To the Moon and Back
There’s something special about Grandma’s room, even years after she has passed. It still has that warmth, glow, and beauty. Something that she seemed to carry around in her person.
The cats still don the furniture, though they miss the warm lap that used to accompany them.
Paintings that she painted, and some that family members have done still hang.
Pictures of precious people still smile on shelves and on the wall.
The little guys on the left (below) are my dad with his little brother, Jim.
Grandma came to live with us when I was fifteen, we were both sick and I remember it vividly. I had mono and Grandma had fallen quickly in health. My uncle had made the long haul to bring her north (around ten hours drive time) and when Grandma had stepped out of his suburban, I was scared to even talk to her. She was so small and sickly, gray in complexion, the spark was gone from her eyes. We had completed an add-on to my parent’s house where she would live and she had picked a peachy color for the walls, large windows faced south and her house plants grew in abundance. I remember us fighting a little because we both didn’t feel well, she had a fire inside her that could come leaping out if you didn’t watch it. Her cool blue eyes could pierce you through, but for the most part they were soft and dreamy. She would stare out her windows and “watch the world go by” as she would say, though we lived out in the country and the “world” was the song birds, the sun, clouds, her busy family, sheep, and horses. I know she enjoyed every moment of it though.
Grandma and I both healed and regained strength. I would go sit in her room and hear all her tales about growing up in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Her move to California during the depression was bitter sweet. She left the grand house of Missouri, the fineries and maids for a condo in the then small town of Hollywood. Her father would open a shop “down stairs” where he would sell canaries and birds of the like. She attended Hollywood High School, where their alma mater was “Pomp and Circumstance,” what each graduating class around the USA walks to now. She talked of a parrot who would sit out on the balcony of a lingerie shop and whistle at the women as they walked past. She even defended her little condo from a break-in theif who crawled up their laundry chute. Gram chased him down the street with a butcher knife in her polka dot p.j.’s! But the best thing that happened to Gram when she moved to Hollywood, was meeting her future husband.
They were ten years apart in age and Gram remembered running downstairs to borrow a cup of sugar or flour from “Pop’s” mom, whom she had become very good friends with. Gram was in her teens, her hair in a long braid (un-done for her), and she just stepped in the front door without a knock, something that she had done many times before. There was Pop, laying on the couch of his parent’s home and Gram was embarassed. Of course, while he was home, they became very good friends and eventually fell in love. Their marriage wouldn’t happen for many years though, as both of them had committed to taking care of their sickly parents, by the time she was of age. They put love on hold for their families.
She talked of her own grandmother, Ann, or as she would say “Grandmother Whiting” with a saddness and joy all at the same time.
Grandmother Whiting was a spit-fire, deaf, but oh so loving toward my Grandmother. She would greet her after school with fresh baked cookies, she’d dance around with her little dog singing and half chanting, “Rooney Tarootsen, little dog tootsen. Many dog dog, and doggy man man.” Grandma would smile while she talked about how Grandmother Whiting would pull the back of her skirt up between her legs and hold the fabric at her waist creating “pants” so that she could bounce around. I could always imagine… And we’d both have a laugh.
Grandma’s father was quite a character to say the least. He was a bank manager, a gardener, and a supporter of his wife’s professional piano playing. He built her a “stage” in the house in Missouri where they put her grand piano, and had stained glass as the back drop. He would play with his only daughter, short sheet her bed, tie all her mary jane shoes together before school, put crumbs in her bed… on and on. He was quite the harasser but someone that always lived in Grandma’s heart.
Gertrude Ann, Grandma’s Mom
My Grandma’s room was always a place of dreams and memories. Still is to this day. I often think about her and the talks that we had. I remember some of the funny things she used to say, I remember her extreme generosity, the way she would remain proper in most situations, how she would talk to the animals and spoil them rotten, and all her little ways that she would tell her family how much she loved us, “to the moon and back.”
I miss you Gram.