Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't tell me you don't have a kitchen unicorn.

I am animal-sitting at my grandmother's house while she's out of town. It's like a weird, very quiet adventure. Though I have been there a million times and consistently through the years, I haven't stayed there since I was small, and am experiencing strange little memories, opening themselves unexpectedly after decades of dormancy.

Memories so everyday that I'm not sure why I remember them. In the shower this morning, I suddenly remembered "swimming" in the bathtub as a tiny child, holding my breath under the water and pretending to breast stroke. Last night I remembered screaming in her bedroom from the pain of an ear infection, and crying so uncontrollably and loudly that a neighbor came over to see what the fuck. Jarring still, I see my great-grandmother's things intermingled in the house. Last night I was rifling through her incomprehensible organization looking for something when I found a green and gold ceramic jar, filled with antique hairpins. I was suddenly transported to a giant yellow velvet couch where I sat, very small, watching my great-grandmother pin her hair up in curls before covering it with a hairnet while watching Mystery! on PBS.

How is there room for these things in my mind? This is interesting for several reasons. It makes me wonder what else I remember but won't know about until it is jogged. Recalling items as dusty as that, things that I literally haven't thought about since they happened, is an almost physical sensation. I almost clutch my head. It also seems that once I pull the seal on these memories and experience them, they begin to fade. The next time I think about it and try to remember more, I can't even see the image anymore.

Her absence is also a good time to take inventory. My mother and I dig shamelessly through her things. My mother because she is an animal, and me because I am looking for artifacts. My grandmother is the most irreverent person in the world and she doesn't give a fuck about heirlooms or history. Once I pulled a late Victorian photo out of a cabinet and said, "Who's this?" She squinted, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Dump it."

DUMP IT!

Hissing, I tucked it under my arm. Haven't trusted her since. I can't steal the things that matter to me because somehow she'll know. So I just check on them when she's not around. Most of it I already know about, but sometimes I find something charming, like a little silver bracelet engraved with the names of my grandmother's best friends from high school, made at the time. Or a poem someone had written in pencil about them, each girl with her own paragraph. The poem was about drinking and smoking on the sly at a lake, but described my grandma as sweet and reserved, content to drink Coke. An idyllic small town upbringing in rural Montana as far as I'm concerned. I know this because my great-grandmother told me. If I asked my grandma, she would say, "Eh? How was it? Cold."

This time I found a ration book from WWII. That I might actually take, lest she write a shopping list on the back of it and later ditch it in a Trader Joe's parking lot.

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