With the arrival of spring, the weeds are popping up all over where I live. We have a lot of different kinds of grasses. Some of the blades are fairly wide.
For some reason or other, I was reminded of how you can take a blade of grass, stretch it between your thumbs and then blow through the gap between your thumbs and cause the blade to vibrate madly. The noise is loud and raucous and if you don’t warn the people around you that you are about to do that, quite startling.
I was a child when I learned how to do that. I went searching through that messy rat’s nest I call my memory for who had taught that to me. But I couldn’t pin down anything definitive.
I finally decided that most likely it had been Uncle Rod. His name was actually Ira Rodgers and he was no real relation to my family. Except that he had asked my paternal grandmother to marry him and she’d said yes and accepted an engagement ring from him.
Rod was the fun “uncle” who shows you how to do things, carves toy whistles from small tree branches, only ever eats his slice of pie with his hands and never with a fork. He had a belly like Santa Claus that would shake when he laughed. And he laughed a lot. I don’t know why my grandmother never married him.
Rod was a saint in many ways. Our family lived in Pico Rivera in Los Angeles County. Grandma lived in Huntington Park to the west of us by quite a bit. Rod lived in San Bernardino. Quite a bit more to the east of us.
Every Friday night, Rod would drive to our house after he finished working. He arrived late. My sister and I were usually already in bed. He would sleep on the sofa in the living room, get up early Saturday morning before the rest of us, make his own breakfast, and then drive the rest of the way to pick up my grandma.
Then he’d drive her back to our house. Grandma never learned how to drive. Never wanted to learn. Didn’t want to own a car. Possibly enjoyed being chauffeured around.
They would spend the entire day with us. Mom would make a huge dinner. The kind you eat at 2:00 in the afternoon. Then in the evening, Rod would drive Grandma home again.
She would not let him sleep on her sofa. That wouldn’t have been proper. She was born in 1894 and had some fairly unforgiving ideas about how things should and should not be done.
So Rod kept an apartment in Huntington Park, not too far from my grandmother’s apartment. He slept in it one night a week, Saturday night. Then he drove non-stop back to San Bernardino on Sunday morning.
Rod was relatively well-to-do. He had a number of rental properties and a good pension. I don’t really remember for certain where the pension was from, but a part of my mind insists it was the railroad.
Grandma really should have married him. He was kind and he loved her. He loved me and my sister too. But I think my grandma was something of a tart. She had a way about her that seemed to entice men into her circle. And apparently she enjoyed having several men attached to her.
She was ostensibly the manager for the small apartment complex where she lived. In exchange, the owner of it let her live rent-free. He also dated her. What he thought of Rod’s engagement ring that she always wore, I have no idea.
Then there was this other man. I don’t remember his name or his appearance. But when my sister and I would go to stay with grandma for a couple of weeks during summer vacation, we would meet him often at the lunch counter at Kresge’s. Or at the walk-in movie theater on Pacific Blvd.
All these men had to have known about all the others. But they didn’t seem to mind. I guess they were happy for whatever time she gave them. Thinking about that now, as an adult, I’m amazed. But maybe I shouldn’t be. There were times she attempted to instruct me in the art of flirting. She’d sit me down and tell me about pinching my cheeks to make them pink, how to pout, or to put my tongue slightly against the inside of my lower lip to make it look fuller. She had all sorts of advice for what to do with my eyes in various situations. It didn’t take.
All these thoughts and memories flashed through my mind this morning in the time it took me to make the bed. I’ve visited these memories other times in the past. But this morning, for some reason, I saw them and my grandmother in a slightly different light.
I think she must have been something of a tart. And the thought makes me smile.