Her name was Romey. Not her real name. Romey was her nickname, the name on her checks. Where she was from you could use your nickname in your checkbook.
She carried a leather purse, hard leather tooled with elaborate scenes. A man on a horse or flowers set among borders. I think she had more than one, they came from Mexico, and when she died I purposely arrived a day late to the divvying out of her belongings. Nothing she had left could make up for what I lost, but when I saw the purse unclaimed I asked for it.
I’m named after her. People ask me all the time where I got my name. Mom just yesterday told someone that Grandma had wanted Mom to name one of her children after Grandma. Mom waited until she ran out of kids, and knowing I was the last chance to fulfill Grandma’s request, Mom gave me the name.
We all thought it was an ugly name when I was young, a name similar to other old lady names—Velma, Erma, Mona, Ramona—except worse because no one had heard of it. Now we know it’s a beautiful name.
I got her curly hair, too. Mom always says I must have got my hair from Grandma. And her sometimes bad temper. And her love of gossip.
She loved reading National Enquirer. The intrigue of alien babies born to earthling mothers. She insisted that the funny little redhead who showed up in deviled ham commercials and talked with a lisp was actually an old lady midget. She’d read it in the National Enquirer.
She taught us to make butter and play Black Jack, and it dawns on me that she was a pioneer woman, living an isolated life on a ranch with her kids and chores and when she got old, her soap operas and plants and apricot poodle named Dukie.
She taught us to all turn the faces of Abraham Lincoln on our penny bets to face the dealer, so that Lincoln would send the evil eye and prevent any possible stroke of luck the dealer might have. It worked; Grandma always won at Black Jack.
She had the bluest eyes, they got lighter the older she got. People ask me how I birthed a daughter with green-blue eyes when my own and Jim’s are brown. I carry Grandma’s blue eyes in a recessive gene, I tell them. Her curly brown hair, her smooth olive skin, her fiery temper, her name, and the hidden jewel of her light blue eyes.
She cooked, she knitted, she sewed quilts from old dresses. I have a blanket that covers the fashion trends of her day: paisley prints and flowers and Day-glo orange, pink, and yellow.
I still regret the time Tina and I bugged her for days asking if she’d leave us this thing or that thing when she died. We were young, 13 and 14, or 12 and 13, and we got on a kick, loving all of Grandma’s ranch house knick-knacks. She was annoyed with us, and still we persisted, pointing to a painting of a horse or an ashtray or a wooden bowl. Can I have that one, Grandma? How ’bout that one? And that one?
Later Grandma gave me a wool blanket that Grandpa had brought her from Mexico. I was in my 20s. I wonder if she remembered the time we wanted to take her with us in bits and pieces thinking we could hold on to her forever.
-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS