Monday, June 02, 2008

The Cubs, The Cardinals, and Gramma

My memory banks contain more memories of sitting at Gramma's kitchen table overlooking the Illinois river than I could ever possibly hope to count. Gramma's house, and more specifically, that kitchen table, was always a gathering point for the family. Most days, any number of family members would show up randomly throughout the day . . . no need to knock, the door was usually unlocked, and you could just walk on in.

Gramma would be sitting on her side of the table, surrounded by a clutter of note cards, magazine and newspaper clippings, lotions, maybe a snack that her diet didn't allow, and perhaps the materials for whatever project she was working on at that moment. She might be working on that project, or looking out at her birds on the back deck, or, during the summer have her chair turned towards the living room watching her beloved Cubs on TV. If they were winning, of course. If you walked in during a time in which you knew the Cubs were playing, but you didn't hear the TV, it was a clear sign they were losing. Especially if she was grumpy and muttering about that damn Sammy Sosa or Dusty Baker or 'insert current Cubs disappointment here.'

After expressing her disgust or joy (depending on their current standings) over what was going on at Wrigley field, Gramma would ask how you were, and then proceed to try and feed you all sorts of fat-laden goodies, despite the fact that you just told her how great you were doing on your diet.

I've been thinking about these simple memories a lot lately. When my Gramma passed away in December, I barely had a chance to mourn, given the other tragedy that had occurred in my life a mere week earlier. To this day I struggle with the fact that, even though her passing made me very sad -- I had become very close to her, especially in her last year -- I have barely been able to cry, and I have yet to allow myself to truly feel her loss.

More and more, however, I am beginning to think that I should not be feeling guilty over the manner in which I've dealt with it. Perhaps it's not that I am not grieving, but rather I am just grieving in different manner.

I am remembering all of the good times, and letting her sad, painful last days be a mere shadow in the background.

And yet, I find it ironic that as I write this, I am holding back tears.

When I sat down to write this post, it was with the intention of sharing one of my favorite memories of my Gramma. I see now that it is also becoming a way for me to honor her and grieve her.

It probably isn't hard to figure out that my favorite memory of Grammma is baseball related. I can still recall it quite well, even though it occurred a good 10 or more years ago.

I came over to visit one summer afternoon, and took my place in the seat across the table from her. She was in good spirits not only because the Cubs were doing well, but because they had just swept the Cardinals. What better victory could there be for a Cubs fan than to be the dominate half of one of the greatest baseball rivalries in history?

Sitting in front of her on the table was an interesting piece of attire that piqued my curiosity.

A decorative cardinal with life-like feathers -- the kind with the wires extending from the feet so you could pose them perched on branches -- was glued upside-down to the bill of a Cubs hat with the feet sticking straight up in the air, and the wires snipped off.

I asked her what it was all about, and sat patiently as she began her story. With her jubilant mood, I knew it would be entertaining, clever, and feisty, as Gramma was known to be.

She began by telling me about the Cubs' triumph over that oh-so-horrible team from St. Louis. She then went on to tell me about Dennis, the long-time employee and die-hard Cards fan that worked for my aunt at the gas station she manages. Gramma and Dennis had their own little Cubs/Cards related friendly rivalry going on, and they would banter back and forth about it every time she stopped in to fill up her car.

It goes without saying that this latest victory provided plenty of material for Gramma to impress upon Dennis who she felt was the better team.

But mere banter over such a great victory wasn't Gramma's way. Gramma was creative and fun.

That's where the hat came in. Gramma made the hat specifically for this occasion, with it's life-like 'dead' cardinal, feet up, on top of the bill. But she didn't stop there. She also bought a sympathy card for Dennis, and customized it just for this occasion. On the inside cover she drew a cardinal. She plucked a few feathers from the dead bird atop her cap and glued them in the card, scattered about as you may find in real life when a bird has been attacked or in a scuffle. She drew a baseball a few inches away, complete with 'motion lines' so you could tell that the ball was travelling at a high rate of speed, directly for the hopeless bird.

At this point, I can still see Gramma's expression clear as day, as she told me about what she did. Her head held high, and a sly expression on her face, she described how she put her hat -- complete with 'dead' bird -- on her head, marched into the gas station, laid the sympathy card on the counter in front of Dennis, turned around, and marched back out.

Part of me wishes I could have been there to witness the spectacle myself, or have it captured on video. But a bigger part of me relishes in the memory of her actual telling of the tale. The pride in her voice, the smile on her face, and the dramatic flourish with which she told it.

It is a memory I will never forget, and will always hold very dear to my heart. It is how I choose to remember her: as a clever, sassy woman full of life, love, and creativity.

Gramma, I hope you have a great view of Wrigleyville when you look down from heaven to see the Cubs win the World Series this year!

2 comments:

Tabby said...

Core, that's beautiful. Thanks for sharing it and making my day!
-Tabby

Anonymous said...

Corry,
I love that story!!!
Jess