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“It’s just impossible to ever have anything nice”

April 1, 2009

I’ve been reading family stories for my talk on Friday, and I read this account given by my grandma of her mother, my great-grandmother. I never knew her, but my mother and my daughter are named after her.

I don’t remember Mother really scolding us a lot. I don’t ever remember her really yelling at us ever. I’m not saying she didn’t, I just don’t remember. I do remember one time somebody was scuffling with the broom and my mother had a glass vase, it was kind of like a basket with a handle over the top that she put her nasturtiums in and one of the children broke it. They were scuffling with the broom and the broom handle hit this and broke it and I remember my mother crying and saying that “it’s just impossible to ever have anything nice. I’ll never have anything nice around my house.” You know it was a day when it was impossible to have money to replace a lot of things if they were available.

Wow, do I resonate with that. And reading it, I think, I shouldn’t. I have perfectly lovely vases that I rarely use, very nice china (again rarely used), and many lovely things. But the things I want to change, and don’t, are the ones that fester: the matted-down carpet, that needs replacing but that I dread replacing until all my potty-training days are done. The couch slipcover, which also needs replacing. Or heck, the couch itself. I could go on.

But I love that my great-grandmother felt like that too. I know she worked harder in her days than I have ever done, and I guess it makes her feel more real to me, more human, that she tried to create beauty in her home and became frustrated when she didn’t always succeed.

My great-grandmother died young, in her forties. This is the best story about her I’ve ever read. It’s not the kind of material I need for the talk, but it’s a story I will remember.

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