Here’s an example: As a child I loved and admired my grandmother. She was iconic in her ways. Sunday mornings, she donned a floral dress, densely knit nylon support hose, and clunky heels. She wrapped herself in a mink stole, or maybe her fox stole that still had the fox’s head with its mouth made into a clamp that bit its own tail to hold it in place. She had a mink hat too. Just a ring of mink really, with a net attached that served a purpose still unknown to me. But let’s understand – she left no detail unattended. Some might argue that she thought of details that might better have been left unthunk.
Even then I knew she was a bit overpowering, but it didn’t matter. I was proud to walk into the 1st Baptist Church with her and sit in a pew a couple of rows from the front and sing – well you know – to high heaven.
Grandma was a screecher, actually. But not unlike Florence Foster Jenkins, she loved to sing and – even though her high notes drew startled looks, beaconed dogs, and made me squint and turn my face ever so slightly away – I loved to sing with her: Onward Christian soldiers!
When it came time to pass the collection plate and make your donations to the church and to Lottie Moon, the church’s missionary far, far away, Grandma would hoist her handbag onto her lap and begin to plumb its substantial and well-packed contents. What caught my eye each time was the bundle of papers.
It appeared to be comprised of important documents that arrived by post. Window envelopes with torn flaps, contents removed, perused and returned to their sleeve, only now with the addressee obscured and snippets of their messages in view: “…you for your busi…” “to us in the enclose…”
The bundle was fully 4” thick and secured with a rubber band stretched to screaming. I wondered what critical pieces of household business she might have to attend to. Bills to be paid. Solicitations. Medical reminders? Letters from her sister in Burbank? Grocery lists, measurements for the fabric for her new kitchen curtains.
This she would hand to me so that she could bring up her billfold and pull out a dollar bill for the plate. Then, she’d retrieve her black leather snap-close coin purse and produce a dime for me to seal into the special envelop for Lottie Moon.
And here’s the thing: I forgot all about it. I grew up and Grandma passed away. I moved to another state and had a life and moved back and lived some more. I sang in the church choir sometimes and other times sang along with the radio, as loud as I wanted to sing.
Then, one day, a little girl came to my door selling candy for the Camp Fire Girls, so I went to retrieve my oversized mailbag style purse. To my astonishment, in order to get to my billfold, I had to pull out a bundle of envelops.
It wasn’t as big as Grandma’s bundle – not by a long shot. I had only four or five letters of various sizes with their flaps torn open. It was barely a quarter of an inch thick. But I had bound it together with a green rubber band.
Oh. My. Gosh! When did this happen!? How could I not know? I had a grandma mail-hoarder starter kit!
I snapped the rubber band immediately. That afternoon I bought a file cabinet and manila folders for sorting and storing documents. I am not fated to this eccentricity!
Whew! Disaster averted. That was close! I’ll just finish my housework while I sing: Onward Christian soldiers…!