Palmer Lake

[ed. note: I originally posted this on my other blog, but that’s pretty much defunct now.  But I’m pretty proud of this posting and want to keep it for my personal archive]

All day, I’ve had a memory running through my head. It isn’t extraordinary in emotion, or happenstance, and the only person I share it with is dead. Nothing spectacular happened; it is remarkable only in its impact on the woman I’ve become, and the woman involved in the story. Yet it is still a cherished one nonetheless. I feel compelled to share it tonight because that was the whole point of this blog for me—to record memories as they surfaced, just in case it happened to be the last time they did. I don’t want to forget my life. So many times, I find myself thinking, “How could I have forgotten that?!” So this is here to serve as my Pensieve. (I rejoice if you understand the reference, reader.)


My family had all gone to Texas one week to visit family. I, being sixteen and needing to assert some form of independence, used the excuse of work to get out of going. My parents agreed, surprisingly, but in retrospection, they were probably amused by my request, as well as fearful. But my grandmother, Grammy, lived in town too, and I would stay with her. Ostensibly, anyway. I ended up sleeping only one or two nights with her, and the rest, I slept in our four-level home alone. (Why on earth I did that to myself, I can’t figure out. I must have craved that feeling of adulthood more than I feared a creaky dark house).

That Sunday, Grammy called me and asked if I wanted to go to lunch. (As I relive this, I can remember the shock of her calling me—she called my mother, not me. It was truly the beginning of womanhood.) I had just finished work, and I thought that sounded like a fabulous idea—free lunch! She came to our house, I jumped in the car. (I loved that car—itwas her. Watching it come down the street was seeing her enter my sphere. It promised good things to come. That must be why I especially treasured it later when it was passed down to me) As we trundled along a morose Colorado afternoon, neither warm and sunny or cold and drizzly, I kept expecting her to turn into an Applebee’s, or an iHop. Somethingchain. But she just kept going.

Getting a little grumpier (I blame low blood sugar), I kept looking for what restaurant she would turn in to. But she didn’t. She just headed for the highway. We kept going, up through the mountains. I really had no idea what to expect by then, but I knew it wouldn’t be what I wanted—namely, familiar. I remember it started raining at one point. We fell into conversation, as we always did. I don’t really remember what we talked about—probably about my mother, because we both loved her so fiercely, even if my teenage pride dictated I NOT admit that.

[side note: I do remember her saying that the death of my older sister, stillborn 3 years before me, affected her the most because of how it affected my MOTHER, that she hurt for herself but hurt more because her daughter was in so much pain. When Grammy herself passed away, I understood this more completely—I hurt deeply for me, but I hurt more because my mom was bearing so much pain. It still doesn’t seem right to me that my mom has had to endure something that heavy twice in her life.]

Finally, we turned off the highway. We were up in the mountains, in this tiny little town called Palmer Lake. I was fairly ravenous by then, but we had driven above the rain. Up here, it was fresh and sparkly, sunny and beautiful. A green highway sign blandly announced Palmer Lake, Colorado. Population: minute. Oddly, what sticks out to me is the baseball diamond. Nobody was playing on it, but baseball isn’t really a big sport up in the Rockies. I couldn’t fathom a reason we drove almost two hours to Palmer Lake, for lunch. Really, there’s not much there. It’s nestled in the Rocky Mountains, not a tourist trap but a quiet existence. At this point, I’d given up actually eating.

Revelation came when she pulled into a driveway, and knocked on the door. It turned out to be the new residence of her old tenants who had recently vacated the apartment beneath her home after living there for __ years. I wasn’t thrilled with seeing them, but it was part of the ride. I had started looking at this like an adventure. This isn’t really a pertinent part of the story—I only remember Darlene and Randy had a copy of “The Joy Of Sex” in their bookcase and I giggled to myself.

So we looked around and we did get to lunch, I promise. This is my favorite part of the memory. We went to this little cafe in the heart of Palmer Lake, just me and her. I don’t remember the name. But I do remember what I ordered—beef stew with a BLT. My very favorite soup and sandwich combination, no lie. Even though I’m not a big meat-eater anymore, this still makes me hungry to think about. It was so delicious. Fresh, simple, hearty. Quaint. That’s what struck me the most—the very idyllic nature of the whole atmosphere. We had driven past chain restaurants that only offered the same unremarkable fare that blurs into every other meal. Why do I remember THIS meal so much? Because of nourishment. I was hungry, body and soul. The food filled me and satisfied me, and the company of my grandmother gratified and affirmed me. That day, she showed me I was worth going on an adventure with. She enjoyed my company, and not just because I was her granddaughter.

I can mark that as the time I started seeing her as a person, as a friend. Perhaps that’s when she started seeing me as a person too. It’s hard to relate to a child when you’ve lived so much life, I see that now. But when you can see her as more than that—that’s when relationship started, for us. From that day, we grew closer. She visited me, too, not only my mother. She valued my opinions, she saw them as valid (even if they wereridiculous). I think I started liking myself more then—she made it ok to be different. She encouraged my uniqueness simply by accepting it, and living out her own. I wish I could convey to you how my grandmother was not sweet and delicate. She would never have made me cookies, and she didn’t smell like an old lady. She didn’t have a gentle halo of white hair and I never saw her with an apron on. She did have a cat though, but the two of them were independent. No Mr. Cuddles for him—he was D’Artagnan and each allowed the other to live in the house.

She was commanding—people paid attention when she came into the room. You listened to what she said—she had authority and she used it. (As time passes, this becomes more and more endearing, although at the time I chafed against it, as adolescence does to authority) She didn’t cook very often, but how I miss her elephant ears and our August birthday chili. She got things done—you went to Marjorie if you needed your problem solved. She didn’t pretend all would be roses-I think she had lived through too many bad things to believe that. She did believe that you could choose what affected you, and she had learned that not much is worth choosing. She smelled like dirt—like healthy rich soil, like the sun. She smelled like I imagine happiness does.

The memory ends there, fuzzing out like the old midnight TV channels. It seems to end with a bright white light, like the pan of a camera up the skies, but I’m sure that’s my mind filling in the gaps with how beautifully sunny that day ended up being.

I needed to talk about my grandmother tonight, because I miss her. I know I’m not the only one, and that comforts me. Because she was a woman who changed lives. She was a force of nature-she impacted people. I could go on about how I want to be more like her, how I strive to embody the same strength and originality she did, how I want my family to recognize her in me. I want to go on about how she started in me a hunger for simplicity and an appreciation for the road less travelled—but that’s a whole other blog’s worth. So tonight, I’m going to leave it, let that memory float on the surface, and simply remember her, simply be content in my grief that she’s not here. I’m not her, and she wouldn’t want me to be. That’s probably the best way I can resemble her—by not.
04/29/2011
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