This afternoon, my grandpa took a nap, and I looked through my grandma’s stuff. Most of it is office supplies. You know, one of her “things.” But there are also calendars and letters and pictures and post cards. I’ve known her my whole life, and I had no idea she was saving so much stuff.
Sitting at her desk right now, I can see thank-you cards and Christmas letters from my family displayed in places of honor. A picture of me when I was three years old, with my older brother at my Aunt’s wedding in ’93, is propped against her Rolodex. I wonder why she had it out?
I feel like I’m getting to know her in a whole new way, yet I have so many more questions to ask her. She left behind daily planners dating back to ’87 where she wrote down whatever happened that day. There are things like, “Costas took us to dinner at McDonald’s. How about that!”, which is obviously worthy of important notice if you know my fast-food/franchise/ball-pit hating grandfather. Or one of my favorites, “Hannah Zoe. 6# 1oz. 19 1/2″. Red hair!” Followed a day later by, “Took Hannah to McD’s.” It’s nice to know I had my first fast food experience when I was less than 48 hours old.
The amazing thing is nobody ever knew she was writing everything down and keeping all this stuff. The disappointing thing is that most of her notes are written with the same vagueness with which my grandpa’s stories are being regurgitated. That’s what happens when someone writes or tells a story for their own benefit. They only need the outline – just enough to remember the details themselves. I know that I’m making progress with my grandpa’s story and hearing things I never knew about before, but the way he’s gotten used to telling it (“This happened. This happened. I was so happy. This happened. I was devastated.”) is empty of emotion or surprise, and it makes my job of elaborating harder. I’m worried I’m going to have to stretch his stories so thin and still not make them real, even though they’re so amazing, because he can only explain things in so few broken-English words. He’s been in the U.S. almost sixty years, and he still keeps his Greek/English dictionary next to him while he talks to me. If Yiayia were here, I know she’d be able to fill in the cracks of the stories that Pappou leaves exposed.
Anyway, I’m trying to keep myself from pocketing too many of my grandma’s things with the excuse that whenever I use that pen, or wear that necklace, I’ll think of her. Not because it isn’t true, but because it’s unnecessary. How many little mementos do I need? But it’s hard to choose the most significant things. In the bottom drawer of this desk, I found her favorite Mickey Mouse pencil. I used to sit on her lap and play with the pencil-topper while she did crossword puzzles. I think as kids we tried to erase things with poor Mickey’s head, forgetting that the eraser was hidden underneath, and now the plastic is so worn down that his black nose looks more like a mustache. Every drawer in every room of this house is like a treasure trove of those souvenirs of her life and my childhood and our family.
It’s amazing how much you can know someone and still not know so much. You were quite the lady, Pat.