For Christmas 1999, I gave my mother a journal with a drawing of a cat on the cover and a nice pen to write with. She was 88 at the time. Her words are pictures in my mind, soft, subtle, compelling. A window into a different time.
What follows is her first entry:
“January 1, 2000.
So – Happy New Year!
I remember my grandmother celebrated by going out on the front porch and beating on the dishpan with one of the big metal spoons. Also in later years, Grover and Leonard, who lived across the street, shot off their gun. One shot in the dark, but we all knew the New Year had arrived.”
I am 61. My mother was 40 at the time of my birth. When she writes about her grandmother, that puts it back at the beginning of the century. (Twentieth, not twenty-first) It’s hard to comprehend how different things are now. Not just the iPhones and the Smart Cars; there was another mind-set. Local thinking centered on home. Advertising has tweaked our perception, as has the tremendous population growth that has led neighborhoods to fracture and families to become “dysfunctional”. He change is huge. Hers was a whole other life.
I’m not speaking from the sepia mist of nostalgia; much good has come from the metamorphosis. Better health; fewer rapes; an era where a sixty-year-old woman could “speak her mind” to strangers all over the world, and some of them will listen.
But back to that lady on the porch banging her wash pan and her granddaughter watching. Can you hear her? Can you be her? Can you see who she is? What did she have for dinner? What did she do with her time? (No TV, remember) Did she have an inner tiger that no one was allowed to see?
And the little girl – what did she think she would be when she grew up? Anything other than a housewife would have been unusual. Yet she probably felt appreciated. She probably felt safe. I know she felt loved.
I also know she grew up to be a tiger in her own right.