My Grandmother Freeman was the ultimate lady. She was always dressed to the tee. Her house never saw a speck of dust much less dirt. No item was ever out of place. She never spoke out of turn or unkind words. She was a Pankey which meant she was tall and lean. She had the best social skills of the day. Her taste while narrow was impeccable. She was every bit the force my Grandfather was. I now realized why she was grandmother and never grandma. Grandma is not quite enough respect for such a proper lady as she.
Holidays and other events could be interesting. She would always fix my favorite cake and I would always wait and see what type of cake my favorite was that year. Red velvet, apple, German chocolate, carrot cakes were my most frequent favorites. Fortunately, I liked all of them. She would with much fanfare cut me a large slice and serve me first. I always lived in fear that one day my favorite would be something I could not stomach but I would still have to eat so as not to hurt her feelings.
When Grandad died she insisted I have as my inheritance a Waterford crystal ash tray my Grandfather used. It was one of his prized possessions. But it was also a reminder of how he died in pain from lung cancer he developed after years of smoking. She gave it to me despite the fact I was an avowed anti-smoker. It was an heirloom that she knew he would want me to have. Today it sits on a bookshelf in my bedroom.
After Grandad died she became a bargain shopper. Bargains were all she could afford on her fixed income. Her favorite place was a local department store called Hammers. She could walk downtown from her apartment to the store. They had bins where they would put clothes that would not sell at offers you could not refuse. And refuse she never did. Now of course she would never admit that she purchased from these bins especially for presents. Yet some of the presents could not have been found anywhere else in America.
So, dozens of socks could be found inside of our meticulously wrapped presents. Many times, the socks would have small defects. Such as the pair did not match. She would have been appalled if she knew this and we would never tell her about it. So, this condition continued until her death.
But one year she out did herself. She was proud of what she had discovered for me. She made it clear to me this would be one of my all-time favorite gifts. Now one would need to be reminded that I was a young man in an age when men were not allowed to venture outside of dark neutral colors in their dress. Gender fluidity was not flowing as a term we would have recognized. One of my shirts was a pale pink shirt. This caused quite the discussion whenever I wore it. I was ahead of my time.
When I opened the gift a verbal gasp or quiet snicker could be heard as everyone witnessed what I withdrew from the unwrapped box. It was a bright oversized purple sweatshirt. After making sure I had not misidentified the object I quickly removed my jaw from the floor. I looked at her to see if I could detect a smile to let me know this was a prank. There was no such smile on her face. I knew what I had to do next, smile the biggest grin of appreciation and eventually before the day was over model it for all to see. This was not a thing you want to do in front of your two brothers. But I did.
The shirt through the years grew on me and I would wear it more frequently especially around the house. It always reminded me of grandmother. And strangely although it was most certainly from the bargain bin of Hammers it never aged. One day my oldest daughter needed to have something to wear around the house and she found my purple sweatshirt and wore it as an oversized pajama top. Slowly through time it became hers. Later my youngest daughter absconded it from her sister and now wears it around the house. It is not faded, thread worn, and has finally found its glorious time in the fashion world.
When I see my daughter wearing it now I am reminded of grandmother. I also smile to myself because I am certain that the shirt will one day be worn by a grandchild and maybe even a great grandchild. Who would have thought that such a thing could become an heirloom. Probably, my grandmother.
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