Sunday, June 2, 2013

My 92 Year Old Grandmother (Part 1 Salon Hopping)

            At age 92, my grandmother’s white hair grows faster than a celebrity can get extensions.  She likes to shop for new clothes, but lately her style is something akin to the J.C. Penney version of Garanimals; matching shirts and pants with embroidered butterflies or hummingbirds.  Her favorite pastimes are exchanging the new clothes for newer ones and getting her hair cut frequently.  She loves for me to drive her to the store and salon, then out for lunch. 
            When she moved near me, she made a list of every salon in town.  One-by-one she visited each of them for a hair cut, crossing them off her list with notes like: “made my ears show” or “left it too long in front” or “uneven on the sides.”  Thirteen salons later, she outlived the list and started over, that’s when she started getting her reputation as a “salon hopper.”  
            She’s easy to spot.  She drives a sleek walker with a custom red-and-black metallic paint job.  And she goes fast, parting the crowd like Moses to get in line first or to get the last electric cart at the grocery store.  The walker is too large for her, she’s only 4 feet 10 inches.  It belonged to my grandfather; but when he died, she decided to take advantage of the situation.  It empowered her.  Salon owners hurry to assist her through the doors and to a comfortable seat.  They take extra care to adjust the water temperature and compliment her thick, white hair.   
            Regardless of how courteous the hair stylist is, my grandmother believes that nonagenarians have the God-given right to say whatever is on their mind.  Grams takes full advantage of this geriatric endowment. 
            At the eleventh salon, a young beautician, sporting a modern spiky style, approached Grams cheerfully, “How would you like your hair cut today?”
            “Not like yours!  That’s how my hair looks when I wake up in the morning.”
            The young beautician blushed and glanced at me.  I gave her an apologetic look and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”  She tried to follow my grandmother’s impossible requests, gave her a new-customer discount and the senior discount.  Despite her best efforts, Grams had decided to not like it.
            “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?” 
            Grams was a salon hopper, she would never go to the same place twice.  When she said “Yes,” I was surprised.
            “For tomorrow, with that lady over there,” Grams pointed to another hair stylist who had been cutting someone’s hair across from where she had been sitting. 
            As I ushered my grandmother outside, I looked back over my shoulder and apologized again to the young woman. 
            “I don't like it.  What do you think?” Grams asked, looking in the visor mirror.
            “I think maybe you should wait to insult someone until after they’ve cut your hair,” I chided.  She laughed sheepishly.  Nonagenarians can say whatever they want.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Lawnmower Incident

            Lucille usually drove the creamy yellow Oldsmobile and Ed drove his white Chevy truck.  But since they had the grand-kids for the weekend, Ed drove them all in the Oldsmobile.
            “This is the poor man’s Cadillac,” he told the grandson and granddaughter sitting in the backseat.
            They drove to Lowe’s to look at the latest models of lawnmowers.  Ed examined each lawnmower as if he were choosing between a Michelangelo or a Lorenzetto sculpture.  He chose the one he wanted and Lucille pulled out the credit card.  They could have paid cash, but Lucille liked to funnel every purchase through Visa or MasterCard.
            “How are we going to get this home?” the granddaughter asked.
            “Your Gramp said it will fit in the trunk,” Lucille said.
Out in the parking lot, Ed took the screws out of the handles and the top portion folded down neatly. 
            “That ought to do it,” Ed said.
            “Ed, that’s not going to fit,” Lucille said.
            “Yes it will.”
            “No it won’t.”
            “Yes it will,” he said as he hefted the mower into the trunk
            “No it won’t Ed.”
            “It will fit.”
             “Ed, that thing is too big, the lid won’t close,” Lucille said.  Although the grandchildren never heard Lucille sing, they did notice her voice rose at least an octave this time.  The grandchildren exchanged a look, but didn’t speak out loud.
            “It’s going to fit,” he said.  Ed brought the lid down gently and it wouldn’t quite close.  He lifted it again and adjusted the position of the mower.  He tried it again, but there was still a gap.
            Lucille peered at the space between the trunk and the lid, “Ed, It won’t fit.”         
            “It fits.”
            “Ed, it’s not going to close!”
            “Yes it will!”  He slammed the trunk lid down as hard as possible.  The unmistakable shape of the lawn mower protruded through the once smooth trunk lid. 
            “I told you it would fit,” Ed said.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Tornado Next Door

                I have learned to love thunderstorms.  They are exciting and something like a scary movie.  We know it’s coming, we know it can be dangerous, we just don’t know exactly when or where the lightning will strike.  We don’t know if we will suddenly be in complete darkness, temporarily blinded by a flash of electricity, or feel the vibration of thunder.  It’s the expected unexpected that keeps us on edge.
                I’m not sure why I enjoy a good storm now.  I remember a time when they scared me; many stormy nights I would wake up my husband and ask him if he thought we should take shelter.  We lived five miles down a dirt road, thirty minutes to the nearest town, without any kind of tornado siren.
                One blustery night I woke him up for the umpteenth time and he patiently said, “It’s just a storm, go back to sleep….” his drowsy voice trailed off.
                The storm picked up and I shook him a little harder.  “Honey, listen to it!”
                “I know,” he said.  “But it’s just a hard rain.  Please don’t wake me up for every little storm.”  He was immediately asleep. 
                I lay awake for what seemed like hours, listening to the wind howl and the rain pound.  When the hail hit, it sounded like handfuls of rocks being thrown at the window, I was sure the windows were going to shatter.  By now the wind had escalated to the point that things were blowing past, large things, like lawn chairs and dog houses. Tornado!
                I did what any thoughtful wife would do; I fiercely shook my husband out of his blissful sleep.  This time he sat straight up and said, “This is the kind of storm you can wake me up for!” 
                We quickly gathered our small children into the safest room we had.  Outside the storm raged, we knew it was destructive, but it was too dark to see.  We had to wait for daylight to look at the damage.  It was obvious.  Seventy-five year old oak trees were completely uprooted and thrown around the yard.  Their huge roots were higher than the house.  Nobody could get out of their driveway, too many trees were down.  We had to cut our way to the dirt road and then start clearing the driveways of the nearest houses.  
                The tornado had gone between our house and my grandparent's house next door.
                My uncle was visiting from California.  He was staying at my grandparent’s home.  The tornado had taken a large branch and thrust it through the side of their house, like a giant’s dagger, into the bedroom where my uncle was sleeping.  As soon as we cleared the driveway, he got in his truck and left for California and never came back to Arkansas! 
               It was all very frightening at the time.  Perhaps that's why storms remind me of scary movies; they start out small and benign, harmless.  But then they build to a threatening climax and what happens next is a bit unpredictable, just like a good story with a twist....or in this case, a twister.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Picnic or How I Almost Killed My Boyfriend

