Her towels, her house

A pair of colorful beach towels, folded so that they resemble books on a shelf, reside in my coat closet. I have left them there, undisturbed, for almost a year now. They belonged to my grandmother. She died a year ago today.

Oddly enough, I have strong memories of these towels. Ma-Maw would wrap us kids up in them when we’d dash into their house from the lake. We’d be shivering in the freezing house, dripping all over her floors in our Disney one-pieces, and she’d have a stack of these big beach towels by the door to fold us in.

The towels came into my possession when my mother gave me three framed prints from Japan that lived in my grandparents’ house.

Home, August 2016
One of the prints.

I had always loved these prints, as a child, because of my study of Japanese, and I was honored to receive them. To protect the frames in the car, Mom had wrapped them in these two towels.

When I unwrapped the prints, shortly after her funeral, I burst into tears in my dining room. Not because of the art but because of the towels. The towels smelled exactly like her. It was as if she was suddenly in the room next to me. My eyes still swim with tears when I remember this, which is strange, that the mere memory of a scent could produce such a strong reaction.

The towels don’t really smell like her anymore. Over the past year, they’ve absorbed our scent, whatever it is (probably a mix of old books and German shepherd dander), and lost hers. But if I bury my face in them, nose deep into the well-worn fibers, I can pick up the faintest hint of her.

I am not sentimental about objects. I throw everything away with gleeful fervor. But these towels, weird as they may be, may always live in my closet, untouched, unused.

Sapona Lane
Me, in front of their house, in August 1995, apparently.

The last time we saw my grandparents’ house was the day of my grandmother’s funeral. All 10 of us grandkids went together, as a final pilgrimage to the house that we so adored.

We silently split up and wandered through the house, each of us taking a separate path, seeking out the room we had most loved: And I remember how sad and somber it felt, because she was not there. The house itself seemed to wilt. There were mildewy patterns on the gingerbread trim. Even the shadows seemed gloomy. The things that were once cute—a concrete owl on the front porch, her numerous rabbit figurines—now were strange and sad.

Grandkids at Sapona Lane
The last time we saw the house. March 2016.

“It was as if the house knew they weren’t living there anymore,” I told my mother, and she agreed. The house took on a grief of its own.

The house is sold now, and I am glad of it. Not only because of the needed income for my grandfather but because it would be horrible to keep thinking of it empty, without the two of them. The house needs a new life, just as we do.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the loss of her. I don’t expect to. But it is comforting to remember her, in all of the ways that she resurfaces in my life.

Suffused

Heading to their first home in Spartanburg, SC; Sept. 1953
My grandparents, heading to their first home together (in Spartanburg, SC), September 1953.

I’m working on a project about my maternal grandparents’ love story right now, which basically means I’ve been spending a lot of time hunched over a scanner, weeping. This photo, in particular, just wrecks me. I can’t look at it for too long or I will summarily lose it. He is so handsome and casual, and she is so adorably plucky, perched there on the hitch between that proto-U-Haul and their car.

Why does old age have to be so cruel? I am absolutely crushed by the unfairness of it all.

I think about them, and my parents, night and day, without relief.

(Somewhat related: I’ve decided that I would like to die instantaneously, in a fiery car crash, when I am 75.)

In lighter news, we are constantly grateful for what marvelous friends we have and how much they love and support us and make us laugh and inspire us. This is the main reason we have no plans for leaving Charlottesville.

 

We are all falling

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, this June. Just because.

We are all falling. This hand’s falling too—
all have this falling sickness none withstands.
And yet there’s always One whose gentle hands
this universal falling can’t fall through.

— Rilke

Unexpectedly, owing to my grandmother’s rapidly deteriorating state and a general lack of a contingency plan, my grandparents have moved in with my parents.

Mom called me yesterday to fill me in on everything. I feel weighed down and lost and helpless about it. Mom and Dad are so boundlessly generous and took them in with no hesitation or questions asked. Mom and Dad sleep upstairs in the guest room on the double bed now. We talked and teared up for a while, and I put down the phone and felt hollow and useless.

Predictably and gratefully, Kelsey called me some minutes later (presumably after Mom had filled her in), and then we talked about our joint feeling of uselessness and schemed about how we could be helpful at Thanksgiving. Kelsey is a source of compassionate comfort and strength in hard times. I am the eldest child, but even when I was young, I relied on Kelsey perhaps more than she ever relied on me. I still feel this way and look up to her in this essential, dependent manner. I am so thankful that she and Alex are so close by (it is worth noting what a marvel it is that she married someone as compassionate and kind as herself). When I think of them, I am filled with the conviction that I could turn to them in any form of need.

