Thursday, February 19, 2009


At what other time of my life could I possibly indulge myself so thoroughly? Once again I've been wading through Facebook this morning, answering invites from long lost friends, catching up with them, and looking for others. And once again, the doomsayers' assertion that computers alienate us is given the lie. Sitting at a computer and composing sentences is a solitary activity, yes. But in this case it leads to rich, human connection. And in all cases, the very process of putting words together into sentences is an act of communication. I suppose it can be done in a vacuum, as in keeping a journal for no one else's consumption, but I am constitutionally incapable of doing that, and I'd wager that the most dedicated diarist deep down "knows" that her words will one day be found and read. Why else did Martha Washington burn all of the letters between her and George? What a loss to history! A supremely selfish act, in my opinion, modesty taken to a fault.

One of the people I've made contact with is a cousin who happens to live fairly close-by, but from whom, as is the wont in our clan, distance has been kept. The distance-keeping seems to be a mutual understanding with no malice intended--it may be that we acknowledge the old days and honor those memories while also recognizing differences between us now--at any rate, seeing his face I was struck by how much he looks like our Grandma Mac, the sweet, loving, wacky, mother of our respective mothers. A cook she was not (though she was famous for her lunchtime smorgasboard of cold cuts and cheeses with all the trimmings, washed down by beer and sugary soft drinks) and a homemaker she was not. Others remember the scents of apple pie and lilac when they think of their grandmothers. We remember a greasy kitchen and the odor of someone who was probably just a couple of days too long away from a bathtub. But we also remember a darling child-woman who loved to laugh and had the generosity of one who never knew, much less worried about, where money came from. When her husband died and Grandma became responsible for her own finances, my mother had to take over. Grandma was well into her 60s and had never written a check.

I look at my cousin's face and I see an entire previous lifetime that I have moved beyond but whose legacy I know is inescapable. I am who I am as a direct result of those people I remember but whom I now barely know, of my mother's daily, familial interactions with them, and the home she created for her own family in reaction to those memories. She strove to break away from the turmoil of her large family and with my father create a new and ordered life. They succeeded, but my mother, the oldest sibling, also never turned her back on her past. She was the "responsible one" everyone else turned to for as long as all the brothers and sisters lived.

As for me, I look in the mirror and see the face I compose for it. I look at a candid photo, though, and there's Grandma Mac.


Anonymous said...

My Auntie Jean was like Grandma Mac in many ways. She'd never wrote a check in all 50 years of her marriage with L. When L died, she was in shock to find they had half a million in stocks and bonds in the bank. "And L made me shop at a second hand store when I needed a black dress to attend your father's funeral," she said. My Dad is buried in Arlington National Cemetery and it was a full boat military event. Jean and Dad were very close and spent every vacation together. She cried thinking they had lived like poor people with all that money in the bank. She bought herself a new Ford Taurus. My cousin Tommy and I cared for her, made monthly trips to PA to keep her checkbook balanced, get the car oil changed, whatever. She was a special person.

Ralph said...

I love this memory, Z&M! Oh how different things would have been--for all of us--if Grandma had discovered that kind of motherlode when Grandpop died! No such lucki, of course, but with my mother's help she made it. She actually came to live with us towards the end of her life.

Mim said...

Hi Ralph,
Yes we did the lp to digital..oh it was so so tedious.We only picked out about 30 albums of our 200 we have! and yes so much watching and tending and turning the album over,etc. You are so right.
We've been taking our old speakers and sound system and cable parts to a guy here who has an electronics warehouse recyling place. I hestiate to say this but he wants some of our beatles, and dylan and peter paul and mary and other folk stuff of the 60's/70's.
We like the turntable to digital setup we bought and are going to however keep some of the albums since this is such a sweet little setup. So worth the money.
YES I SAW.. your new lot looks really nice. I've read a couple times of your new journey. I want to follow it more closely but I've been caught up in our house cleansing projects!
How are you feeling about staying in your current house if nothing works out? Sounds like you are trying to adapt to your changes, as are we!

Ralph said...

Mim, about staying here: we haven't discussed that possibility in any great detail, but I'm a firm believer in just playing the hand your dealt as best you can, so if it came to that we'd just try to make the best of it. Since we'll be out from under the huge second mortgage, our living expenses wouldn't be too bad if we stayed put. And God knows the house looks spectacular, so it's not like we'd be living in a shack. We're just ready to turn a new page, so we're hoping that'sd what we can do.

I'm tempted to call this blog "a soap opera about real estate"!

Mim said...

A soap opera about real estate... now your talking.I'll call mine a soap opera about life.