For this Samhain/Halloween, when the veil is thinnest and those long gone whisper in our ears, Louise, our blog hop wrangler, has asked us who from far away, whether still on planet Earth or not, would we invite for afternoon tea on the Day of the Dead?
That was an easy question to answer: Grandpa. Wish I had a pic of him for you, but the printed ones are all packed away ready for moving house and home to the great West of the USA (he’d have liked that idea), so I’ve none to scan in. 🙁
I am starting with a picture of his pride and joy, however, the cottage he built with his own hands in the early 1950s, on a lovely little lake in New Hampshire (where most of my family roots are buried). Here’s where I remember him best:
He was always the one who tidied up in the kitchen in the summers when we visited; Nana was more inclined to sit on the porch, and Grandpa liked to always be busy puttering around the place. He’d worked with his hands and his friendly personality (“Hi, I’m Jake” as his hand went out to meet yours) all of his life, and there was no way he’d not find something to keep busy with. He would do the dishes, and always ask one of us grandkids to dry them, asking with a wry smile, “Do you dry…clean?” Although I really don’t remember having to wipe off spots he’d missed. 😉
Oh, and he always arose in the morning with old songs from the vaudeville days of his youth (he was born in 1902, the year before the Wright Brothers flew, and lived to see men land on the moon). “My Valentine” and something about always remembering, I think. Used to drive us crazy when we wanted to sleep in, but he always believed in waking up “cheery” in the morning!
He himself was not from New Hampshire, as it turns out, but originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and he brought a breath of fresh and informal Midwestern air into the stuffy New England family he married into.
I would love to have him at the table of an afternoon in the fall, with the leaf colors ablaze out in the cold, a fire in the old Franklin stove, his pipe in hand, telling stories of his boyhood on the early 20th century hills of South St. Louis, I think it was.
But most of all, I remember his love. This consistent regard, this unconditional trust that I, his little”princess” was always beautiful, inside and out, was always golden, was always perfect…to him.
He was a lovely cross between the King of Pentacles and the King of Cups. My one true source of unconditional love in a world where I thought I had to please everyone in order to be loved. For him, I was perfect, even when I wasn’t. I would love to sit with him again, and laugh, and tell him how I was going to go on RV adventures like his baby brother, my Great Uncle George, did. That I, in my old age, would seek a life that was rooted in the simple, handmade life that he loved.
And oh, would I love to have Grandpa meet my hubby, Matt. For they share that same spirit of working with their hands, of crafting beautiful and useful things, of loving and appreciating life and loved ones, every single day.
Yes, Grandpa and I could share some wonderful stories over tea or perhaps a glass of wine. 🙂
Lastly a little reprise of a poem I wrote some time ago about the place that Grandpa created for his wandering children and grandchildren to visit and call home when home seemed always elusive.
Ghosts on the Water
Ghosts of grandfathers
curling like smoke over the grill,
long gone it is to rust and ruin.
I remember the charcoal smell
of that perfect patty, still.
Vapors of tasseled hammocks
creaking on old hooks,
now they’re buried in tree growth.
I remember the swing
of being toes in the air, still.
Shafts of arrows long ago
thumping into target bales.
Straw and fletches have gone to earth.
I remember the glory
of aiming true and releasing, still.
Shades of old garden ladies
cocking straw hats toward the sun,
their proud pansies are gone to seed.
I remember the life
of soil on my fingers, still.
Moonbeams of swimmers
gliding through water,
now they’re just ripples of wind.
I remember the cold
of that first brave dive, still.
Wraiths of child laughter
echoing in a piney breeze,
now lost to work and parenthood.
I remember jumping free
on those pine beds, still.
Only the shreds of memories remain,
of merry meetings and farewell sighs,
and the light of the ghosts on the water.
©2003 Joanne Sprott
Enjoy the rest of the hop, my friends, wherever you may land. 🙂