The Box Room – Pt 1For three years now, 407 Wilson has contained within it the amazing person of my grandmother. She has been called intimidating, brilliant, crazy, wise and a plethora of other adjectives – all of which fit.
First, she is the typical old woman set in her ways. She has one method of doing things and any other way is simply wrong. I’ve been lectured in her quirky way numerous times on the proper way to prune roses (“now there has to be FIVE leaves…”). There is a specific way to polish silver, dust shelves, vacuum, weed, eat a TV dinner, fold sheets, and open a window.
She begins her day by making breakfast: a piece of whole wheat toast with creamy JIF peanut butter, a small glass dish of cottage cheese and fruit pieces, and two cups of instant Folgers coffee – black. She reads her Bible. She watches the morning news, then Wheel of Fortune (commenting on how old Bob Barker is), next it’s to Animal Planet for two or three vet shows, then Dr. Phil in the afternoons, Oprah and golf, and finally the evening news. She will indulge herself in “Everybody Loves Raymond” when she can remember it’s on.
While watching the television, she flips through her latest assortment of magazines and catalogs to clip out any articles she thinks might be pertinent to anyone she knows. She files these away next to her in a basket with Post-Its stuck to them. She tests her blood sugar every two hours. For lunch she will eat another piece of peanut butter toast and cup of coffee.During the course of any given day she could receive or give phone calls from any of my aunts and uncles and cousins. Her phone bill must be astronomical. Yet, she blatantly refuses to speak to anyone longer than a few minutes if they’re on a cell phone. She believes they cause brain cancer. And she has a special hook up with her phone that she will activate if she believes you are a telemarketer calling which plays a message “kindly asking you to remove this number from your call list.”Her two constant companions are enormous cats who go by the names of “Michael” and “Joseph.” She feeds them from the throne and they have their own plate of butter on the table they can eat at their leisure. Oftentimes, she’ll engage in entire conversations with these two while you’re sitting next to her. MIchael, the black one, is much more personable than the other. He will plop his bulk down on your lap and purr while gazing up at you with intense yellow eyes, only to suddenly heave away and leave you with a new fur coat. Joseph, my grandmother believes is a painter. Literally. She has purchased paints and watched as he walks through the bowls of colors and jumps around on massive sheets of paper spread on her kitchen floor. Joseph has yet to be recognized by the artistic community.
My grandmother met and married my grandfather all within three weeks. They lived the entirety of their married lives (well, my grandfather at least and I’m assuming my grandmother isn’t planning on moving) in a government town. She gave birth to six children and raised five – one of whom was my father and could be counted as two with all the trouble he caused. She played the organ for mass, taught Sunday School, and led the boys choir. She also is a Registered Nurse which I’m sure came in quite handy with three boys and two girls. Her passion became flying as she was the first woman on the west coast to own her own flight school. My grandfather made it his mission to take her as many places as possible – Europe, China, Australia. Their favorite place was Oahu, and for a few decades they visited every year.Being a nurse has led my grandmother to feel obligated to diagnose every symptom entering her house. She knows just what tea to have you drink for a sore throat and at the first sign of a stomachache she whips out the flat 7Up and folds you into a crisp white bed in the pristine back bedroom. She is somewhat sensitive about her worrisome nature. We as the underlings always joke about her thinking we’re sick, but never to her face – because she is usually right.
She has researched the history of every family artifact in her house. Each room contains things. There are hand stitched linen table runners, photos of ancestors, calligraphy, hand carved statuettes, mirrors, old dressers, keep sakes from the world over. She has reams of paper filled with history – all either hand written or painstakingly hammered out on an old typewriter.
My grandmother is the perfect blend of McGonagall, Rachel Lynde, and your fairy godmother. She’s generous, quick-witted, caring, watchful, understanding, and a roaring gossip. Her mind contains such a wealth of stories that I’m often overwhelmed. Stories about her first kiss and sneaking out to watch the same movie for an entire day. Tales about men she taught to fly and family vacations in the quintessential station wagon. Stories of walloping my father for disobeying and wanting to wallop my uncle now for being such an inconvenience at times. Tales of gifts of ceramic chickens and her good silver being stolen. Her children building pipe bombs. Her brother pouring iodine on her cuts and her parents running at the screams. So many things that should be written down and treasured.
My grandmother’s method of cleaning is peculiar. She empties all the trash. Then she dusts. Then she washes all the dishes in the dishwasher and bleaches the sink (daily). She vacuumes once a week and files all the papers she’s left on my grandfather’s desk in alphabetical order – leaving them in a pile on the right side. Then she takes the pile of alphabetized papers from the last week and flips through them, selecting a few to place in a drawer, and shredding the rest. She throws all her unnecessary magazines and catalogues into the trash. She checks the fruit trees for ripe fruit while outside. Sometimes, she’ll prune roses. Through out the week, she will receive several boxes of items she’s ordered for herself or various people – such as pills, massaging slippers, books, random gift items – and all of the boxes she will stack beside the dining room table. And as we grandchildren filter in through the week to visit, she always sends us down to the basement with the empty boxes. To the box room.