In the first of this series about inspiring people,
Debra Busta Moore, a member of Friday Writers in Rockridge, CA,
wrote this touching piece about her grandma.
From the time that I was six until about ten I frequently slept over at my grandmother's house. My grandfather died when my mother was 15, leaving her mom to raise the three kids still at home. The oldest three were grown and out of the house by then. Having been a farm wife with no work experience, my grandmother supported her family by caring for a couple of invalid neighbors, taking in laundry, and running the town library out of her house. The library consisted of two large book shelves in her living room (one for adult books, the other for kids) and was open whenever Grandma was home.
My youngest brother and sister didn't want to be away from our parents, so I got to be the "only child" for a weekend. Although Grandma's house was very modest, I felt like a princess when I was there. For breakfast she let me have heavily buttered and perfectly browned toast made with Wonder bread, with fresh, hand-squeezed orange juice. Occasionally, in place of the juice, I was allowed a bottle of ice cold Pepsi to drink with my toast. For breakfast!
Each morning Grandma swept the floors of her simple three room house from end to end. I was amazed at the amount of dirt she gathered, (a result of living in a house nestled between walnut orchards and rich, brown farm land in the fertile Sacramento Valley). After the chores were done, we walked to the store to buy groceries (Grandma never learned to drive). Although the store was only two blocks away from her house, the daily cargo train that came through the town occasionally stopped for up to an hour, blocking our path. Some days we turned back but others we waited, finally counting 100 or more cars as the long slow train blew its whistle and pulled lazily away. Once we made it to the store, Grandma gave me a nickel or dime to buy penny candy stacked on the floor-to-ceiling shelves behind the check-out counter. The grocer, Mr. Kelly, chatted with Grandma about the town's goings-on as I chose a Tootsie Roll Pop, a Bazooka bubble gum, a couple of jaw breakers, and my favorite, the long black licorice that lasted for hours. In the evening after dinner, we threw kitchen scraps to the chickens and watched them peck each vegetable as if their life depended on it. I slept with Grandma in her double bed, trying hard to fall asleep before her mountainous snoring began. If she fell asleep first (she always did) I'd turn over restlessly, "accidentally" nudging her awake.
Saturday was laundry day. I helped her hang out the week's laundry after hours of washing and rinsing in her wringer washing machine. Once, as I threaded a flowered dish towel into the electric wringer, my fingers caught, and I was pulled into the wringer up to my shoulder before Grandma stopped the machine. My arm was black and blue for a week. Although the pain was severe the first day, I admit that the bruising was also a source of pride! Being tough was a prized virtue where I grew up.
The most enthralling event of the day was watching her get dressed in the morning. Her routine was slow and methodical, and to me hypnotizing. She never seemed to take off her paper-thin under shirt that drooped to her thighs, so I did not actually see her enormous breasts. After removing her night gown, she put on her corset, fastening each stay, one by one. Long garters hung from the corset, which she connected to thick nylon stockings. Although she lived in the country and only worked around her house and yard, I never saw her without stockings. Then she put on her large white underpants with no apparent elastic in the legs and minimal at the waist. Next came the front fastening bra that cupped, but did not lift her pendulous breasts above her waist. She slowly connected the 20 or 30 hooks and eyes from her waist to her upper chest. Then a full length slip, followed by her house dress, and finally an apron.
I was fascinated to watch this calm dependable ritual, that to her was simply getting dressed for the day. Later, when we sat together to watch "Love of Life" or read "The Cat and the Hat," she would hug me into her soft, warm bosom. Those were the happiest days of my childhood.
Thank you for taking the time to read Debra's piece.
If you have a story about an inspiring person in your life,
send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org