Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gothic Grandmother


She had a love affair with cigarettes.


My whole life I remember her quitting, starting up again, quitting, smoking, quitting, sneaking them behind the house and then the whole cycle would start again.
At seventy-four, she still smoked.
But let me tell you something about her.

For some reason, when my grandmother put that light to her mouth, it looked sexy. She looked glamarous. Pouty. In control. Intelligent. Purposely coy. Oh, I hated it, the smell, the sickness it caused her, the ashes.....but I knew, also, how much she loved them.
And wigs.
Did I mention the wigs?

One morning I got up early - around 5:30 am - to have breakfast with my grandparents before Papa went off to the furniture plant. Eggs, bacon, homemade biscuits, jam, orange juice and ashes.
In her coffee cup.

She never seemed to notice. They just dropped in there and she kept drinking. I kid you not. I was busy saving her from choking by pouring her coffee down the sink and bringing her a fresh cup of black, the way she liked it. I never said a word. I'd sit the cup down in front of her and she'd light up another and the whole cycle would start again - still having "adult" conversations with my grandfather about what was in the newspaper - a cigarette dangling from her lips and the ashes growing inches and inches long before they fell.

I'm shocked she never set the paper on fire.


That wasn't the only shock I got that morning.
Not only was she doctoring the java with an endless supply of carcinogenic flavor but her hair was gone!
Oh yes. I forgot to tell you about the wigs.
On little mannequin heads all over the bedroom. I should have known she didn't sleep in them but still....my little pencil head wasn't prepared to see such a sight. "I look a fright!" she said.
In hindsight, of course, I know she was right. (sorry, grandmother) But at the time I was fascinated with all the long strands I'd never seen before. I loved her dark hair. But she didn't. Hence, the endless supply of meticulously coiffed heads that scared me in the middle of the night. To a little girl, she looked positively witchy in the mornings.

To my grandfather, she was always beautiful.

And that, of course, is what counts the most.




Inspired by a post at Fish's place.
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Copyright © 2006-2009 Mimi Lenox. All Rights Reserved.

32 comments:

bobbie said...

I'm glad that you have these memories of your grandparents. All of mine, 3 sets (counting the foster ones who raised my mother) had died before I was born. Every child should have grandparents.

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

What a wonderful story. My grandmother didn't start smoking until she was elferly and even then didm't ingale. But I think she thought it was glamorous as well...

Dawn (Twisted Sister) said...

To my grandfather, she was always beautiful. And that, of course, is what counts the most.

And that's what I call love... :)

Mojo said...

A touching memoir Mimi. As only you could write it. And I just adore that last photo. It's beautiful.

Ferd said...

Ha! You reminded me of my own grandmother, my mother's mother. She had a cigarette in her mouth most of the time. While working in the kitchen, before during and after meals, while playing canasta, with the big long ash you described. Thanks for the memory!

I loved the pic of coffee cup keeping hands warm. And the faint suggestion of pink nail polish is just elegant.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, that's what counts.

Mimi Lenox said...

Bobbie - I'm glad I have those memories too. I'm sorry you didn't know yours.

Mimi Lenox said...

Bud - I'm sure she was!

Mimi Lenox said...

Dawn - They were very much in love.

Mimi Lenox said...

Mojo - Thank you very much, my friend.

Mimi Lenox said...

Ferd - That's funny! She never even realized the ashes were burning away. I think she wasted more cigarette than she smoked.

Mimi Lenox said...

Charles - In spades.

Annelisa said...

I hardly knew my grandparents...My maternal grandmother lived on an island in Denmark (my grandad was so much older and had already died before I was born) and my paternal grandfather was virtually estranged from my dad, so we only rarely visited and he and his new wife (dad's mum died before he and mum married) never visited us. I always wished I knew them all better...

It is lovely that you have these memories, even the choky ones...and can picture them in your mind. I would love to have that!

Summer said...

Wonderful story.

My friend's mom was a smoker and she'd let the ash on the cigarette get nearly to the end before flicking it in an ashtray. She would be going off in a tirade at her daughters, using the cigarette to point to their neglected chores. I could never take my eyes off her cigarette... just waiting for the ash to fall. Amazingly, it never did.

Akelamalu said...

This reminded me of MWM's grandmother. She would like a cigarette and never remove it from her mouth, the ash would just grow and grow until all that was left was the cork tip and ash the length of the cigarette - it never dropped - she would then carefully put what was left in the ashtray!

The Gal Herself said...

Oh, now that's a love story! Romantic and enduring because he really appreciated her individuality.

My Grandma told me about the night she met my Grandpa. Her parents ran a resort and had a weekly dance for the guests. She was 17 and very shy, but this Saturday she was persuaded to attend. Overwhelmed by the raucous vacationers, she sat by herself beside the punch bowl. My Grandpa, a sensitive "older man" of 21, came over, sat beside her, and began chatting her up. (My Grandpa always was talkative.) Then he took her glasses off her face, cleaned them on his tie, and put them back on her face. She said she knew then he would always take of her and never hurt her. She was right.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fine memoir, Mimi

Travis said...

I remember my Gram and her wigs. She only had a few, maybe 3 or 4. She would go to the beauty parlor to get her own hair styled...she was a red head but she never liked her actualy color.

She liked auburn, so all her wigs were auburn. And she would take them to the beauty parlor with her. While she was having her hair done, she'd have the wigs touched up and styled.

I hadn't thought of that in ages. Thanks for prompting that memory!

Bobbi said...

Great post and memory of your grandmother! My mother has smoked since she was 15 - she's now 64. I've tried all my life to get her to quit, but to no prevail.

Mimi Lenox said...

Annelisa - Even the "choky" ones....must be a British expression, eh? Yes, I really should continue to write them down. I'm sorry you didn't know your grandparents.

Mimi Lenox said...

Annelisa - Even the "choky" ones....must be a British expression, eh? Yes, I really should continue to write them down. I'm sorry you didn't know your grandparents.

Mimi Lenox said...

Summer - Sounds like a scary sight!

Mimi Lenox said...

Akelamalu - I know! Why even smoke??!

Mimi Lenox said...

Gal - Oh...you have to put that in a blog post. What a romantic story. Just. Wow.

Mimi Lenox said...

Jean-Luc - Thank you, Captain.

Mimi Lenox said...

Travis - Ahh...what a great memory. These days I think it is rather unusual for older ladies to wear wigs. Must have been the style back then.

Mimi Lenox said...

Bobbi - Smoking has a grasp on people, that's for sure.

Julie said...

Very interesting story Mimi. Anytime I smell a cigar I say "Oh that smells like grandpa." Grandma didn't smoke but grandpa sure did.

Yeah...and now we're the "witchy" lookin' ones in the AM, huh?

*sigh*

Tarheel Rambler said...

Another beautiful memory, wonderfully communicated. Thank you, Mimi. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend.

By the way, I did complete the meme you tagged me with...just in case you're wondering.

AngelBaby said...

Wonderful story - to think one day we will be that old and our grandchildren will tell others about our wigs and silly things we do. I know that people will enjoy the stories just as much as we do and long for the good old days with grandma. I hope I can sit up in heaven and smile while they tell the stories. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

I have something for you at my site so come by and see.

Love and Blessings,
AngelBaby

Ricardo said...

Smoking is sexy on film and what not but in real life it is a bit smelly. As far as Gothic women go, I find the modern ones with the peicings and all to be really sexy and I can;t tell you why. I just do. I guess I never grew up.

The wig thing is fascinating. The stuff of a David Lynch film. And that's a compliment.

Desert Songbird said...

My mother lost all of her hair in her mid-40s, so she wore a wig for the rest of her life. She used to crack up the grandkids by lifting up her wig to scratch her head!

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