Monday, February 15, 2010

Cookies in a Tube

Cookies in a tube are the kind that my Grandmother makes--the kind that you slice, that have little pictures in the middle, of stars, or bells, or creepy Santas. The kind of cookies that Cher, in Clueless, didn't slice but instead threw the whole roll in the oven. "Honey, you baked."

Anyway, that brings me to that old saying: write what you know. But here's the THING with that damn saying; sometimes, I feel like I know something so well that I can't even begin to describe it. I don't know where, or what, or how to write something that is so ingrained in the person that I am.

For example, my Grandparents.

I, for some reason, am a little obsessed with my Grandparents and their pasts, how they grew up, how my parents grew up, and how that then influenced my sisters and me. We grew up going to my Grandfather's house in the mountains during the summers, and I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain that place. I've never been able to do it RIGHT. I've never been able to describe just everything--the house, the mountain, the river, the history, the love, the spiders--everything that it is or everything that it was and how that all mixes together. I'll probably never quite be able to do it, but I know I'll keep trying, even if it means throwing the whole tube in the oven.


My Grandfather and I were fixing
a white closet door;
I propped and held and pushed as he hammered
and ho-hummed and pondered, until
he stopped mid-bang and turned to me: you
have my mother's hands, he said, and he took
them, held them, turned them over
in his strong, aged palms.

His mother was Etta, Etta Fisk until
Mark Munson sauntered in and swept her up
to the Berkshires, where her memories began as vividly
as mine, as my mother’s, as my grandfather’s:
clumpy dirt roads, the Westfield river
with its slippery rocks and sunfish, the wind
through the grasses, stirring up
the mosquitoes, the smell of chimneys and rain.

In the evenings, my mother, very young,
would beg Etta, beg
and plead to brush her hair, her long
long hair, longer than long.
And Etta would smile and her hands
would reach for her braids,
two of them, wound up
and around, every day.

Her fingers would unwind, unbind,
pour the softness so it fell like
water, and my little girl mother would run
through it, play peek-a-boo, pretend inside.
Then she would brush and brush and brush it,
until Etta, with her long fingers,
would tickle her away.

My Grandfather held my hands and shook
his head, smiled. I wanted to tell him that
I would wear them proudly, that I was honored,
that I would make a difference
with her hands, and he squeezed
them as if to press in love, as if to say only
one thing: Remember.

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