The only grandmother I knew died when I was ten. Sadly, there is not much I remember about her before that nebulous period of time she lay under a pink chenille bedspread dying of a disease I couldn't really fathom. I can count on one hand those specific incidents I recall involving just her and me. Usually, I ran my grandparents' yard and hay lot in a pack of some thirteen other grandchildren and occupied a spot, agewise, in about the middle. It was a rare occasion indeed when I got my grandma or grandpa to myself.
For some reason, the event I think about most often was the time I went with Grandma to the chicken house to gather eggs. One of her tools for this task was a gray metal bucket pockmarked with a lot of little dents and a skinny wire handle that allowed the bucket to squeak and sway when she carried it empty. The other was her right hand, which consisted of long slim fingers with smooth, pale, slick-looking skin. I watched, partly frightened and partly fascinated, as she slid this hand deftly beneath one setting hen after another as we crept along the row of nests occupying the chicken house's west wall.
When she gathered these eggs, as she had likely done every day for at least half a century, the hens would squawk indignantly and flap their wings with a fury that launched clouds of dust into the air around our heads. To her this was among the most mundane of daily routines in a setting utterly comfortable and familiar; to me it was new and uncertain territory.
Despite her bidding, I rigidly refused to stick my nailbitten fingers anywhere near a hen who considered herself a robbery victim. Although it was a couple years before Alfred Hitchcock would terrify me with The Birds, I could see that those beaks were sharp, and the looks I was getting from those wiggling, jiggling eyes did not convey what I interpreted as approval. I was certain some of them tried to slap me with wings powered by sheer agitation. Needless to say, I was more than relieved when the egg-gathering was done, Grandma was carrying the full bucket, and we squinted our way out of that dark little outbuilding into the light of day.
Some of my friends talk of extravagant, memorable times with their grandmothers: a car trip to the Grand Canyon, a shopping spree in the City, a ball game between the Kansas City A's and the Chicago White Sox. In stark contrast, the images I associate with my own grandmother are so precious few in number and so ordinary in nature: a dime scotch-taped inside a birthday card; a platter of fried fish; a mountain of warm, brown eggs stacked in a metal bucket.
Few? Certainly. Ordinary? Definitely. Insignificant? Never. They are all I have, and I will treasure them for what they are. They are my only link to a woman I barely knew but who nevertheless raised my dad and his six siblings on a self-sufficient farm irrigated by a lazy little creek during the lean times of the Great Depression.
I think of Grandma and Grandpa sometimes when I catch myself trying to wow Sooby and Pooh. I am always wanting to take them here or there, show them this or that, impress them with experiences that I can be sure they will recall long after I am gone. Years from now, I want them to smile and say, "Remember when Googie did this? Remember when Googie did that?"
But deep inside I know that what they may most likely remember are the reading of a favorite storybook, a neighborhood walk where we find a box turtle, a firefly caught and released at dusk. These are things imbued with what I want to call "every-dayness," the simple, sweet substance of ordinary lives shared. Such events, I have come to realize, are paradoxical in that they cause remembering without being especially memorable.
Why else, all these years later, would I be thinking about a bucket of eggs?