My grandmother would have loved what the current owners have done with the house my grandparents lived in when I was a child. The exterior is lovely. She was lovely. In her glory days she and my grandfather threw fabulous parties, entertained their friends with laughter, with drinks in glasses emblazoned with their initials, with bridge mix in crystal bowls. I remember them with their guests marching through the house in a conga line. She’d put my sister and me to bed early, but we listened and we laughed.
I was so enamored of her beauty and of what I perceived as her wealth (she took my sister and me shopping every time we visited) that I could hardly contain myself. One of the costs to me was that I had to endure visits to her hairdresser. There, she would whisper to Mr. Doty, “Give her a pixie.” When the cut was over Mr. Doty turned me to face the mirror and I would see (to my dismay) that I had lost all my hair. I wanted with all my heart to grow it out, but my mother had it cut; my father had it cut; and my grandmothers had it cut. I know now that keeping it short is the only way to keep my thin and wispy hair under control, but when I was a child I wanted it long and glamorous.
The other cost to me was that I had to know about her alcoholism. To quote an old cliché, she “drank like a fish.” It was scary; she drove hard and fast along a winding road between her home and the mall. My sister and I looked at each other; we were scared. Was it worth a trip to the mall? In our youth we thought it was, even though we knew on some level that it wasn’t. We were scared.
I think of my grandmother now and I am sad for her. She spent almost every day “resting.” I watched her. I was angry with her. I felt so protective of my grandfather; I worried about him like one worries about a child. Part of the reason I worried was that my father was so angry with my grandmother. I suspect that his childhood was made difficult by her. She would regularly drink herself into a sour demeanor when my sister and I visited. She would snarl at us and when my grandfather tried to intercede she resisted. My sister and I remember once when he was trying to calm her down and he ended up tearing her house dress. We were frightened.
At this point in my life (with my paternal grandmother and grandfather long deceased) I remember them with a tinge of sadness. I suspect that my grandfather fell in love with my grandmother because she was a beautiful, gleeful, the life of any party. However, those traits did not play well when she had to perform as a housewife and mother in the 1950s. I remember that she spent her afternoons drinking and “resting.”