Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bird on a Wire Between Seven Generations

The scene: We are gathered at Grandma Louise’s house in Denver for lunch. It is Jesse, Zeb, my mother who is visiting from Ohio for the weekend, Louise and baby Opal who is sacked out on the couch having a spontaneous nap.
We are sitting in Louise’s living room, which is a room that not only pampers its inhabitants with comfortable, conversation-inducing seating, but also provides housing for her agglomeration of beautiful things. Trinkets gathered from voyages she took with her late husband Raymond: framed paintings, ink-prints, etchings and drawings, as well as mind-stopping gem and mineral chunks the size of lamp-shades that Raymond accumulated from his work in the mines. Everything has its spot, its proper place, meticulously dusted above and below. This room (and much of the rest of the house) provides asylum to these wonderful calcified bits of memory and it feels as though we humans are merely guests. And that feels rather nice.

We are all in a curious mode on this particular day, asking for the story behind this and the reason behind that, begging for an epithet to accompany each thing.
The shiny monkey, for example, who had stared at us during dozens and dozens of visits (she has had him for as long as she can remember and he always sits next to a ceramic deer who appears to be looking out for him), or the chair that is embroidered with such mastery that we all avoid sitting on it, even when there is nothing left but the floor (her mother spent countless hours making it).

Tell us about them, please. We're hungry for the recollections. Louise generously unveils one story after the next while we sit wide-eyed and word-less, hanging on her every word.

After unwrapping a half dozen or so slow and deliberate explanations, she pauses and gazes forward without settling on one specific object and says, “You know, I sit here in the middle of seven generations." Great opening. She has our attention in the center of her warn little palm and you could've heard a bird sigh outside. "I remember my great grandmother very well and the proper dresses she would wear that seem so formal to me now in hindsight. I remember my grandma, she played a huge part in my life and was often around when I was a girl. And of course, my mother--she would've been your great-grandmother, Jesse."

She takes a long breath, as if taking a drag from a cigarette that isn't there.
And continues, "Now my son has his own son--you, Jesse-- who has just had a beautiful little daughter— the precious one who is asleep in the other room.”
She gives us a thick pause to count along with her on our fingers.
“And here I am, sitting right in the middle.”
She smiles softly as we all sit there together, absorbing this notion, like shiny stones at the bottom of a pond.

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