Friday, July 13, 2007

The nights get later

It was truly a 12-hour day at the technology conference today. I got to the venue at 8:30 am, and I just got home at 9 pm. Group meals tend to be protracted affairs, and this one was three hours -- a bit too long even by the loose standards one applies to give the kitchen time to get all the meals out at once.

I did get to sneak home for 45 minutes while the attendees were being escorted back to their hotel for a pre-dinner freshen-up. Noel took advantage of my unexpected appearance to indulge in a shower, and I put the kids in their pajamas and sang "I Love You A Bushel And A Peck" with CG. That's a song my mom used to sing to us, and I can't hear a reference to agricultural volume measures without thinking of it. (Warning: Those who follow the link may experience nausea due to an overload of flowers and kitschy cartoon animals.)

As I get older and interact with my growing kids, I flash back more and more to childhood experiences of my own, especially to little traditions or habits I associate with various relatives. We spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother, Mary Gray Jorges, known to us as "Mamie." She immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland as a teenager, helped run the chenille bedspread business her husband started, and eventually (when my mother was a teenager) divorced him. CG is named after her. When we were very young we spent time at her little white house in the Brainerd area of Chattanooga, a couple of miles from where we lived. There she fed us chicken pot pies -- I still love chicken pot pies -- and let me listen to the floppy plastic record of bird songs in the back of her big "Birds of North America" coffee table book.

Later she moved into an apartment in an old building downtown, much farther from us, but without all the maintenance, presumably. (This was before the age of assisted living.) When we visited her we got to ride the elevator down to the basement, where there were storage cages for the residents' trunks and boxes, and get glass bottles of Coke out of the machine. She always had Hershey bars for us. We played Scrabble. She had a potholder hung up in her little kitchenette that said "all i want is a little peace and quiet." When we dropped food, she mock-scolded in her Scottish brogue, "Don't feed the floor!"

Her home was full of the china she painted, and her oil landscapes and seascapes, some of which I now own. She painted beautifully detailed Biblical figures and scenes on fabric and backed them with flannel to make flannelgraph religious teaching aids, and as an art professor in her working days, taught students at Tennessee Temple University how to do it themselves. The flannelboard ended up in our basement, where I amused myself tucking the little cake into the slot provided in the raven's beak as he swooped down to deliver dinner to the exiled Elijah.

When I play with my kids or talk to them, I'll sometimes feel the vibrations of the way she talked to us, and what I thought she was and meant at that time. What will be the Hershey bar and the potholder that my kids will forever remember and associate with their childhood?

No comments: