My last blog post, about my Granny Carter, Pearl, seems to have inspired something, one of those artistic shifts that helps to bring truth to your work, one of those artistic moments where you are schooled by your own inner spirit about what it is you really want to write….
Now, let’s start with the last passage of my last blog post.
“By the way, I forgot to mention….My Grands married the day they met. She was a waitress in New Orleans, he was a flashy army boy with a new car about to head overseas! And for 50 years they never left each other’s side and were always a team….”
Now, you would think this would be a great time to write this epic love story, this memoir on a grand scale about how Pearl saw the world, got as far away from whatever it was that was hurting her, built this wonderful storybook setting of a loving husband, delightful children, had put a few bucks in the bank, and had found the freedom to pursue whatever artistry she could think of……
But, that’s not the story I want to tell. It wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be what she and I need to experience all over again, not in the next lifetime, but in this one. Because by the time I arrived on the scene, this woman had become venomous, cold, vindictive, manipulative, stern. She was icy, but beautiful. Her sharp features were legendary, for as beautiful as she was, she would chastise you for looking at her! You didn’t know where you stood with her. She was relentlessly heartless….and as a member of her family, you just hoped you were in her good favor if you were in her presence. You did nothing at dinner, stayed silent, and never ever spoke out of turn.
Far cry from the woman that died 25 years later. No, she and I had a turbulent history together. As with most stories about two people, there are good times, and awful times. But, all of those moments show growth between two souls who really are so fond of each other that only the heavens can seem to understand why. In other words, we had a grand connection that began deplorably.
So, I thought I’d write about about my time with her, putting together what she was running from, why she was so angry and sharp by the time I was born, and why by the end of her life she finally told me everything. By then, she had learned enough about me to let me learn enough about her…..one of the greatest gifts she could have ever given me…Private discussions about her life.
I think I’m working on a book about my time with my grandmother. Without even really thinking about it, I want to tell more. About how she grabbed my little 8 year old hand as we launched with zeal up this massive spiral staircase, headed towards the top of the (once and former) tallest steeple in Europe. “Come on, Gregory! All the way to the top! Let’s go!”
The day we took an old country road so she could show me her “dream house,” only to find that it was NOT what you would think someone’s dream house would be. Or at least for a woman of her means. She just pointed at it and said, “I have dreams about that house, THAT house…..every night.”
Or the time we were shopping and she refused to walk beside me because I was all gothed out. Face painted cake white, hair all dyed black and teased like Robert Smith’s. “Granny! Come on! Keep up! Are you tired or something????”
“No, I’m fine….just slowly browsing. You carry on, I’ll keep up…..” (She didn’t see me notice her rolling eyes when she saw people gawking at me). 😉
And the time she asked me to find her sister that none of us knew existed. “Please. Help me, if you can. You’re a very smart young man. You can help me with me this. And Gregory?….,” here came that damned, famous look of hers that warned of total annihilation should you disappoint her, “No one needs to know my business, do you understand?”
I would like to write this book. I want to connect those pieces: from her running, to her having it all, but still angry, to finally a release of all the pain. I was witness to all that, I was a part of that freedom that helped her finally grow in ways that made us fast friends. We have the same view of the world. Painful, but exquisite….For if I were to ever be thrashed with branches, I pray that you’ll at least allow me to embroider them one day. Yes, life hurts….now, let’s make something beautiful of it.
Yes. I’m going to write this book. “How Pearl Saw the World.”
Funny. I was just thinking about the first time I let Granny read my work. She was a notorious reader. She, my mother and I all share that love for books. I had written a short story about an orphanage run by nuns where terrible, abusive things were happening. My grandmother was a HUGE Anne Rice fan. I was writing my own little gothic horrors, my own little penny dreadfuls at the time. I was an actor in the 90’s working at a horror attraction called “Terror on Church Street.” This whole creepy written world was my own life day in and day out.
But, knowing my grandmother was such a HUGE gothic fiction fan, I wanted her to see what I had written. I wanted to impress her with just a simple short story. It was a bit like laying my manuscript before the dowager empress….as she is actually being asked to toss aside what she is currently reading so she can engage with my amateurishness….
“If I must.”
Five minutes in. No reaction. Ten minutes in. Still no sign of emotion. (Granny was so good at that). Finally, the last page is in her hands. I see her scan the page towards the bottom as her pupils move autonomously from left to right until finally…..The End.
She reads the final words and arches a brow, then proceeds with a slight smirk while handing the manuscript back to me. Granny then leaned back in her chair, picked up the book she had been reading, and behaved as if the whole thing had been some kind of intermission.
Say something! Anything!
She knew I was anxious for a reaction. My whole bouncy body kept looking up at her and asking for something, anything. Validation! Do you even like me old woman?
I turned around and turned on the television….
A few minutes later and I’m simmering, I’m boiling. I’d finally had enough. I turn to her and say, with respect I might add, “You know what? I actually gave a copy of that story to Anne Rice herself. Yeah! I stood in line with my friends Jason Baerhold and Bernie Noga JUST to give her that story. You know why? Because I want people to see me. That’s the ONLY way to get them to read my work! Jason pretended to be my “handler” and Bernie acted as my own “paparazzi.” We had presence! We wanted her to take notice of me so that she would take that story seriously! So, I guess I don’t have to care what you may think of that story because your current, favorite author has her OWN copy! I had to hand this manuscript to you like I was groveling, while Anne Rice actually REACHED for it!!!!”
And formidable silence follows, as should.
I did as was told, went back to whatever was on television.
After a damning amount of cold stares through our reflections in window panes, she finally uttered, “I see potential in you….,” but with a comforting tone that I had never heard from her before. With her very voice this woman could keep you at a distance. That was the noise I was used to. That shrill, deep, dark tone that kept you solid in your tracks. But, on that day I had seen the difference in what it felt like to hear something comforting from her. And it felt so warm, so pure. One flinch in an octave and she could either slice you to pieces or slather you with syrupy love.
“Come into town with me tomorrow,” she said. “You could use a thesaurus….”
I turned back to the TV and smiled. That little bit was all encouragement I needed from her.
And I think that was the day she agreed to allow me into her amazing world….
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