Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Buttons and Claws

I read a quote the other day that really made me stop in my tracks. It is a gem by David Foster Wallace. It read, "Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it." Even now as I type the words to the page, I am struck by the gravity of the statement. From as far back as I can recall, I have held on a bit too tightly. I am not saying that I think this is a flaw in person or something to feel guilty about, it just simply is. In early relationships I defiantly left claw marks. When my grandmother died I went through the ceremonial "saying goodbye" but I never really have let her go.  I feel like I have been holding on so tightly for so long to the parts of her that I saw as great that those parts have graphed into my heart. 

I call myself  a sentimentalist and I guess that's a classy way of saying I have hard time of letting go.  It's so hard to think of the heartbreaking fact that my husband and children will never know my Grandma and what a character she was.  It's experiences like this that are deeply sewn into my heart. I feel like by the time I arrived, she was so tired from raising her own children and accepting mistakes and defeats of life that she reached into her apron pockets and  planted these exquisite little seeds of imagination, love and kindness into my soul and then spent the rest of her life watering those seeds. I wasn't the only one who received these gifts from her, my Mother and cousin, Charlotte, also claimed what was offered.

The sentimentalist in me came directly from her. I can look at a jar of buttons and think about the time we went to Chicago for the first time. I drove her big, gorgeous Cadillac and I was scared to death!  We made it to the hotel and talked to the concierge who was called Fritz. Fritz told us about a shop that sold nothing but buttons... floor to ceiling in tiny little compartments! The shop was just a cab ride away, but I had never taken a cab.  Grandma was more than game, so we decided to find the place! I had to hail the cab... I tried to recall how Meg Ryan did it in "You've Got Mail" but then I remembered that she walked most places... no help at all. I channeled my inner cab hailer and stepped my red Mary Jane shoe towards the curb, I stuck my hand up like I was the Queen of England and motioned with my finger to the cab... come here darling! Can you imagine??? A cab stopped and the driver jumped out and opened our door and off we went. I felt like we were going in circles and the cabbie was doing this to run the meter up, I was getting nervous with thoughts that Grandma and I were going to be sold into slavery by our cabbie never to be seen or heard from again... while my Grandma was talking to him about Moonshine and how her father had a still on a hill where he ran off a gallon or two.. wink , wink!! I was mortified. We reached the button shop and the cabbie parked and waited for us to shop and then he took us back to our hotel.  He told my Grandma that he never had met someone who had made him feel so comfortable.  He told us that most people either kept silent or tried painfully and awkwardly to converse about camels or the middle east which is where he was from originally.  I'll never forget that after we left the button shop, he asked about the shop and the buttons.  He told us that his grandmother was a seamstress in India.  My Grandma took out a button that she had just purchased and gave it to him.  He was so touched by her gesture that when we reached our hotel, he got out and gave her a hug.

From that moment, buttons have been etched into my memory as a kindness. A currency of sharing. A simple, yet useful thing like a button brought a wide eyed girl in a cab, a homesick cab driver and a not so traveled but ever so worldly woman into the same universe for just a moment.  I'll always have a hard time parting with a button.  You see, leaving claw marks can sometimes be the hearts way of holding so tightly that you are gleaning the essence of a memory. Not smothering or harming but curating a life.