Saturday, July 2, 2011
Jesus Gets The Good China
Having returned from a summer trip back to my homeland of Iowa, my mind is awash with memories of family, the culture I grew up in--the values, the manners of speech. We visited the Amish General Store, resplendent with kerosene lanterns, washboards,handmade china cabinets,carved wooden clothespins, antique stoneware. We visited the cemetery where my ancestors are buried. Out of all these memories and touchstones, has come the following short story.
Granny talks to Jesus. They have lengthy conversations as if His Holy Presence was sittin’ his butt right down at the old kitchen table by the window.
“Lord, what am I going to do with that child?”
That child would be me, constructing a bypass through the white, fluffy serving of mashed potatoes so the rich, golden gravy meanders artfully through the mound before circling like a moat on the Melmac.
“I’ve tried ‘till I was blue in the face,” she answers.
I no longer look around for the source of sage advice. It’s at the place setting across from me, where the good china with the dainty blue flowers around the edges is laid, where the silverware all matches, where the only un-chipped glass in the house rests. Granny has taken, “Set a place at the table for our Lord,” to a whole new level. She’s concrete like that.
I was in diapers when I came to live with her. My Momma overtook her medication one time too many, and ‘Daddy’ is a word with no face attached. Grandpa Bean, named ‘cause he was long and narrow, fell over one day while picking up walnuts from the tree out front, and never woke up. Just Granny and I were left among the upright.
I guess Granny couldn’t see herself as a single parent at sixty, so she partnered up with Jesus. It wasn’t so bad, mostly. When I hit elementary school, Back to School Night was somewhat awkward.
“Jesus, will you just look at that science project!” Granny exclaimed as she strolled through my fifth grade classroom. Mrs. Tiddle raised her eyebrows like she does when one of the kids uses profanity in front of her, but she didn’t follow it by the extended throat-clearing noise she usually makes.
“Lord, let’s move on to the next room,” Granny muttered as she took my hand and pulled me along behind her. A long sigh, like a tire slowly going flat, escaped from Mrs. Tiddle's nose.
“Holy Mother of God,” she addressed Our Lady of the Cross, who was, I guess, sort of like a step-great-grandmother to me, if you’re following the lineage. We’d just approached my project, all laid out nice and neat, each collection of multi-colored, fuzzy bacteria and deathly looking mold in its own little Petri dish. There was one dish in which nothing had grown, next to a bottle of Lysol. My point was that the stuff works.
“You got all those germs from our house?” Granny asked, squinting low over the containers, wrinkling her nose at the explosion of spores. “Jesus, we’ve got some cleaning up to do.” I smiled at the thought of Grandpa Jesus with a mop and a pail of water sloshing around on the kitchen floor.
“If that don’t beat all,” Granny said, seemingly pleased. I guess she was referring to the little white ribbon stuck with tape to the summary of my project. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was the blue ribbons that beat all. Didn’t want to ruin her day.