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Dinner's Ready MAG
"Dinner's ready," my grandmother hollered.
That November day the wind was blustery and cold, but my grandparents' house was warmed with a gold fire, popping and crackling, that gave the whole living room a warm glow and an oak-wood smell.
The carpets were Oriental but threadbare. I could faintly see the once bright reds, yellows and greens if I squinted, but many generations had walked on them, dulling the colors.
The white house was filled with character, memories; it was first purchased in 1702. It even had a circular secret passage that went from behind a narrow bookshelf not more than 18 inches wide, leading straight up to my grandfather's cedar closet. The beehive oven was built by my distant Uncle Fred. The main reason why I am telling you about this house is that I can't plunk you down in the middle of the story. You need to know where my grandparents live, where and what they come from.
Grandpa Roy was the kindest, old, plump man who was so special and loving; he was my idol. As far as I was concerned we were identical; age and gender shouldn't count! We even had the same widow's peak in our hair lines and the same crows' feet around the eyes!
I remember when I was about six years old and my father was on a business trip. Grandpa Roy came to Father-Daughter Day at my church, just so I would have someone there.
Gramps was like that, always filling the holes that needed earth. I can always remember him saying, "What's wrong?" but this was not just the normal tape recording some people play. He would always take time to listen, listen to my predicament. Pops always had reassuring advice too that was like a band-aid to heal or protect the wound. Like the time he was visiting us for a week and I came home from school, fifth grade, after breaking up with Doug Renthal. Gramps never said, "If there's anything I can do, just come and get me, or, if I was crying, ask if I had been upset. No, he was too smart for that. All he would say was, "Well, did you tell him off or kick him where it counts?" As soon as he said that, my salty tears turned dry and I even let a little giggle out.
He knew the way I felt without needing an explanation, but Gramps was there for the details too!
See, Grandpa was president of Mount Ida College and all day long he reasoned and talked to the students and faculty and tried to smooth things over. Only yesterday did I realize I had that characteristic when my writing teacher pointed out that I had a knack for making others feel good about themselves. This trait I have was not learned or purchased; it was given ,it's in me!
The smell of mashed potatoes, tender and special thick gravy that my Aunt Cindy always brought, and the baking of apple pie all collaborated together into a luscious aroma that seemed to taunt my tastebuds toward the table.
I really wasn't a person who likes food or was stimulated by it, like my mom or sister. For Grandpa and I the only thing that worked us up was the thought of the crisp and flaky apple pie that crumbled when it was touched by a fork. That really had us!
Once everyone was seated my whole family had placed their napkins on their laps and Grandpa recited grace. At the Carlson house, though, no one folded their hands for prayer; we always joined hands, making a circle around the table. Grandpa said we did this because it was a way to unite love. Now when I was ten maybe that would have sounded corny, but after reading Anne of Green Gables in the fifth grade I began to appreciate romance.
"It's not corny if it comes from the heart," Pops said. Funny thing is though, then it didn't mean anything to me, right when he said it. But a few weeks ago I found myself saying it to one of my friends when she thought her writing had an unbelievable tone to it.
"Amen," we all said in unison, the clanking of glasses and silverware rang out over the muffled conversations. At least one of the conversations would be about how Caroline and her grandmother are so similar.
I was expected to be exactly like my grandmother who was in fact a popular woman who happened to be the cliched image of a housewife! I had seen her play bridge, cook, and darn socks; which was everything I didn't want to do. That's not to say I didn't love her, I just wanted to be different! In fact the only attribute that I could see that was the same was that we both had fat fingers. People also said we were the "queens of come-backs" in the family.
I was only fresh once about two years ago when my uncle complimented me on a comb I was using and I said, "Well, I'd give it you but you don't really have any hair to brush." Ever since that, I have been given that title and it's not even true. As a matter of fact, I stink at thinking quickly on my feet. But I have learned not to try and change a Carlson's point of view , it's impossible. So now I just half-smile when anyone says that we are alike. Deep down inside a fire is raging and I have to bite down in a smile pose to keep the smoke and flames from spitting out! For some reason, I felt badly for the children I might bear because they probably will have similar traits as my mother (I feel genetic links skip a generation) and probably be taunted like I was. Although she might not love it, I can just imagine her in my place.
This Caroline Carlson was not going to have to cook all her meals and stay in one place all her life, raise a family or bake apple pies! She had dreams of having her husband helping with the meals, traveling to exotic places like Africa and Russia, writing novels about romance and rich women. I already knew what my first novel was going to be about. It was going to be about me getting kidnapped and then falling in love with the criminal. I was going to live life freely and not let little things like holes in socks beat me. I was probably going to have fat fingers, ask people what's wrong and wait for the details and I was going to love my grandchildren with the same intensity that they loved me.
Conversation around the old mahogany table was getting a little dull. I could tell the dinner was coming to a close because my sister had a milk mustache around her upper lip and she never drank her milk till she had finished eating. So I started in with, "Grandpa?"
"Ya, Caroline," he answered after motioning me to wait a second while I finish chewing.
"Is that a new painting hanging over the mantel?" It was a gorgeous picture of auburn fall trees and man's profile painting with a bumpy textured canvas.
"Oh, yea, that one, Pumpkin, that's not new, it's very old. It's special because your great-great grandfather brought it over from Sweden and gave it to Ivy and me for our wedding present."
Sweden, I thought, all the way from that narrow country. My family was so large and there were so many different nationalities that made me, but for some reason I wanted to know more about the Swedish portion. Probably because my grandfather was from there and I wanted to learn more about him ...me!
"When I get older," I proclaimed, "I want to go to Sweden, live there for a while and maybe find a picture just as beautiful to give to my grandchildren as their wedding present."
Ever since that Thanksgiving I have recreated that picture in my mind and with my new watercolors, too!
That Christmas under the tree was a large rectangular object wrapped in Rudolph paper. It was the painting with an inscription on the back saying, "This is your heritage, Caroline. Please don't forget it or me! Love, Pops. n