each digit slowly and carefully. This exact moment I can feel the cold polish on my nails. I can also feel the special feeling that she, at that moment, loved me so deeply that she could barely stand it. She would chat with me about boys and music and fashion. She'd tell me stories about her youth, and she would laugh. This woman, who struggled so hard with her disappointment in the world, in God, and in us... was able to just sit and love me at that moment. It wasn't about money, or control, or alcohol, it was about just us two, spending time together.
There were many other times like this, but this is the one I choose to remember this day. I have two material things from my grandmother in her final days. One is the thread box, which is also another story for another time. The other, I asked for from my Mom the morning after Grams passed away.
That Diamond Deb nail file.
Amazing how the little things are so important, isn't it?
I love you, too.
1 Thessalonians 3:12