“Sure gramma, love to hear it,” I said. Hell, how much of my time would it take to listen to her story? Not much I hoped, but I owed her something. She had given me the thirty-two cents for a pack of smokes last week. I waited while she combed through the unspun wool of memory, searching for a strand from her youth.
“It was May Day the first time I saw your grandfather. We had set up a few tables under the big tent where we sold libations from our pub.”
“Wait. What do you mean by, our pub?”
“My mother owned a pub. Well, I called her mother, but in truth she was my aunt. My mother being too young to raise me, or that is what her parents told her. I was born out of wedlock. My aunt raised me.”
Wow! Gramma was illegitimate. Who knew?
“Your grandfather was a Cavalry officer. Oh, what an entrance he made that first day when he and a few chums galloped into the tent on their chargers. Dirt splattered, horses reared and danced. My mother swore. I laughed.
“They all looked splendid; the horses decked out in full regalia, men in bright uniforms, red capes flying, scabbards flashing, their high boots polished to reflection, but he was the one I noticed, and to my surprise he noticed me. Love at first fright.”
My mouth was hanging open now, the scene flashing on my mind like a movie, the pageantry, the action, as the eyes of the young barmaid meeting those of the rich man’s son. He was hooked. I was captivated.
Later, when the stories stopped, my grandmother had become Isabel, my day lost to the story of her life. Across the screen of my mind she had travelled from an unwanted birth, through rejection and poverty to the love of her life, through the births of child after child, births that made them happy, but kept my grandfather from the Great War, and the shame he experienced because of it, while he stood his guard post outside the King’s bedroom. The big house followed, the good years with horse drawn carriages and servants at hand. I saw her scramble to shelter as buzz bombs fell. Then immigration to Canada, the heart break of the unknown disease that claimed her man, and a fortune stolen by the depression. She became someone else, something more, and so did I.
“Thank you gramma.”
© Dave Skinner 2017