Thursday, June 25, 2009

False Teeth, Poetry, and Formula 44 Cough Syrup

It felt as if I had been waiting for hours, but it probably hadn't been more than thirty minutes or so. And when the train finally coasted into the station, my mother could barely keep me behind the safety line.

The conductor would put out the step for her and the first thing I always saw were my grandma's black, t-strap shoes. I can still hear the clang on that metal step as the conductor helped her down. There was no one like my grandma. My cousins and I were sure she loved each one of us the best. It got a little brutally competitive at times about who Grandma's favorite was, but all I knew was, when I met her at the train station, she was all mine for a few days.

She always stayed in my room. She slept in my bed and I got to sleep on a cot next to her, a TV tray of her pills and Formula 44 cough syrup between us. She'd take out her false teeth for my brother and me, as many times as we asked her! And she had a real corset. I used to get to help her lace it up in back, because she had severe arthritis and she was born without the fingers on one hand. I loved that hand, because it was smooth and warm and it fit inside my little kid hand. I can still remember how her watch looked on the wrist of that hand.

But the most wonderful thing about my grandma was her poems. She would tirelessly recite poems to me. Even now, I can hear the ebb and flow of her words. That's probably what made me love poetry. Someone recently asked me why I made my main character in ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER a poet. I said it was to give Harper a way to feel heard and not to feel invisible. I guess that's pretty much what we all need--someone to listen like what you're saying is the most important thing in the world...and, of course, to take their false teeth out as many times as you ask them to.


Penny said...

I'm all goosebumpy. You get extra points for making that happen. Dinner Sat?

Annie said...

Thanks, Penny! And...always yes to dinner!

gael lynch said...

Love grandma stories...and the false teeth! How come we're not seeing too much of that these days? Lots of fancy dentistry out there! What's this? Are you guys STILL in class?

And...passed Harper on to the Reading Specialist, hoping we can get it approved to bring in for massive ordering at school!!

Jame said...

When I met my husband he had a false tooth that would shoot across the room while he was talking, and my cats would dive after it. I said, yup, I'm gonna marry me that guy.