My house was burglarized last month. Thieves took pretty much anything I owned that could be sold via classified ad, plus a bunch of crap that is monetarily worthless and heart-rendingly irreplaceable. I've run out of swear words for these people. But it's got me thinking about things.
Some of it makes me laugh. For instance, the acoustic guitar, the electric bass and its amp, but not the French horn. Sheesh. Everybody's a critic. Or the smart phone that is actually a Windows Phone 7. Good luck with that, suckers. Or the earring from Dad. I'd lost one of a pair of earrings, and made the orphan into a necklace. The night before the break-in—I kid you not, the night before—I found the missing earring. They took the necklace.
Then there are the things that don't make me laugh. All my earrings. All my earrings that my grandmother had given me, a new pair for each play I performed in during high school, which she drove two hours to come up and see. All those. Not worth pennies to anybody, and memories I delighted in every morning as I got dressed. No hyperbole here; I knew who had gifted me each pair of earrings I had, and I thought of them as I selected something to complement my outfit. A little wave hello across time. These were hand-made by Leandra. Those were part of a set of five, owned by five different friends, all cut from the same tree branch. These were grown-up earrings entrusted to my young self by my mom's best friend. Those were Dad's way of saying I could get my ears pierced (finally!). These I made. Those were from the first boy I ever kissed.
They were all Really. Damn. Important.
So I'm thinking about things. I'm thinking, a bit frantically, what else did Grandma Sandy give me? No, I mean, what that can't be taken away did Grandma give me?
I remember lying with her on the big bed, under the afghan she had crocheted, while she read to me: Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr, with their buttered bread; The Wizard of Oz; Motherly Smith and Brother Bimbo, which I have since come to learn is the most boring book ever. I don't know how she put up with it, but I loved it, and I suspect she loved me.
Of course I remember her sweaters. Early in my life, they were all hand made. I remember a full-color rendering of the Wizard of Oz in yarn. It had Dorothy and Toto and the Lion on the front, and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man on the back, with the Wizard's balloon on one side and the Emerald City on the other, and the Yellow Brick Road running around the hem. I'm telling you: pictures in yarn. It was amazing. Later, as the family grew through marriages and children, the Christmas crunch became a drudgery, and she branched out into machine-assisted knitting. She designed the patterns on her computer.
I remember Thanksgivings with two pumpkin pies. One for the family, and one for me. Which I would also have for the following breakfast. With a mountain of Reddi-wip.
I remember going for walks around Arden, where I learned that when I grew up I wanted to live in a neighborhood where people waved to each other, which I have now done. I remember her flower gardens.
I also remember her work with the Civil Rights Movement, and raising my mom by herself in Philadelphia, and her pursuit of a Masters degree in sociology. She had a computer and an email address and knew how to use them. She was strong and funny and patient.
She taught me never to buy anything on credit. That right there is a hell of a gift.