Well, here we are sitting between Dia De Los Muertos, a Full moon and everythaang. I don’t know about you but I am feeling it. Like all kinds of “feelings nothing more than feelings…” Tomorrow, November 4th, is the official full moon and also the anniversary of my Great Grandma Pierce’s birthday. I wanted to send her an electronic, cosmic, 98.7-Kiss-FM shout out because where would we be without these markers/reminders of our predecessors? A pause in the flurry of to-do lists and work emails and bills to pay and meals to prep. Each day that passes I consider more and more what my ancestors lived through and how each generation knowingly or unknowingly created a wider possibility for us.
Like many of the women in my fathers family there is no shortage of Scorpios. My maternal Grandma Lillian, my great Aunt Marjorie, my younger sister and myself all have birthdays in the month of November. But one hundred and seventeen years ago Gertrude Pierce came to this planet with her sweetness, tempestuousness and grace. My Grandma Pierce, my father’s maternal Grandmother, had an amazing face. The kind you wanted to reach out and touch. Smooth chocolate with wrinkles that seemed to rise up or down depending on the current of her mood. Grandma Pierce bore 10 children, 1 of whom died as infant. My Grandma Lillian said she remembered being a child and seeing her mother take the news, falling to the floor in shock and grief. But like most of us Grandma Pierce found a way to place one foot in front of the next. She had 5 girls with five heads of hair to do ( plus her own), bread to bake, meals to cook ( although I am told her husband, Grandpa Luther, did do a share of the cooking) and a house to clean. In the Spring she would actually hand wash the mattresses throughout the house and let them air outdoors. Yet this lovely woman was not someone to contend with. Stories are still told about the expanse of her temper. If anyone or anything upset Grandma Pierce, then EVERYONE would feel the effects! Whether or not you were responsible it was in your own best interest to find the nearest exit.
But when I came along with my power puffs and bubbling New York chatter my Grandma was a slower moving woman, with bowed legs and eventually a metal walker that she dragged around from the kitchen, to the front window, to the dining room. Wearing floral printed house skirts and often a scarf tied on her head, she would smile when I arrived and insist on me giving her some ‘suga’. (Being part of a large, extended family I was quite accustomed to giving and receiving myriad hugs and kisses from various family members I did and did not recognize). Yet for all her sweetness it didn’t take much for me to irritate Grandma with my hopping and skipping about upstairs at Grandma Lillian’s apartment. I would regularly receive a message through my great Aunt Marjorie or Grandma saying Grandma Pierce wanted to know what I was doing and to “quiet down.” Of course my 6, 7...10 year old self couldn’t understand what she could possibly be hearing. I was just walking down the stairs.
I liked sitting at Grandma Pierce’s metaphorical feet, her dining or kitchen table, and feeling the unconditional warmth of her years and years of love in the air. She did not tell family stories like Grandma Lillian, nor read to me. We rarely went on family trips together unless it was perhaps a special family reunion or a program at church. Mainly the wisdom that she gave came in-between nods and glances, smiles and the look upon her face when waking suddenly from a midday nap. Sitting in her armchair or at the dining table I had a perfect view of my family’s story and the rumble as well the roar to their thunder.