Part of having a family history includes moments when those you spent time with are no longer here. Dates, places, sights, and smells…. all of these and so much more can trigger a memory that transports you back in time.
Today, October 4th, would have been my Grandma Reva’s 87th birthday. She would always tell us that she was born in the month and year of The Great Crash. The Depression would have an impact on her childhood, just as it did most others in America at the time. It would take her family from their life in Arizona to her father’s family farm in Kentucky, and then on to Charleston, SC for a time… but those are all stories for another day.
It’s been almost 3 years since she passed away. Her passing came only months after I had moved from Florida to Virginia. Time marked in spaces where I felt as though I was drowning. Where her prayer for my contentment kept me striving to feel settled in a foreign land. That prayer is one of the catalysts for my desire to embrace the here and now. To live wholly in the present, to seek beauty in nature, and to once again spark a light that might shine into the world.
Today is a day when nostalgia comes calling. I remember her giant earrings and crazy hats. Her sweet smile and soothing voice.
I remember her warm embrace and how I could never beat her at Yahtzee or Rummy. I remember when she came to stay with us for a little while after her hip replacement in the winter of ’88-’89. I ended up with chicken pox and our pipes froze (if you know Florida, this just didn’t happen). She always had an ear to lend and encouragement for anyone who came seeking. When her hip replacements gave out later in life and her heart was too weak to survive any more replacements she got a motorized wheelchair/scooter, slapped a Harley-Davidson sticker on the back of the seat, and went about living. She loved people and people loved her.
She had an infectious laugh and a big personality. She spent a number of years volunteering for the Naples Players. She always said she had done every job except act on stage. She actually did act in some videos that were used for training nurses at the hospital. It was during her time there that she became friends with a woman who would later move to Kissimmee and work at Disney World making costumes. This was sometime in the 80’s and this friend either got so many free passes or discounted passes a year (I was a child, so I don’t know the exactness) and invited us up to Disney. My mother, grandmother, brother, my dad’s sister Jami, and I went.
We had a great time and a great many tales, but my favorite comes at the end of the trip. We were heading home that morning. My grandma had washed her underwear and they weren’t quite dry, but it was time to get on the road. She decided that she was going to hang them out of the car, secured by the closed window. I’m sure I was mortified, but at some point you move beyond that and think that this is the most hilarious thing ever. Everything you have ever heard or seen called white granny panties….well this was them. To my child self, they seemed huge (and may well have been).
We were driving along in her little blue Toyota station wagon. My mom was at the wheel, my grandma as a passenger, and us three children in the back seat. As we would accelerate, the underwear would lift and flap along in the breeze, like a white flag of surrender. Then we would come to a stop light and they would flutter down and smack against the window. People would stare from their cars while we were dissolving in fits of laughter in the back seat. My grandma didn’t even think it was hilarious, only a practical solution to her problem. I’m sure she joined in laughing because that’s who she was, always happy. So we traveled along, raising and lowering this panty flag throughout Orlando. We stopped for gas and she decided they were probably dry. She was correct, but they were also covered in filth from smacking the car. That was just too much! We laughed about it for the rest of the day and each time we remembered it for the next 30 years.
When I started this post in my mind yesterday, I wondered whether I’d include this story. Could my words convey the hilarity of the actual experience? I went out to run some errands and was behind an older SUV with a little black flag flapping along on each side. As I passed, I realized it was not little black flags flapping. It was a black sock, one on each side of the vehicle, secured in place by the closed windows. Something I had never seen since my own childhood experience.
I smiled and thought “at least the dirt won’t show up!” 🙂
Let your light shine!