As the twig is bent so grows the tree. -- My grandma was a powerful force on my formative years and my life took a certain direction because of her. She was a rough old gal who cussed like a sailor, dipped snuff and used a 3 pound coffee can for a spittoon. She was loud, opinionated, and eccentric. She was my cheerleader. She was in my corner. I adored her. I have always felt that she singled me out from her 9 other grand kids for special attention. Yet, I think all the others felt the same. On Saturday mornings my sisters and I would go grocery shopping with grandma. We could help ourselves to candy bars and eat them right there in the store. We gave the wrappers to grandma and she paid for them at the check out. Once home with the groceries it was soda floats for all of us. She bought orange soda, strawberry, cola , and root beer in those big Mother's Pride bottles and we had our favorite over ice cream in a tall glass. We slurped them up with a new invention, the “flex” straw.
Feeling special didn't exempt me from suffering the consequences of my actions like when I and my two cousins were playing with squirt guns at Grandma's house and made the mistake of squirting her. She broke our guns and laughed at us when we cried. Once we climbed up her peach tree and made so much commotion the hard green peaches began falling to the ground. She picked them up and knocked us out of the tree with them. Our love for her was unfazed.
Because of my precocious reading ability Grandma bought me a Little Golden Book every week.
Over the years we spent a lot of time at the library. My favorite book from those times is The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter. That book was so real to me because it takes place at the sea shore and I could visualize the story unfolding on the sands of Hermosa Beach where I lived and the Palos Verdes peninsula nearby. I've recommended this book to the the grand kids but the Little Scout is no match for Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen.
Redondo Beach public library
We went through a science fiction phase and our favorite from those years was The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. We talk about that book for years. As I grew older she introduced me to books like Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. I was finding books on my own by then and recommended them to Grandma. She got a kick out of Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. We had long discussions about books by Henry David Thoreau, Alan Watts, and Robert Ardrey.
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Ada Slay 1949, my grandma
When we were reading The Keeper of the Bees my uncle Bob was fighting in Korea.
The year we read Portnoy's Complaint Neal Armstrong walked on the moon.
(To be continued)
note: This project has turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined. When you start digging in the memory closet you find things unthought of for years. So, I'll have to decide whether to bring out the skeletons or just push them back into the corner of the closet..