                It was Saturday and the weather was great.  I could smell lilacs when we got out of the car.  My boyfriend had suggested we go on a picnic.  He brought the food and I picked the location.
                 I knew just the perfect place.  It was one of those hidden places that the rest of the world hadn’t discovered yet.  Well, maybe some of them had, but it was on private property so they weren’t allowed there without permission.  It belonged to our family friends and they said we could stay as long as we wanted. 
                We rolled out our picnic blanket on a level grassy area near the boat ramp that sloped into the Illinois River.  Songbirds were chirping and calling to one another.  Squirrels chased each other in quick spirals up and down the trees.  Bobby and I were having such a nice time just admiring the scene and wildlife and the view of the rushing water. 
                As we started taking the food out of the picnic basket, I was impressed with lunch.  Apparently our friends’ pesky springer spaniel was impressed too.  He joined us.  He stuck his wet nose right between us.  His tail wagged so hard and fast that his body swayed with it. 
                “Go home Cotton!  Go home!” I yelled.  Cotton backed off a little bit, but the aroma was irresistible.  “Get!  Don’t you have some Kibbles ‘n Bits somewhere?  Go home!”  Cotton retreated.
                 With the dog gone, we could enjoy our lunch.  Here was a young man who could cook!  I was prepared to eat sandwiches, but he laid out fried chicken and potato salad.  He had even made dessert! 
                “I forgot something in the car,” Bobby said.  “I made hors d’oeuvres Be right back.”   Wow!
                So, I waited patiently and let my thoughts wander to my feelings.  I really liked this guy.  Suddenly, a warm nuzzling next to my ear startled me.  Stupid dog.  I met his nose with an elbow.
                “Ow!”  Uh oh.  Bobby’s nose immediately started bleeding. 
                “I am so sorry!”  I felt awful for confusing him with the dog.  He held a napkin up to his nose. 
                “It’s okay.  I’ll just go down to the water and wash up.”  He made his way down the grassy slope of the boat ramp.  I felt just horrible for giving my boyfriend (if he even still wanted to be my boyfriend) a bloody nose! 
                “I’ll come help you.”  I ran after him, not realizing the steepness of the slope.  He was right at the edge of the water.  This part of the river was not only swift, but deep too.  As I approached the bank, I wanted to be comforting and helpful, to make up for mistaking him for a spaniel.  I patted him on the back, it was enough to make him lose his precarious footing.  He slipped right into the water!  He grabbed onto tree branches and roots to keep from being swept downstream.  He was safe, but wet.  Very, very wet.
                All the excitement brought Cotton back.  He’d only been gone for five minutes, but wagged his tail like he hadn’t seen us in months.  We had to evict him from the picnic all over again before we could start eating. 
                Apparently Bobby wasn’t mad at me; he laughed about me “pushing him into the river” and teased me, but he kept his distance.  We ate and talked until his clothes were dry enough to get in the car. 
                We drove to the University of Arkansas campus.  This was a fun place to go.  In the center of the plaza, between the Student Union and Mullin’s Library, was a large fountain, much safer than the Illinois River.   Every semester somebody puts soap in the fountain and big mounds of suds foam over the rim.  Today it was pure water, as blue as the sky.  The breeze blew a spray of cool water into our faces on one side of the fountain.  There had been enough water for one day, so we walked toward the library.
                There are several layers of steps that climb toward the building.  Bobby reached for my hand.  I guess he didn’t see anything dangerous or life threatening.  It was safe to hold my hand as we went up the stairs.  At the top of the stairs was a row of benches.  They stretch all the way across the front of the massive library.  We walked to the end of the row and I jumped onto the first bench. 
                It seemed like a fun idea to run along the benches, leaping from one to the next.  Bobby ran ahead all the way to the end of the long row.  I leapt from one bench to the next, trying to be as graceful as a ballerina.  When I got to the last bench, he stood with open arms, ready to catch me.  I took my last graceful leap into the air.  At the last second, I decided to dramatize my leap by throwing my arms back, arching my back and lifting my knee into an elegant finale.  What I actually did was thrust my knee full speed into his solar plexus.  He went down gasping for air, but didn't drop me.  I realized that I had knocked the wind out of him and I quickly stumbled off and tried to help him up.  But apparently a blow to the the solar plexus can cause the diaphragm to spasm, which meant that he was in great pain and couldn’t breathe. 
                He eventually asked me to marry him.  Let’s face it, I was literally a knock out!