Wednesday, November 4, 2009
When I was a little girl, long before Dan arrived, I was told the story about the devil flying over... Sitting at my Grandma's knee, (Sarah Belle) would say, " the devil's apron was so full he couldn't make another mile, so he dumped his whole apron on this hill." Grandma had gentle hands. Her long, slender fingers moved constantly, doing "lapwork", as seamstress work was commonly called in the old days. Grandma sat in a rocking chair, near the window facing west. It was always dim in the room unless the sun was tossing its last glow... The light passed through the starched, white, southern curtains that hung over wavy glass windows. Under the window sill was a three tiered shelf built by my daddy. Grandma would tell me, " Sally, your daddy built this little sewing shelf for me." The top of the shelf had her three prized possessions, African violets...two dark purple and one, pink. Grandma would tell me not to touch the violets as the petals bruise easily and the foliage would recoil from my little fingers.
She would seat me by her, so close I could smell the lye soap from her gingham dress...As
I sat there, admiring the violets,sensing a special moment that was to come, Grandma would allow a quiet and contemplative moment or two to pass. As a precocious child, impatient to explore, move or have something happening all the time, I somehow sensed a greater good would come from being still.
Grandma made stools from old Donald Duck orange juice cans bound together and covered in her hook rug patterns. On one of these, I would sit silently at her knee, listening to the old mantel clock ticking away. I watched those slender fingers as they parted the burlap covering the bottom two shelves...she removed a small cardboard box. She opened it carefully, bringing out one piece of candy. Her gentle hands would break the solid white candy stick in two pieces. "The striped candy is for Phyllis, Ruth Ann and Bobby, but you like this one don't you, Sally?" A child can only concentrate on the gift and not the giver...so it goes. Somehow, even as a child, I knew, Grandma was giving me a very special moment.
I'm not sure how this ritual began or why some 58 years later it still makes me pause to remember the gifts of a loving grandmother, patient father and hell-bent -for- leather mother.
The lessons from Dutton Hill are still unraveling... go to the quiet spot near the spring and listen, our ancestors left us space to hear the gift and time to remember the givers.