tmbt: lilac inheritance
She was a birdlike woman. Small bones, thin hands, and a back that did not quite stoop but thought hard about doing so. Gloria was a mother to only four of her six children by the time I knew how to say “grandma”, two of the four gone missing together before the crash was even cleaned up. Later, I would hear the story of two cardinals who visited her at the cabin. The cardinal was her favorite bird.
And her favorite flower? Lilac. And maybe it is the power of suggestion, or maybe it is the way they open the gates to summer, or maybe it is simply the inheritance of a preference for their heady scent and vibrant color, but I adore lilacs as she did, my grandma Gloria. If it is because of her that I love them, then it is only one of many things she tucked in my pockets for later in life.
The giant weeping willow in her backyard lives in my memory box, another windswept treasure to hold in my heart. And iced tea. Grandma loved iced tea, light on the tea and heavy on the ice. And she loved playing cards. These things and more, I inherited from her and when my grandfather died, I inherited a bit of her grief and her longing for rest in the days after. I was six years old.
When grandma Gloria died, she was a frail wraith of a woman with dried lips and beseeching eyes hovering between hospital sheets. And for years, I thought that I never really knew my grandmother. But today, with a large vase of lilacs on the table and a craving for a good game of euchre in my bones, I know that it is not true. I knew her for the things that brought her simple, sweet pleasure and distraction from her hard hard life. And in that, I knew her beautiful, joyful heart.
Lilacs painting by Celene Farris.