Inspired by an interview I read with an author, I am keeping a five-year diary (designed by Tamara Shopshin). It is very interesting to me to note the limited phrases and sentences that come to mind, at the end of the day, that I consider necessary to record.

Patrick’s wedding and Mother’s Day in NC

We spent the weekend in NC to celebrate Patrick’s wedding and Mother’s Day. It was so lovely to be with everyone; I only regret that the time seemed to fly by. Requisite photo dump!

Rehearsal dinner and wedding festivities

Family weekend
Sexy sister & bro.
Family weekend
Jak loves to ruin photo ops.
Family weekend
Us. Playing along.
Family weekend
Paul (best man), Mom, and Patrick (groom).
Family weekend
Backup bridesmaids.
Family weekend
#truelove
Family weekend
Sisters ready to go.
Family weekend
Mom surveys the landscape.
Family weekend
Bro!
Family weekend
Sisters, redux.

Family time

Kelsey loves dog wrangling.
Kelsey loves dog wrangling.
Family weekend
Ma-Maw and Grace.

Family weekend

Family weekend
With Cousin Emz.
Family weekend
Sam and MM.
Family weekend
Da-Dan is the best.
Family weekend
Wry husband.
Family weekend
Eden getting some fetching lessons from Juju.
Family weekend
And Pyrrha gets some love from Emily.
Motorcycle mama
Finally, hot grandma on Jak’s new toy.

Monday Snax

Long weekends are such a gift! Yesterday, we had the pleasure of joining Andrew and Tara at her family’s farm in Rapidan, Virginia. We played with the beautiful Leah, swam in the pool, and planned our future farm commune. A lovely afternoon, and some more photos on Flickr.

Sweet baby Leah and her mama.
Andrew in the perfect pool.
One of the dozens of breathtaking farms in Keswick. We live in the prettiest countryside.

Oh, and happy Independence Day and a BIG welcome home to Grace, who has finally returned from her world travels! Hallelujah! We get to go see her this weekend and I CANNOT WAIT.

A lot of Snax with a lot of juicy watermelon wedges:

Miss USA: Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools? THIS is the greatest thing I have seen on the Interwebs in months. Tears fell from my eyes. You can’t write this stuff. After you watch that, please also enjoy Mackenzie Fegan & Co.’s hilarious response. (The Daily What and Got a Girl Crush)

When You’re the Breadwinner in the Family. The dynamics of the American family are shifting. Many newly married women I know are out-earning their husbands and yet it’s still a touchy subject. One of my all-time favorite bloggers has a beautiful and honest post about her own experience as her family’s primary source of income. (Sweet Fine Day)

The High Line. A mile-long urban park in New York. What a cool idea; looks like a great place to bike, run, or walk a few dogs. Jenna, from the Sweet Fine Day post above, has some pictures of her visit there with her family at the end of post. (Wolf Eyebrows)

From When Grandma and Grandpa Davis Came to Visit. If you’ve talked to me lately, you know that I’m not into childbearing ANY time soon. And yet I can’t help but melt when I see pictures of grandparents and their fresh grandbabies. Something about that interaction always gets me. (Rockstar Diaries)

America’s Progressive Catholics: Another Side of the Church. It’s not all anti-abortion rallies here. An interesting perspective on the small but growing group of Catholic Democrats. (The Atlantic: Politics)

Top Metros for Same-Sex Couples with Children. Do the results surprise you? They surprise me. Way to go, RTP! (The Atlantic: National)

Palin vs. Bachmann: A Poem-off. The stirring words of the Tea Party’s leading ladies, converted to poesy. (The Book Bench)

What America Looks Like: Variations on the Swimming Pool. A collection of photographs of the various forms of the pool around the country. Some are weird and jovial, others decrepit and haunting. (The Atlantic: National)

The Five Food Groups. Amen. (Little Brown Pen)

Lobsters Don’t Age. Um, hey, God? That’s weird. Why? (Broken Secrets)

Kari Herer. Dark, lush photos of beautiful bouquets. Can never get enough. (Design Sponge)

Better Book Title for Wuthering Heights. Truth! I’ve always thought that about this book, too. (Better Book Titles)

The 20 Most-Watched TED Talks. Will be adding these to my list of things to watch when I feel like killing time productively on the Interwebs. (TED blog)