When I feel like I need to escape from the world I’m living in I often climb into bed and close my eyes and remember my childhood. The memory is always the same. It’s hard to say if I remember it because it happened so many times or because the few times that it happened were so memorable. I guess it really doesn’t matter one way or the other though because the memory is there.
It always starts in her garage. I’m climbing into her Cadillac. She always drove Cadillacs with the exception of that one white Town Car she had in the 80s. But of all the Cadillacs she owned, this one is my favorite. It’s emerald green with an emerald green leather green interior. It’s the largest car I’ve ever seen. I say this not because in my memory I am a small child, but because I also remember that the car did not fit all of the way inside of the carport. The last foot or so stuck out of the back in a way that reminds me of my own growing feet wearing a hole in my Keds and poking through the end of my shoes. This car is the thing that dreams are made of. I once heard that it was the largest passenger car made that was not a limousine. I’m not sure if this is true or not but I like to think that’s the kind of car she’d like to have. Texans are like that, you know.
We climb inside. I climb onto what I call the “horsey seat.” It’s really the fold-down armrest but I like to sit astride it and pretend as though I’m riding a horse. Don’t judge her for being irresponsible with me. These are the days before wearing seat belts were common so she’s just letting me have fun while I’m riding in the car. Besides, the trip is short.
A few minutes later we’re inside the salon. It’s everything you can imagine a salon in a small Mississippi town in the 1970s would be like. I can’t pinpoint the smell – it’s a mixture of hairspray, permanent solution and shampoo – but it’s delicious. I’ll go to one chair and she will go to another. This is a treat for me. I’ll get to have my hair washed in the salon so it will look nice for church the next day. She’ll have hers set and sprayed for the same reason. Later that night she’ll put on this funny hat made of foam with netting on the top. I question why she does this and she tells me that it’s so her hair won’t fall. It doesn’t matter to me if her hair falls or not so long as she’ll let me wear the hats and pretend they are crowns – which I do. She doesn’t seem to mind too much though.
After the hair washing the stylist puts my hair on big rollers and walks me over to a row of the large hairdryers that you sit under at the salon. I am propped up on the biggest catalogues that they have – JC Penney, Sears, Service Merchandise. I’m also allowed to select a book to read while my hair dries. I could choose from several things but my favorite is the Illustrated Book of the Bible. At the age of four I could already read so I sit under the dryer with the warm air whistling around my head, reading the story of Creation, followed by the story of Adam and Even, followed by the story of Cain and Abel. I’m never able to make it all the way to the end of the book so she goes to the trouble to order a copy of the book for me to read at her house as well.
I suppose it’s a strange memory for someone to have – Saturday trips to the beauty shop, but it’s little things like that I cherish the most.
It’s funny, because you hear a lot of people say things like, “Oh, my grandma made the best apple pie” or “My granny made beautiful quilts.” My grandmother did neither of those kinds of things but she did make excellent reservations and definitely knew finery when she saw it. She was never extravagant, but she did enjoy the fine things in life. She is the one who told me at a very young age that I didn’t have the type of skin to be in the sun and I should wear a hat and sunscreen when I went outside. Every time someone tells me I have pretty skin I think about her advice because I honestly don’t think I’d still look like I was in my 20s if it wasn’t for her. You see, both of my parents are sun-worshippers. In the summertime they both sport dark tans. I look like I’m their long-lost child who spent their formative years in a cave with the kinds of animals that have no pigment and no eyes. But hey, I have no wrinkles so I can’t complain.
She was the one who told me I had a head for business and I should study it in school. I honestly wish I had listened to her about that one because I really do love studying business. I would have never thought that with my love of the arts and literature that I would have also had a head for numbers but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that she was right all along.
Yes, I had a very special grandmother. The kind of grandmother who would let you drink beer in front of her. The kind of grandmother who always slipped a $20 bill in your pocket for “gas money.” The kind of grandmother who was never too busy to sit and listen to you babble on about crushes or mean teachers or how much you like working in sports. The kind of grandmother who never once pestered me about if I was ever going to graduate from college or get married. My grandmother was a strong woman and a smart woman. She was the kind of person you don’t hesitate to say that you look up to – not because you’re obligated to say those sorts of things but because you really mean it. I’d be lying if I told you that I’m not going to miss her terribly but I take much solace in knowing that I was so fortunate to have her in my life for so long.