Wednesday, April 25, 2012

True Love 1


The Saturday before Easter, my grandparents celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.  A few days ago, I came across this photo of them taken shortly after my grandmother's knee surgery, and I thought, The love is still there.

As long as I can remember, Gram and Gramp have enjoyed serving one another, often with surprises.  In their highly routinized life, you might think surprise would be difficult, but they have their ways. On a visit several years ago (and before children), I sneaked out to the dining room in the early morning hours.  Gramp was tiptoeing around the kitchen with a sheepish look on his face.  

In answer to what must have been an inquisitive look, he grinned and said, "I'm surprising Gram," as he continued stuffing frozen chicken breasts into their small pink Crock Pot.  He washed his hands and reached for a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup before he continued.  "Dinner will be all set before she ever comes out of the bedroom."

I watched the rosy-cheeked Campbell's boy pass across the front as the can revolved under the force of the can opener and marveled that after nearly fifty years of marriage at that point, Gramp still cared enough to get up early to do something special for Gram.

And Gram, perhaps less obviously, often took the heat for Gramp.  For years, I remember my mom and aunts complaining to Gram about washing the good china before and after the big holidays--Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes Easter.  Gram always stuck to her guns, laughed a little, and continued to use the china until I was in junior high at least.  It was only when I was in college that Gram revealed that Gramp liked the good china for holidays, and even then, the information slipped out accidentally.  Gram bore the brunt of the dissatisfaction and never said a word.

Gram and Gramp went out dancing for years.  In fact, I do believe that if they didn't meet on a double date dancing, they went dancing soon after.  In my child's mind, I imagined them doing the only kind of dancing I knew.  Gram must have glass slippers, and I was certain that Gramp, in his tuxedo, must be escorting her to a castle--hidden somewhere in rural Ohio--in a horse drawn carriage (the horses of Ohio were not nearly as hidden as the castles).  I knew this was happening because Gram always had pumpkin pies (we visited primarily on holidays).  It was proof of what she did with the pumpkin the day after.

I rummaged through her walk-in closet in search of her gowns.  I found some soft fabrics, but, except for a few greens and pinks, they were mainly in colors I didn't think girls should wear--browns, grays, and dark blues.  That was okay.  I knew the fairy godmother turned the dress back too.  But she had left the perfume alone, and I thought Woodhue was the most beautiful scent in the world.

You can imagine my surprise when, around age 10, I discovered that the dancing was square dancing.  Somehow, the whole dancing prospect lost its mystique.  I mean, we'd learned how to do si dos in music class.

But there was a new mystery there.  Even though Gramp didn't look so charming and princelike in his plaid shirt and even though the hoop in Gram's skirt didn't have quite the effect I expected, there was something amazing there.  When Gram got ready to go with Gramp, she glowed, and when he took her hand and held it up, she could have lit up a room (somewhere we have a picture).  Gramp changed too when he saw her.  She still did something to enchant him.  No fairy godmother was necessary.

And that's what makes them just so fascinating.  Neither is perfect (and neither would claim to be), but after 61 years, they still have it.  No godmother required.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Body by...

When my then four-year-old poked his head around the full length mirror at Halmoni's house and exclaimed, "So that's what I look like!" I knew it was time to get a full length mirror at our apartment.  Until then, it had been very pleasant looking at myself from the shoulders up.  I could better ignore everything hippo-esque that was happening from the shoulder down.

Some say our bodies are made by God, but let me just say I have concerns about possible design flaws.  I want to know about warranties and limited lifetimes.  I would like to know why we always need to pee in the middle of important things.  Why can't bloodstains be easily washed out and why are knees bony enough to cut through the thickest denim?  Why, if they're so bad for you, do brownies taste so good?  And why do other good-for-you things--canned peas, for example--taste so terrible?

I might, perhaps, enjoy a body by Mattel.  Barbie has aged pretty well, hasn't she?  And she never has to wear a bra.  Those suckers stay up all by themselves!

What about a true artist?  Couldn't one of them do better?  I pondered that and concluded that some of those artists have been looking in my mirror.

I have hair by Lichtenstein, one piece never where it ought to be:

Eyebrows by Dali except perhaps with more emphasis on the upswing:

Arms and thighs (except less firm) by Picasso:

photo credit:

Belly by Rubens--well, he just about captured it:

But worse than having artists in my mirror is having them in my mind!  And here's how that works:

Head by Magritte:

Logic by Escher:

Sensibilities by Munch:
 But as much as I am unhappy about my body and my brain at moments, as much as many of us are, it occurred to me that these works are, in fact, art.  They are, in some semblance and by the acknowledgment of many, beautiful.

My problems are not insurmountable, and even in our ugliest moments, there is still a beauty.  And even better than the beauty is the fact that it is shared.  We are not in this alone, and by sharing our moments, the ugly and the beautiful, we gain strength and solidarity.  We gain hope and the will to overcome.

So yesterday as I was about to meet an older friend and told myself I couldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt, I thanked heaven for control top hose and blouses that can cover the tops of dresses that do nothing for you.  

"It's really pretty on the hanger," I said.  "But when I put it on, it's like a hippo in a tutu a la 'Fantasia.'"

photo credit:

"Really," my sister said.  "It can't be that..."

I took off my blouse and showed her the whole dress.

"Oh.... Um, yeah.  It's that bad."

But I snapped a picture anyway.  After all, you've gotta share the good and the ugly, right?  And there's always a little bit of both present.
Oh, and I also wiped the mirror before I snapped the shot so that there were no child-height toothpaste splatters.  My children noticed it was clean after their bath, and now, instead of toothpaste splatters there are moisturizer butt marks (the little one had to tiptoe to reach).  I did not, however, take a picture of that.  Enough sharing is enough for one day.