Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It's Her Birthday

Lying across a green and orange paisley and floral couch, I would twist and turn always trying to find a cool spot to rest my face against the fabric. The music was always there. Playing softly, sometimes loudly, always there carrying me along as if I was floating down a river. The soft pumping of the foot pedals accompanied it all in the distant background.

Sometimes I would rouse myself from my own little world of imaginary friends and lost lands to request a tune, most often it was, "Play the mosquito song! Play the mosquito song!" She would laugh and wordlessly pull out the children's music book and play the juvenile tune that buzzed across the keyboard. After it was over it was usually her favorite Chopin that she would play.  Sometimes if I was lucky, I could pick out my favorite Rachmaninov in between all the Tchaikovsky and Beethoven symphonies too. As a classically trained, concert pianist she never tired of sitting at her piano and playing for herself or an audience. Whole evenings, especially in the cold winter, were spent with the family gathered on those green and orange sofas listening to her play and talking while having a few drinks.

I remember this so vividly and during every season it was such an integral part of my youth. Many years after I had ceased to spend weekends and long summer weeks at her and my grandfathers home and I had gone off to college I would hear my favorite Rachmaninov tune being played through an open campus window.  The strains of the music drifted through the air making me stop in my tracks and just breathe it all in for a bit as I savored the moment and felt filled with memories.  There were late nights of watching The Love Boat, the need she had to dress my stark naked Barbie’s in disco dresses and wedge heels, the way she allowed me to touch absolutely everything in her home no matter how valuable or breakable are all part of those countless memories. She didn't mind when I would ask her to "take your teeth out, Memere!" as she brushed her teeth each morning or that I always wanted to use her watermelon pink lipstick and soft, fluffy talc-filled powder puff. She made no apologies when I slammed the front door in her friend's face one day when that woman called my long-desired and much loved Cabbage Patch Kid Zenia Kelly, "a precious little chocolate baby." She knew who was in the wrong. She liked to flip her eyelids inside out and scare the bejeezus out of her grandkids when we bothered her and let me roam the house, yard and neighborhood as I pleased. Her home was music, comfort, love and freedom in the most secure sense. She made it that way because that was and is who she is as a person.

Today, my grandmother, my Memere, as I like to call her has turned ninety. I used to joke with her that she didn't look like a groundhog and every time she would laugh. While Alzheimer's has her in its grip right now I had the privilege of being able to visit with her this past weekend as the whole family turned out to celebrate this momentous occasion. She couldn't believe it herself that she was turning ninety. She had to be reminded often of who people were and why she was there but she was happy the whole day. When she thanked me for her gift and H explained to her that I was her oldest grandchild she smiled and grabbed my arm and shook it with affection just like she used to every time I saw her as I grew up. She may not remember me all the time but that gesture alone completely made my day.

Happy 90th Birthday, Memere! You are so loved.



  1. It sounds like you were both very lucky to have each other. What a nice story.

    My Papa was my best friend and I still hold those stories of him close to my heart and soul.


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