As I promised in my post of Feb 4th, here is the first installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks, about two young women, Emma and Lucy, the stories their grandmother told them, and the masks they wore.
We opened the door and trooped eagerly into the house, just like we always had before. But we stopped in the entry way, bunched together as if uncertain where to go, since Grandma wasn’t here to show us. Only a moment, but a long one, while her absence shouted from the walls and echoed in the empty air.
Lucy and I walked to the top of the stairs. When we were kids we often held hands as we hurtled down these stairs, with our other hands holding the banisters as we swung our feet off the ground and skipped three or even four steps at a time. Grandma didn’t stop us. For years this was our normal way of getting downstairs, until Lucy broke her ankle when she was 11 and I was 14, way too big, in our mothers’ opinion, to be playing such silly games. Grandma just shrugged and called it “natural consequences,” which pissed off our mothers, who forbade us to do it anymore. I don’t think that’s why we stopped, though. It had a lot more to do with Grandma’s natural consequences. Broken ankles hurt.
Lucy and I are close, much closer than most cousins. This in spite of our age gap, and the fact that we aren’t at all alike. Maybe it’s because neither of us has a sister. Both of us have a younger brother, but this is not the same. A big influence in my life, and in Lucy’s, is the unbreakable bond existing between our mothers. Their need for one another makes having a sister seem like a necessity for happiness. Since our parents didn’t give us sisters, we had to make our own.
But maybe what really binds Lucy and I together is that we shared Grandma. She was ours, in a way that our brothers or mothers did not know.
Standing at the top of the stairs, I held out my hand. Lucy grinned and took it in hers. But we were no longer so carefree, or so foolish, to try to careen feet-free down the stairs. We are grown-ups now, or supposed to be – Lucy is 22 and I just turned 25. Plus we are bigger, not just older. All the women in our family are big women. Lucy is six feet one, and I’m not far behind; and we have bones and flesh to match. All those “s” words – slender, slim, svelte, skinny – do not apply to us. Grandma used to say our family had chubb. She certainly did. It’s a good word. To me it means warm, comfortable, fun, full of laughing kindness. This is what I tell myself when I go up another dress size.
Be sure to catch the next installment of Grandma’s Masks, coming next Wednesday February 13th. And please leave comments and tell me what you think so far!