The Narcissist
February 27, 2010
There once was a girl with a curl in the middle of her fore'ead.
And when she was good, she was very, very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Her backyard was a thing of wonderment. The patio was covered by a metal roof bent to and fro like a piece of corrugated cardboard. The far ends of the roof were supported by pieces of what looked to me like wrought iron metal. Standing underneath it during a storm, I would completely lose myself in the sounds the rain made on that patio roof.

Staring out at the yard from the patio and the right side of the yard was bounded by a typical chain link fence. The left was a tall, tall privacy fence with slender boards with practically sharp points - it reminded me of an old west fort. The back fence was the same as the left, but only as tall as the chain link fence. I'd never seen a wooden fence so short before.

But the best part was the old willow trees. The one practically in front of the patio was okay, but a bit sparse. The one off to the left, though ... I played jungle in the branches hanging down every time I went out back. It was interesting how the yard was exotic and somewhat forbidding on the far side - by the tall privacy fence, but open and clear near the chain link side.

The interior of the house excited my imagination just as much - the floor in the den was a wood parquet that I was always dying to take apart. After all, it looked like a floor made out of thin wooden blocks. I always wondered what other designs I could make with the floor if I could just be left alone for a few hours ....

The hallway back to the bedrooms was always dark. The carpet was old and red and had a path worn down the center. I was fascinated by this and would try to walk against the wall, where there was still loads of cushy padding, just to be different. Even the walls were odd. A bit of molding created a frame every so often on the wall. And inside that was some red wallpaper. Maybe some day I'll find a picture of that or try to draw it from memory ... but the pattern of the wallpaper was raised and flocked ... and apparently I was not supposed to pet it.

The front room of the house was a combination living room/sitting room and dining room. The carpet was white. There was a HUGE blue velvet couch underneath a large painting of little boats on a European beachfront. The end tables and coffee tables had magazines carefully arranged, a few tasteful knicknacks and a couple of candy dishes with lids. My first foray into learning to be quiet was trying to remove the glass lid from the blue candy dish to have one piece of hard candy. It was a game I played with myself even when I had asked and been given permission to have a piece of candy.

It really wasn't about the candy ... it was about the challenge.

Everything in that house was a challenge to me of some sort. An exploration of new things. I would crawl underneath the dining room table - a gorgeous Heywood-Wakefield piece with legs curved like the rib bones of a dinosaur - and be lost in my own adventures for hours. Sometimes I was in a submarine, a rocketship or a dinosaur's belly. Sometimes it was a cave.

In retrospect, I was often so overwhelmed by the experience of my grandparents' house in Oklahoma, that I was rather lost in my own little world when there.

This mostly kept me out of trouble.

And like most little kids, I thought Grandma was perfect.

In retrospect that was a combination of a couple of factors. As a child, I largely wanted to be left alone to my own devices. That's not to say that I didn't fall into the tedious "I'm bored" trap, because I did. I did want some attention from adults. But for the most part, if you gave me a project I was interested in, I was pretty self-sufficient and content to be left alone for hours.

Grandma was good at that. We'd go shopping for a few toys or books and then she'd expect me to entertain myself thereafter. She'd give me toys that she felt my aunt didn't want any more (while most of the time she was correct about that ... she also screwed up rather royally more often than I'd like to admit). She gave me my aunt's Mego Batman and Robin and then took me to the store to get some vehicles (and maybe a bad guy - I'm a little fuzzy on that now). These were things my mom considered "boy toys" and Mom would never let me have them. Frankly, I wasn't sure how they were truly different from the Barbie dolls she handed down to me from her childhood, but there it was.

Of course, the stereotype of the grandma in the U.S. is that grandmas spoil grandkids. So naturally she got me special things.

Looking back with adult eyes, though, it was more than that. She would purposely buy the things that Mom most wanted me to not have. A six-shooter. A drum (she'd been very specifically told NO DRUMS on multiple occasions). Various "boy toys" by Mom's definition. All things that made Grandma look good ... and Mom look like an ogre. And it wasn't so much about making me happy ... although she did enjoy making me happy ... but it was often about the adulation and attention she got by gifting me with these things. As well as the opportunity to make Mom feel bad - or make me feel like Mom was in the wrong.

For years, I saw her as my protector. Where Mom seemed arbitrary and overly controlling, Grandma was sure to let me march to the beat of my own drum (that she gave me, of course). Where Mom always seemed to interrupt my playtime (or project time) with an arbitrary chore that for some reason had to be done RIGHT NOW OR THE UNIVERSE WILL IMPLODE, Grandma had no chore agenda for me.

And as her grandchild, that was exactly what I needed.

Posted by Red Monkey at February 27, 2010 4:24 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


inthefastlane said:

Grandparents get to do that, be the one that gives them what they want. And even "perfect" parents, pale next to those grandmothers who know just how to win over their grandchildren.

February 27, 2010 10:02 PM


Tara R. said:

My grandparents also had a willow tree. My grandfather would make me whistles from the soft wood. I have wonderful memories of spending summers at their place in the woods.

Your grandmother sounds like she was a loving advocate for you. My sincere condolences on her passing.

February 28, 2010 9:17 AM
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