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9.10.2010

KID KALEIDOSCOPE

Remember those kaleidoscopes from your childhood?  You would put them up to your right eye, much like a pirate, and rotate it to see this amalgamation of colors sliding and changing.  It was clear there were a myriad of colors and shapes intertwined, but you could not definitively separate each out or fully distinguish them.  Kid vision is like that too.  Stuff I saw as a kid I saw, but couldn't always clearly know or understand in full.  And part of kid vision is that you don't know you aren't seeing it correctly or in full focus.  For instance, my great grandmother Lodema (yes you are seeing it correctly) was a tiny wisp of a wiry little woman.  Her face gave you the impression that life was to be taken serious.  If that was the case, well then, she had been serious all her life.  She was not a warm, loving or inviting sort of grandma either.  I was a bit scared of grandma Lodema (who wouldn't be with a cold, harsh name like Lodema) - her 1930's dresses, the serious harsh look to her face, the way she chewed her food, the strange birthday gifts she gave, her love affair with anything made from black walnuts and that she dyed her hair with black walnuts.  As a kid I was mesmerized by her presence, and not in a good way.  I studied her, though from a safe distance much like you would a porcupine:)  I was a kid in the 60's, 70's and through the start of the 80's.  For all those years she wore what appeared to be the same dress that might have been part of a movie wardrobe from the 1930's.  Meal times proved hard for me as I had to combine eating and figuring things out about her - like what those lumps were way down near where you would imagine her belly button would be.  I would look intently at her trying to imagine what in the world that could be there.  There were no boobs where you would think there should be.  Where had they gone?  I kept up my vigil of visual research until one day I realized that what I saw misshapen down near her naval was actually her breasts.  With that realization came a bevy of questions; would that happen to me if I ever got boobs, why were they that shape, when did they slide down so low, did she wear a bra and if she did why were they still misshapen and down so low?  Grandma Lodema always had an interesting almost Kentuckian way of cracking her jaw or chewing her cud like a cow when she ate.  Many times I would watch in amazement.  She was a bit like granny on "The Beverly Hillbillies", but without the shotgun.  Her very unusual gift giving tastes were well known in our family.  Every year for my birthday she would give me something out of her china cabinet.  It was always a toothpick holder (she must have had a whole collection). Every year I got a different and original toothpick holder.  My one sister every year got a different tea cup and saucer, while sister number two got salt and pepper shakers.  What 7 year old pines, yearns and just cherishes a toothpick holder?!  Lodema was resourceful (obviously she found a way to wear the same dress since the 1930's) with black walnuts.  She made black walnut brittle, black walnut torte and even soaked black walnuts in water making her own homemade temporary dark icky brown hair dye.  You can guess what color her hair was:)  My great grandfather's name was Berlin (yes, like the city but pronounced BerLehn instead of Berlynn) and he was kind of a quiet enigma.  He was usually found sitting at the table or in a chair in the living room just being totally still and quiet (that's what he did best) or mostly asleep.  I don't remember him really ever talking much. And for the life of me, can't remember what his voice even sounded like.  My grandmother, married to my great grandparents son, told me in the months leading up to her own death strange and funny things that must get stored in our brains and then just pop out as we hurtle toward the finish line of life.  One such story was that she had walked down to my great grandparents house to check on them as they were up there in years.  She knocked on the door and then sort of hollered as she walked in the living room.  What she saw and repeated to me totally cleared up the lump by the naval mystery for me.  When she opened the door she saw my great parents, then in their late 80's, well let's just say grandpa was frolicking actively with grandma Lodema's breasts.  It was at that moment hearing the story that it all came together for me.  The kaleidoscope came into view.  Things that troubled me as a kid about her, he found magically appealing.  Gifts that I thought were dumb, were actually treasures of her life.  Her harsh ways were not repelling to grandpa, but he loved her deeply.  And well, black walnuts were still yucky and there was no way to work them into this moment of adult enlightenment.   And I never planned to dye my hair with them. 

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the scary wooden snake lying under the coffee table in their living room! Additionally, Berlin and Lodema were the source for the equally terrifying saga "Where's My Lamb's Leg?"

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