Thursday, October 30, 2008

Better with Age

My grandfather used to tell me that a good woman, like good wine, only gets better with age. I remember listening to this on more than one occasion, thinking in my 10-year old brain, "what is he talking about?" Some 16-years later, I've grown into the man I am today, and can agree with my grandfather on not only that wise adage, but several others he told throughout the years.

My mother's parents were humble people; farmers, with hearts larger than any field they ever plowed. My grandmother made the best breads, jams, and pies - looking back, even cereal tasted better if grandma had poured it. There was nothing my grandma couldn't do. My grandfather taught us the value of a dollar, and the joy and pride that came from a job well done. They were two of the most influential, and now that I'm older, inspirational people I'll ever meet. They valued family over money, truth over prejudice, and nothing made them smile wider than the giggle of a grandchild.

2-week old Artie with Grandma and Mom. (I must have been a handful! Look at my mother's less than enthusiastic face!)

When my grandmother passed away, each of her 5 children pulled things from closets and corners, taking pieces of her with them. Some took quilts and cookbooks, others clothes and diaries, some took money, but my mother's sister took the one thing that I wanted most of all:

I remember being so upset. I had remembered writing my name with my finger nail in the wood, as all my cousins had, rocking back and forth with and without my grandmother. It was my favorite place to curl up when I stayed with her as a child, and the place I sat as a young man on her old back porch while she told me tales from the past.

Yes, I felt somehow tied to that old rocking chair, and I was heartbroken when my Aunt snatched it up without even asking me. A year went by, and at my brother's high school graduation, my Aunt brought me a gift. "Why me?" I thought - after all it was my brothers graduation. But I'm not one to turn down a gift, so I walked with her to the back of my uncles truck to find the chair, refinished as you see if above. She knew how much I loved that chair, and must have recalled my longing.

Artie with Aunt Gwen.

I've pulled that chair in several directions since, each time carrying a bit of the memories of those hot Louisiana summers on the back porch, sipping iced tea with my grandmother, her fresh out of the beauty shop curls almost stone-like as the soft summer brease ruffeled the needles of the pine trees and blew ever so gently upon our warm faces.

And I will pass it along to my niece or nephew when I go. Broken bits and pieces, time worn, aged with grace and beauty ... the way it was intended.