Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gold Pumps

(Updated! Thank you Mom for emailing me the picture!)

When I was growing up, I loved staying with my Grandma. She lived on a farm in a small town at the base of the Great Salt Lake. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking, canning, cooking. If we weren't in the kitchen we were out in the fields picking and planting, or we were feeding the animals or gathering eggs or cleaning the pens.

I spent a lot of time climbing trees and riding on a tractor and picking caterpillars off of plants. But Grandma always made me wear a hat outside because it was important to protect my skin from the sun, especially because I was fair and prone to freckling. She taught me how to moisturize. She told me that it was okay to play outside and get dirty, it was important to be adventurous and tough, but at the end of the day I was still a little girl who would someday be a lady.

My grandma was always working, so she was always wearing work clothes. Pants and shirt, sometimes an apron or smock covered in food or dirt, depending on what she was doing at the time. I watched her dig and plant with her hands, I watched her kill and pluck chickens and shovel manure and chop wood. I saw her grimy and sweaty, and watched her clean dirt from under her long fingernails.

She wasn't glamorous. She was practical, hard working and smart. She didn't need a lot of "things." She was happy with what she had and how she was. But when we went to town, she always put on lipstick.

I liked that about her. And I liked that way deep in the back of her closet, there was a pair of gold pumps. I used to try them on and walk around, laughing at the thought of Grandma out in the fields or canning jelly in high heels. I could never in a million years imagine her ever wearing such impractical footwear. I mean come on, not only were they pumps but they were GOLD for crying out loud. She had obviously worn them a very long time ago, probably before giving birth to her nine children. And I always imagined that she kept them to remind her of a time when she didn't have to be so practical.

God I miss her. She passed away a month before my daughter was born. After she died, my aunt gave me some old pictures she had found in Grandma's things. One of them was a black and white photo of my grandma standing on a porch. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt dress, belted at the waist. I had never seen my grandma wear a dress in my whole life. Her hair was long and wavy, tucked back behind her ears. Her head was tilted to the side and her hands were on her hips (as they usually were), like she was pretending to be irritated with the person taking her picture. She looked so young and sassy. Almost flirty. I loved this picture so much. Everything about it captured the essence of who she was.

Yesterday was my Mac's tenth birthday, and last night I had a dream about Grandma.

We were at a family function, there was a bunch of people everywhere, which is not unusual for large families like ours. I think we were at my aunt's house, but it didn't really look like her house, you know how dreams are. I walked into the kitchen and there was my Grandma, sitting on the floor, wearing that belted shirt dress from the picture, her legs neatly tucked to the side. She was eating a piece of birthday cake, a corner piece. I was so happy to see her.

"Grandma!" I said. "You're here!"
"Well of course I am, honey," she replied in her southern drawl. "I'm always here." And she smiled and winked.
I sat down next to her and whispered. "But you're . . ."
She shook her head and finished her mouthful of cake. "Don't you worry about that. I am always here."
"Funny," I said as I looked at her dress. "That dress is blue. I always thought it was pink."
"Well how could you tell from a black and white?" she asked.
"I don't know," I laughed. "For some reason I just assumed it was pink."
"What did I always tell you about making assumptions?" she asked, squeezing my hand. I could feel her soft skin against mine. I stared into her pretty round face and blinked back my tears.
"Stop," she told me stearnly. "We need to talk."
"Okay," I nodded. I felt so happy to see her. To sit next to her. I could smell her faint, soapy scent.
"That was good cake," she told me. "I can't believe he is ten."
"I know," I sighed. "Two kids in double digits, Grandma. I feel old."

She looked into my face thoughtfully and smiled.

"You are a good mother, April Dawn. You need to stop doubting yourself. These kids are happy, healthy and loved. They are smart and well behaved. But your expectations are too high. You are too hard on yourself and sometimes you are too hard on them. You forget they are kids. You can't expect them to think like adults. To act like adults. To reason like adults. Because they aren't. Lower your expectations. Let them learn on their own. Let go a little bit every day. How can you expect them to be confident when you are not confident in yourself? Enjoy. Have fun. Don't always be so practical. You will blink and it will all be gone."

I woke up crying. I could still feel her hand in mine. I could still smell her clean sweetness. I could still hear her voice.

It was just a dream, but I felt so comforted, so reassured. I felt like I had really sat and visited with her. I felt like she was really there.

And who knows. Maybe she really was.


Stacey said...

Wow. Don't know what else to say.

Girl Going Skinny said...

April you can't write post like this it, I'm too emotional, it makes me cry and puffy eyes are not a good look! :) Oh wow I don't know what to say sweetie, but she's right. Grandma's are always right. You're a wonderful mother and friend April, I hope you do know that. Thinking of you and you're family love have a wonderful Easter, and happy 10th birthday Mac xx


Andrea said...

I second the WOW! What an awesome experience and wonderful, encouraging words.

Kristi said...

I truly believe that the energy of love never dies - it always surrounds us - and that you really did have a conversation with her. I am jealous. What a beautiful experience - don't forget it.

DutchMac said...

That was most definitely NOT just a dream, and yes, she was with you (IS with you, to be more accurate). I don't mean in a 'Sixth Sense' or 'Charmed' sort of way, but she's there. And you're very blessed to have her still with you, in her/your own way.

What a fantastic Easter for you.

The Maid said...

Awesome. :)

DevilsHeaven said...

That is pretty awesome. Sometimes it really does matter who the message comes from doesn't?

Gladys said...

My Grandma, Nanny, comes to me often and always has. My mother though comes every night. Either talking to me about what I NEED to do or haven't done or should do.

Honey listen to your Grandma she came to see you for a reason.

Cindy Anderson said...

April, It's like I got to meet your Grandma. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I was especially close to my paternal grandmother and can totally relate, especially now that my own mom is aging so fast. We lose her a little more every month. I just don't want it to end, you know?

Love love love your warm, gooey, and spectacular story.

Hugs and blessings

Cindy Anderson said...

April, It's like I was right there and got to meet your Grandma. I once was told that we truly bond to someone with our sense of smell. How terrific you could feel and smell and hear and see her so clearly.

I can especially relate because I was so very close to my paternal grandmother. As a little girl, I felt that she was truly the person that loved me the most, with total acceptance. And now that my own mom is aging and slipping a little more every single month, I blink back tears thinking it won't be long until I'll long for her soft hand, too.

Hugs and blessings, and thanks again for sharing to openly. Your story was warm and gooey and spectacular.

Karen R said...

Oh, April, I love this blog. And yes, she really was there and spoke to you. She's your guardian angel. You are so lucky.

kristen s said...

Dammit, April Dawn -- you made me cry.

She really WAS (is) there with you and you need to take her words to heart. I told you before about a similar 'dream' I had about my dad... but it was unlike ANY other dream I had ever had. It was 3 1/2 years ago, and, like you, I still remember every single word he said. I wish so badly it would happen again. You're so lucky! What an awesome gift for you -- after all, it was your "birth" day too :)

WILLIAM said...

That right there is one of my favorite posts on this site.

Great story and great story telling.

caroline said...

I'm sure she was. What a beautiful dream. Hope that feeling stays with you forever.

Thank you for sharing the picture.

Andrea said...

Thank you for this blog April Dawn. I needed to read such a poignant and beautiful story right now! She is right you know. Your grandma, she hit it right on the head. You are an incredible mother, daughter, wife, sister, and friend. You are just an incredible human being and my life is blessed because you are in it. Thank you for making me cry for something other than myself which is all I seem to do lately! XOXOXO