No matter where I live, how old I get, how rich or poor, sick or healthy, no matter how happy or tragic the events of my life may be, at the core of my being I know this: I have been loved. Deeply and unconditionally loved by two people in my life, and those people were my grannies.
My mother's mother was a gentle, beautiful, elegant creature who died suddenly when I was fifteen years old. Although she lived next door to us for many years of my childhood, it is hard for me to remember much about her. One thing I'll never forget is the way she would smile when she saw me and say, "Hello, Nan!" in a way that made me feel I was the most important person in the world to her. And she's the one who told me, "Happiness is a choice. Sometimes bad things happen, but you can decide either to be miserable about them or to be happy in spite of them. It's all up to you, Nan." I think of her all the time.
But today I am thinking of Mim, my father's mother. For some strange reason, people in his family would begin, in adulthood, to call their parents by their first names. In my recollection, Curt always called his mother Mildred, so in my babyhood I garbled that down to "Mim," and Mim is how she was known ever after.
Mim came from a large, solid Pennsylvania family. Her mother was of Swiss descent, and her father's people were German, so she spoke with just a tinge of what she referred to as a "Pennsylvania Dutch" accent (even though none of them came from Holland, so okay...) She also cursed in German, and as a child I picked up a smattering of colorful phrases from her that, thankfully, no one really knew how to translate.
So what does all that have to do with a chair? Well....
Back in the '70's everyone was on a furniture refinishing craze. Painted wood was considered intolerably old-fashioned, and people did a lot of stripping to restore wood pieces to their "natural" finish. Mim and a couple of her sisters decided to try refinishing a child-sized, antique oak chair that one of them had picked up at some flea market. They could see that the original wood finish was an attractive, dark stain...
So they went at it, stripping away at the gold paint, down to the turquoise paint, down to the red paint, down to the black... and then they said, " Ach du mein lieben Gott im sprechen sie Himmel ! " (at least I imagine it was something like that) and gave it up for a lost cause.
But, being veterans of the Great Depression, they couldn't discard a perfectly usable chair just because it was ruined, so they decided to give it to young Nan, thinking she might be able to do something with it.
Oh, I did something with it, alright: I left it just as it was because I thought, with all their adorable, ineffectual interfering, they had actually managed to make the piece all the more beautiful. I have cherished it, just as they left it, for many, many years, and now whenever I look at that chair, what I see are layers of time expressed in color. And I remember those ladies, my granny and my great aunties, and even recall myself as a bright young thing. I would not change one thing about that chair; it is memory made manifest.
A reminder that I have been loved.
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