Monday, March 17, 2008

The 'Grace' of March 18th

photo by grassrootsmsw
Brentwood, CA 1991

PINK...Not just any kind of pink, but the soft tender pink of a powdery rose. “It must be just the right shade,” Oma said. I always tried to wear some form of the “right shade” when I would visit her…if only, to see the smile and appreciation on her face.

The hot pink perfume box, saved from a trip to Paris in the 40’s, sat on her vanity bureau; just as it had, as far back as I can remember. “Shocking,” by Sciaparelli was written in gold across the box. She never failed to re-tell me that this was her favorite perfume…a perfume that was discontinued and no longer made. “It smelled of the perfect pink,” she said. I watched her eyes, dreamily reminisce, and go back to an exciting and youthful time in her life…there were untold and never to be spoken secrets and mysteries there.

My sister and I were her only grandchildren. “My girl angels,” she said, smiling and proud. We were the daughters she never had; the daughters’ she had always imagined to swathe and enfold in that “perfect pink.”

From young ages, Oma spoiled my sister and I with the most wonderful shopping sprees. While she usually picked out clothing for us, there was one occasion where my sister, at the age of 5, got the upper hand. It was a Saturday, at the Brentwood Country Mart, in the children’s clothing store, “Jack and Jill.” While my grandmother was preoccupied with the new dress I was trying on, my sister had begun her own scavenge of the store, finding and putting on the most outlandish and ostentatious dress and hat. “This is what I want, Oma,” she said, standing with her feet spread apart and hands on her hips. Poor Oma never knew what would hit her as she peeled into curls of laughter, tears coming from her eyes as she said, “My God, you look like little orphan Annie.” My sister did not find her outfit humorous at all and immediately burst into tears. “I want this outfit, I am NOT taking it off,” my sister shouted between sobs. Oma tried to control her giggling, but the more defiant my sister became, the more Oma laughed. Mind you, it became funnier as the lace surrounding the floppy sunflower hat, continued to flop in my sister’s face. Between laughter and tears, the owners of the dress shop suggested that Oma take my sister for a walk to calm her (even though my sister was NOT in any way going to disrobe from her chosen dress and hat). Oma, realizing that my sister was determined, took her on her lap and said, “Do you really want this dress and hat?” Through weepy 5 year old eyes, my sister looked intensely at Oma and said in the most sincere voice, “Oma, this is the dress I have wanted my whole entire life.” Needless to say, my sister left the dress shop in that very dress and hat, leaving Oma with a story she would tell for years to come.

Being 5 years older than my sister, I had the gift of Oma’s full unadulterated attention before my sister’s arrival. Oma always made me feel special and important when she would take me for breakfast or lunch to places of my choice. One morning, right before my sister was born, Oma took me for breakfast at the “Friar’s;” a favorite place for home made cinnamon buns. Oma made me feel more adult as she asked me detailed questions about myself and school. As we sat, enjoying our cinnamon buns and chatting, an older gentleman came to our table and said, “How lovely to see a mother and daughter enjoying a breakfast out together.” We both smiled and said, “Thank you.” As the man moved away from our table I said to Oma, “He thought you were my mom!” Oma smiled with a glowing blush. As we left the restaurant I suggested to Oma, “Let’s skip to the car!” Without hesitation she took my hand and we skipped the half a block to her car. I remember looking up at Oma and seeing the happy smile on her face. Then, I stopped and looked at Oma’s hands. “You know, Oma,” I said, “If that man had seen your worried hands he would have known you were my Oma and not my mom.” Leave it to a child to innocently deflate someone’s balloon. Years later Oma would re-tell this story, saying, “Here I was feeling so young after that man’s comment in the restaurant, and then Tianna asked me to skip to the car…I felt so youthful and complimented…then she told me about my ‘worried hands.’”

My sister and I always went to Oma’s home, knowing her welcoming arms would hold and love us. The familiar scents of her home, provided us with a sense of safety and consistency. Nothing ever changed in her home, and it was something we counted on. The player piano in her living room never tired of the same music reels we would play over and over. The front yard, with the large birch tree, awaited our regular picnics held in its’ shade. The room with the canopy bed was always ready for our sleep overs… made with the softest sheets and perfect goose down pillows. The rocker in the room is where Oma would sit and read our bed time stories to us as we dozed off to sleep.

Many visits to Oma were spent playing Yahtzee, Old Maid, and Clue in her den… Cashews and Coca-Cola supplied from the wet bar called “The Red Lyon.” The curved oak bar had been built as a replica from a pub in England which my grandfather had favored.

Another much loved past time was when Oma would let us play dress up in her never ending closet of clothing. My sister and I could spend hours pretending to be princesses and queens as we donned many of her different gowns and high heels. Oma would pretend she didn’t see us eating the green milk bone dog biscuits behind the wing back chairs in her den, while dressed in one of her old ball gowns. Oma let us get away with a lot and created beautiful spaces for our imaginations to blossom and flourish.

March 18th is Oma’s birthday and despite her ‘earthly’ absence to us since 2004, she is forever present in our hearts,’ and unconsciously, who she was to us, resonates and ricochets in how we lead our lives. Shocking pink…shocking pink…

With love from afar, yet so very near and always, cherished.



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Anonymous said...

Great and very reminiscent of her. We went to see her today at the cemetery........