Tuesday, July 15, 2014

on dolls and grandmothers

When my grandmother Iris passed away, my father and his siblings had a few different formal and informal get togethers for the purpose of divvying up the belongings. At one point towards the end of the process, my father asked me if there was anything that I particularly wanted. I told him that there was a small china doll--Spanish in nature, with a big tiered skirt that I was fond of, and that if it hadn't been spoken for, I'd love for him to get it for me.

So, he did.

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The doll isn't anything amazingly special--especially not compared to some of the other treasures that my grandmother had collected in her travels. For me though, it's more beautiful and precious than anything else that she had in her home. I keep it in my (our) bedroom, on a shelf where I can see it each day if I want to. Sometimes Heather will join me there for a little bit of cuddling or calming down or whatnot, and sometimes she'll ask me to tell her the story of the Spanish Doll.

So, I do.

When I was young, probably elementary school age, my parents went on a grown-ups only vacation, and my brother and I spent a week at Grandma & Grandpa's house while they were away. At some point during that vacation, I found this doll and was enchanted by her dainty hands, painted nails, and voluminous skirt. Not realizing that she was fragile, I took her from the shelf where she had been placed, and began dancing around the room with her, singing and imagining that she was at a magnificent ball, twirling away, being the envy of all around her, having the time of her life. Truth be told, I was having the time of my life as well.

It was just around this time that my grandmother came into the room and saw what I was doing. Kindly (in retrospect, more kindly than I might have done, were our positions reversed), she took the doll from me, explaining that it was quite fragile, and was more of a doll to be looked at rather than a doll to be played with.

I was mortified, embarrassed beyond measure. I ran upstairs to the room that was mine for the week, lay on the bed and sobbed and sobbed, crying to myself over how stupid I had been, how I should have known that this doll wasn't a plaything, how unbelievable it was that I could make such a foolish mistake.

My grandmother heard me, and mistaking my tears of remorse (at my error) for tears of frustration (that I wasn't able to continue to play), came up to the room and offered to take me on a tour of the house, looking at all her treasures. Sniffling and trying to get my breathing under control, I nodded. We then spent the next hour going through her home, taking down each doll, each piece of china, each curio one by one. She would explain to me where she got each piece, point out the distinct characteristics of each one, tell me any stories that were associated with each figure. I was riveted, and soon forgot my sorrows, lost in the fascination of each new item.

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The older that I get, the more meaning that hour has to me, and the more grateful I am to my grandmother for the service she gave me that day. She could have been angry, but instead she was compassionate. She could have been frustrated, but instead she was understanding. She could have brushed me off, let me "cool off" on my own, but instead she reached out to me, taking the time (her most precious resource) to make sure that I was okay. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

When I was a little girl, a youth and a young adult, the lesson my grandma taught me from this experience was that sometimes we do stupid things, and make errors because we don't really think things through, but mistakes are only mistakes, and we don't need to agonize over them unduly.

Now that I'm older and have children filling my life, I take a different lesson from it all, a lesson in how I can treat other people when they do things that impact me in unexpected and undesired ways. Rather than getting angry, I can be like my grandma, explaining the problem, and then showing love afterwards, even if the showing of that love inconveniences me or my plans at any given time.

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Both lessons are worth learning, in my opinion.

Thanks, Grandma.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Charlotte, I love this story. Isn't it funny how some memories from our childhood have such an impact on our little minds. I love that you have turned this into a perfect analogy.

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