And she would wave. She would also make you tater tots, invite you to play Po-Ke-No, and worry if you went outside where the poison oak and the snakes were. John Davidson was her tv boyfriend -- his ice floe isn't slipping away quite as precipitously as hers is, but almost. You had to go to bed before Johnny Carson came on, no matter what, and if John Davidson was guest-hosting, you had to go to bed faster, though nobody was going to check and see that you were actually asleep, there in the back bedroom with the fan in the window going almost as loudly as the audience laughed on the big staticky box tv in the den.
Here's a picture of her, her engagement portrait, taken in 1925 when by the standards of the day she was old to be getting married and old for my grandfather, born in 1900. Of course she looks heartbreakingly young:
"I never was pretty," she always said, as if that had never mattered: as if it were a truth first universally acknowledged and then brushed off as insignificant. Of course by the time I took up with her, this shy-looking, serious-eyed girl with her spray of dogwood was long gone. At six or seven, I went through a phase of thinking that she could improve herself, by which I meant make herself younger, if only she would follow my advice. "Use wrinkle cream," I instructed her gravely. "Dye your hair yellow. Let it grow long, so you can have braids. And wear overalls." Clearly my standard of feminine beauty at that time was Ellie Mae from The Beverly Hillbillies, which was already an old show, though I had no idea. Anyway, my grandmother laughed and was not, as far as she let on to me, insulted in any way.
Her life was not always happy, and as she aged she had a great deal to worry about, I now realize, but she liked to laugh, and she didn't mind laughing at herself. That, I think, was what made her so easy to love if you were a child in her presence. You couldn't offend her. You could use bad grammar on purpose to bring her running from the kitchen to correct you, because good English teachers never really retire, but you couldn't impose on her pride. With children, at least, she had none.
That I remember, anyway. But as I keep trying not to say, it was a long time ago.