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