Friday, September 2, 2011

A Thousand Words

Today I went to Glaus Bakery to pick up a cake for my husband's 34th birthday, and there, hanging on the wall, was this picture:

This picture hung on the kitchen wall in my maternal grandparents' home and bore the subscription: "Give us this day, our daily bread." I haven't seen this picture since my Nana died twelve years ago this past July, but, seeing it again was like stepping back into my grandparents' home. I remembered how the picture hung above the buffet against the kitchen’s west wall, next to a photograph of Credence, a beloved German Shepherd who had died before I was born. And then I began to remember other things, and started to catalogue the items in my grandparents house: a bunch of ripe bananas on the kitchen counter, a box of Honeycombs in the cupboard, a plastic bottle of aquamarine Dawn on the sink, and, always, a stick of butter sweating on a dish, translucent, like a yellow ice cube. The kitchen smelled like pure sunshine. There was a cork board in the corner, where slender pins with colorful, bulbous heads tacked down curling Campbell’s soup labels and memos from the Relief Society. There was a box fan whirring in the front room, and the hall closet with a canister of dominoes and a waxy paper cup filled with seashells from a long-ago vacation to California. Nana taught my sisters and me how to hold the shells to our ears to hear the roar of the ocean.

There was the bathroom with the porcelain pink sink and watered houseplants draining in the tub. There was the spare bedroom where we girls played with the typewriter and hid between the wedding and bridesmaid dresses hanging in the closet. There was the bookshelf with the textured orange spines of Childcraft books, and the big, blue comforter speckled with white dots that, when spread out, covered nearly the whole of the living room floor, and then, just as quickly, was folded back up again, like some collapsible universe.

There was the garden, with peonies, ferns, snapdragons, bachelor buttons, iris, and lilacs. There was the narrow space between my grandparents' home and the small rental home beside it, a home that originally had been built in the days when polygamy was still practiced. There was the long gravel driveway, where Nana would scatter breadcrumbs to feed the birds.

There was the whir of the box fan and the weight of a domino in my hand and the satisfying clacking of the typewriter - evidence of a world that was mechanical and gritty, but also solid. And, of course, there was the picture of the man saying grace, and the subscription "Give us this day, our daily bread."

There were the stories, the ones Grandpa told about his childhood, when he worked on the railroad and caddied for F.O. Haymond. As an adult, Grandpa had worked at Stover's six days a week, hauling furniture, but as a young man, he had been the fastest runner west of the Mississippi. There were other stories, too, stories that I didn't learn until I was older. Stories about my Grandpa's Irish father, a handsome Mormon bishop, who had hung himself in the church during the Depression. Stories about my Nana, who had contracted spinal meningitis at fifteen and laid at death's door for a better part of a year before she recovered, and her father, who had died in a car crash when she herself was just a young mother.

Surely, my grandparents were acquainted with grief, and yet, there were stories of our Father in Heaven, and there were prayers offered to Him as we gathered at the kitchen table, "Give us this day, our daily bread," - a refrain at times insistent, at times resigned, but always uttered.

I looked at that picture in the bakery, but in my mind's eye, I was back in my maternal grandparents' home, standing beside my Nana, scattering bread crumbs for the birds across the gravel driveway.


  1. Wow, Kim. That was terrific. If I were an agent, I'd rep you based on that post alone. :)

  2. Brought a tear to my eye. I felt like I was in your grandparents' home.

  3. 'There was the whir of the box fan and the weight of a domino in my hand and the satisfying clacking of the typewriter - evidence of a world that was mechanical and gritty, but also solid.'

    I ate this up. I literally took these words into myself and feasted on them. Kim, these memories are absolutely brimming with sensory thrill. My parents had this same print hanging in our kitchen for more than a decade. We, too, had a beloved German Shepherd and the Childcraft books are ones I read and cherished. My sister purchased a set like the ones we had as children for my own daughter! (How I wish we'd managed to keep our own.)

    I so enjoyed this. I like what Curtis has written, too. Just lovely.

  4. I love that such a small thing as a picture can ground us to so many memories. Beautiful writing Kim :)

  5. Curtis - Rep me!
    Suze - Oh, I just love that your parents had this picture, too - and for the other commonalities - I honestly didn't even realize I loved this picture until I saw it again after all these years
    Paige and Angie - thank you for the kind words

  6. Beautiful Kim. Way better than Charles in Charge. ;)

    Those stories, those memories, the sights and smells of yesteryears. It is interesting how they stick with us in a quiet place until brought to the surface again.

  7. This makes me want to take up the pen and eulogize my grandma's house (a place of SO many memories) in an identical format. I love this piece!

  8. Beautiful words. Your grandparents house took me back to mine. Precious memories!
    I want that picture in my house!


  9. What a beautiful description of your grandparents home, and what poignant picture!

  10. Kim, the last comment you posted to my blog brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  11. Kim - I gave you an award on my blog today :) Come check it out.

  12. Kim, when are we swapping again? We should try to do it every Wednesday, or something. You game?