I can still see her. My maternal grandmother was more than my mother’s mother. She was in every sense of the word, a Grand Mother. One of those epic divine figures from antiquity returning to live out this human journey to leave clues for the next unfolding of the story. She worked as a domestic from her late childhood to when she could no longer work. On her gnarled hands was scripted a life of consistent physical labor. Even still she loved to read. Those hands made the best pies, cakes, and created homemade delicacies. Those hands inscribed in the most beautiful handwriting words in her journal. I never read them. Now I can only imagine what she may have scribbled down on those pages. She also loved to grow things. It might seem easier to say she loved plants but that would diminish the scope of her reach. Her gift was growing things.
From about the age of seven or eight, I would take some type of plant to her small two bedroom house, when we visited. These plants were never store-bought. I would gather them, fresh dug from the earth, and place them in anything I could find from cut-off milk cartons to old mayonnaise jars. With pride I would sit in the back seat of my parents car with my prize for Gran’ma tucked between my knees. No matter what I brought, she beamed. That gleam in her eyes always lit up mine. Then we’d plant it. It didn’t matter if it was a sprig of wild honeysuckle or a volunteer maple tree, she planted it.
Over the years, I bore witness to those trees growing in her front yard. For me I felt a partnership with the forces of the universe that made me feel like a giant. Those tall monuments towering above her house had been lifted from the earth and transported by my hands. She eventually moved from that house. But not before it had etched itself in my memory and tethered her to it in my recollections and dreams. That’s where I still see her-in my dreams. Although she left the planet in human form at the turn of the century, she never really left. She’s still planting. Still growing things. I’m her hands now. Her words flow through my mouth. That gleam of hers still sparkles in my eyes. Warm brown skin, the color of mine still soaks up the sun, loving the feel of fresh earth beneath our feet. Her stature is unforgettable. She walked her days on this plane with pride over prejudice as a four foot eight inch giant. Her foot print is immense. She plowed as she walked and planted experiences that grew into memories and now blossom as dreams realized in my own life. I knew I wasn’t her only garden. I am, however doing my best at being her most prolific.
Her favorite flower was the African violet. I keep one on my desk at the studio. I call her Gran’ma. I get to see her every day I’m in the studio. She reminds me on those days when I feel halted or not quite up to snuff to keep on keeping on. Her memory keeps me stretching my legs to fill the gaps between what is and what is to be. She’s a reminder to keep the faith and to see the big in little things. She opened my eyes to the wonder of all things great and small. There is nothing I can’t reach or nothing too low to bring up. She taught me in all of her being, that I can believe in anything. That anything I care to invest in can grow to any height I will. That anything really is possible. She showed me that the smallest things can serve as a revelation that there are giants among us.