Aspects of mortality follow us like thunder trailing after a lightning strike low in the clouds too close to our window. Or the remembered scent of facial powder on a special Aunt’s soft cheeks.
I was stepping down into the garage from the kitchen when I heard my Grandmother’s voice, “Use your head to save your heels.”
Grandma O lived on the first floor of a house with fruit cellar in the basement. So if she was going to make her way down to the fruit cellar, she reminded herself to mentally list what needed to go down and once down what would need to come up.
Today I was halfway to the pantry in the garage leaving behind the Tupperware container of brown rice on the kitchen counter. If I was using my head I would look around and see what else needed to be removed to the area where I was going. Once in the garage with milk in one hand and a can of chicken broth in the other, if I was using my head I would mentally review the menu and remember to bring in the bag of chocolate chips from the pantry for making cookies after supper.
“Use your head to save your heels.” I also should have checked the kitchen refrigerator for butter and now needed to trip back to the refrig in the garage. But I remember you, Grandma. Tea served in real china cups and saucers. The oil cloth covering the kitchen table. African violets on the window sill. A fuzzy bear stored in a basket of toys waiting for grandchildren to tumble out of the car and race each other to reach it. She probably didn’t understand the competitive urgency that dictated we give her a greeting kiss after we gripped the bear. For my part, I attempted to casually claim the back seat behind my Father because it would place me closest to Grandma’s door.
Grandma undoubtedly would not have picked this adage as our lasting remembrance but it has stuck, at least in my mind. A few years ago my Mother and I told stories about Grandma and she also remembered Grandma’s advice.
Mom laughed when I told her I remembered her frequent admonishment. I remember walking slowly home from third grade because I had been told a phone call from teacher to my mother preceded me. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” I found my Mother’s oft repeated warning curious and failed to understand for twenty years. Simply, recognize and clean up after your failures or you will continue to make the same mistakes. In my eight-year-old, uncomprehending mind, Mother’s adage was interpreted “be more careful not to get caught.”
And what mortal words have I left in my wake? And you….