Friday, December 01, 2006

My God, I've Turned Into My Grandmother

Growing up in a small town in Illinois, with all my cousins and aunts and uncles firmly rooted to the same spot, too, was, as I look back on it now, a wonderful era. However, being in the midst of it, especially during that awesome, wonderful, incredible (someone else's words, not mine) period of new-womanhood, I would be restless and bored and unhappy, thinking the grass most certainly WAS greener on the other side, and if someone told me once more that it was not, I was going to come unglued!

We were all spread out in the area, as I reflect back, sort of in a circle surrounding my grandmother's apartment building, and again, as I reflect on it, that was probably part of the Grand Plan.

Grandma was incredible. If someone needed a baby-sitter, she was there. If someone needed a few extra bucks, she was there. I didn't appreciate her then.

Being in the middle of her children really is a snapshot of what she meant to them, but she had one habit that pretty much drove everyone over the edge: Ambulance run phone calls.

From where she sat, perched high above the city, she had a bird's eye view of the comings and goings of every ambulance. My family lived east of the city, so the second she knew an ambulance had left the hospital and was headed toward our house, she would call to make sure it was not coming to rescue one of US. If we were okay, she would then call the relatives that lived a little farther east to establish nobody was dying there, and on and on, until she had touched base with every eastward relative. The next ambulance run was similar. But one thing was for sure, she had raised her children under very harsh, sometimes penniless conditions, and it was only fitting that she spent a lot of her life perched up there in the crow's nest of her ship with her binoculars, keeping watch over us all. Those were good days.

I think that, after she passed away, we all expected to find some elaborate tracking system hidden in her closet with dials and compasses and those voice-enhancing satellite-looking systems that you point toward someone and can hear what they are saying from several feet away. There were no tracking devices, however, of course, and I had to just accept the fact that she loved us so much that she had developed her own radar for keeping track of us.

Everyone needs a grandmother with that radar, so I seem to, unknowingly, have taken that on with my crew here. I hear the ambulance, I immediately want to call to make sure it is not going to pick up a child or grandchild or stepchild or boyfriend. The difference is, I stifle the urge.

Land of the Shrunken Heads

During our getting-to-know-you period, you remember that, right? The time when you had so much to talk about that there was never any silence between you? The time that, after ten years or so, became marked by saying, "Shhhhhh, I want to hear what penalty the ref is calling!" Anyway, during that period in the first ten years of our relationship, Don and I learned that we had both always been fascinated by the idea of going to Mt. Rushmore. Every year when we received our new geography books, we learned that we would both thumb through and find the Mt. Rushmore picture.

So, now having a partner in crime to visit South Dakota with, off we went.

We saw some amazing sites during our trip to South Dakota: Huge rock formations that would take anyone's breath away, and we saved Mt. Rushmore for last, knowing it was going to be the highlight of our trip.

After running to the hotel to drop our bags and get checked in, I drove to the parking lot, which in and of itself was massive and very enticing, and we started the trek to the mountain carving that had intrigued us since our youth. The walk to the seating area was impressive. They had a huge walkway with a flag of each state hanging above it, and that was breathtaking. Don said, "Oh, my God, this is going to be soooo awesome!!"

Suddenly in front of us, there it was. The object of our affections. And it was very, very neat. Just listening to the history of it, learning about the carving process, was amazing. We sat there with a couple of hundred other people and listened and waited, and at dark, the lights were turned on to illuminate the presidents and show them in all their majestic glory!!

We were pretty quiet heading back to the hotel. The conversation was a little lulled by what we had just seen. About the only thing we said was, "Was that not just cool?" And "Yeah, that was cool."

Months passed. We were back in our respective routines of working, eating and sleeping, and then one day, as we were watching a show on TV describing the wonders of the world and they came to Mt. Rushmore, I could not keep it in anymore. I said, rather quickly, "I wasn't as impressed with Mt. Rushmore as I thought I would be...I was lying."

Don let out his breath and said, "Oh, GOOD! I thought I was missing something! The whole thing was cool, but the heads...they were...I don't know...like shrunken or something, just not as big as I was expecting."

So forever more, Mt. Rushmore will, at least in our household, be known as The Shrunken Heads.

And there is a moral here: The things you think are so huge when you are young, really ARE just anthills. Take it from me.