My cousin Mary Edith, my grandma, me, and my horse, Blackie, when I was in my Zorro phase.
Looking out on a lawn full of freshly fallen snow this morning, I am remembering how much I loved snow days as a child. They often meant that I could pack a bag and spend the day with my grandma, enjoying her undivided attention, not to mention the bottomless cookie jar.
My grandma owned a “yes” face. From the moment I walked in the door to the time I had to leave, she was a positive person who looked for ways to tell me “yes” about life. Never one to stifle creative thought, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t encouraging or positive about my ideas or my projects.
One afternoon, while I was going through my hairdresser phase and dreaming up all sorts of new ways to arrange hair, she agreed to be my live model. She pulled out all her supplies: combs, rollers, clips, and a wonderful treasure trove of hair accessories. While she sat patiently in a chair at her dining room table, I curled and teased and bouffantted to my heart’s content.
As I stood back to admire my creation, sort of a salt and pepper colored version of Marge Simpson’s upsweep adorned with small felt bows, a literal tower of hairsprayed loveliness, the doorbell rang. Not hesitating for a moment, my grandma said “Excuse me, honey girl,” her special term of endearment for me, and opened the door to Mr. Simmons, the chairman of the church deacon board. Then I heard her ask, “Won’t you come in and join us for tea?” A bit taken aback by the sight of this woman in front of him, Mr. Simmons uttered a “Thank you, don’t mind if I do.”
My grandma took me by the hand into the kitchen to arrange three tea cups and saucers and a plate of cookies on a tray. No one mentioned her hair, though poor Mr. Simmons had a difficult time diverting his eyes. We had a lovely visit with enjoyable conversation and my grandma sported her new do and her “yes” face for the rest of the day, smiling and telling me that she just knew I would be the best hair stylist ever when I grew up.
Sadly, my growing up years were full of many people who wore “no” faces. There was the older lady who glared at children from the choir loft, her voice conveying disapproval even when she sang about the glories of heaven. There were the two third grade teachers who made Matilda’s Miss Trunchbowl look like Miss Congeniality contestants as they stomped around in scary black shoes and thumped disruptive boys on the head with their knuckles. There was the Sunday school teacher who refused to let any of us do our own crafts for fear we would make a mess in “the Lord’s house” so we were forced to sit perfectly still as she cut, pasted, and glitter sprinkled, ever so carefully, while we longingly watched. There was the woman who worked in my dad’s hardware store who scrutinized every customer who came in the doors, pronouncing only a rare soul as “neat and clean,” and always examining my clothes for wrinkles or spots. There was the junior high principal who brought his “board of education” into the classroom upon occasion, slamming the 3 inch thick paddle on the desk of some innocent bystander and warning us we all deserved to meet with that board personally. I would be certain that all of these poor souls wore the “no” face as they entered their eternal rest, their pursed lips and scowls frozen forever in time.
I have several trophies in my Hall of Shame and one of them is engraved with “The “No” Face Award ~ She Said No Once Too Often and Didn’t Even Have to Open Her Mouth.” If I could climb into a time machine and wend my way back to 1975, the beginning of my mothering gig, I would try my best to not win that prize. I would say “yes” far more often, hand out supplies to make lots of messes, put away school books and pull out the roller skates. I would serve more cookies and even allow someone to make me look like Marge Simpson. I would enter the race for the “yes” face gold and I would win.