Tuscaloosa, AL -- August 15, 2007


In Tuscaloosa, for the second time on my trip, I got to visit my family. My Grammy, who had been my biggest critic, telling me, when I first announced my plans at the beginning of July, Don't go! instead of asking, When will I see you? --welcomed me with open arms, just grateful that I was alive. She had been worried about both my safety and the frustration she was sure I would face in confronting unreceptive strangers.

My impression of Tuscaloosa was of rural country roads. My Grammy, who has a nearly perfect driving record, understands that accidents happen in traffic and are commonly caused by drivers making left turns, so the routes we took around town were often circuitous. It was lovely. After walking miles carrying my pack and waiting for city buses that sometimes never came, I finally had a chauffeur!

In between driving me to Books-A-Million and the library, she cooked me a feast. From her concerns about the obstacles I'd face, she knew that looking for readers creates an enormous appetite. She made me green vegetables. It's really hard to find steamed broccoli at truck stops.

I should have been the most gracious guest ever. On the menu was even mashed potatoes, a top item on the "happy list" my friends had made for me, of things to do and eat if I ever felt down. I should have peeled all the potatoes, set the table, cut up the salad, etc., and I did do some of these things, but, when it came right down to it, it was difficult for me to be in the kitchen.

Her house, like most anywhere indoors in the south, the buses included, was so air conditioned that an Eskimo would be shivering. In other areas of the country, like the Northeast, the differences between inside and outside temperatures were less extreme. The South, however, takes a lot of pride in their air conditioning, and my Grammy does it like the best of them.

I tried putting on my scarf and gloves, which confused my Grammy, and finally, and this completely perplexed my Grammy, I fled. I brought out my laptop to the patio table, next to the rose garden, and transcribed my interviews.

My Grammy was very gracious, insisting I was the guest and shouldn't help with the cooking, but could not, for the life of her, understand why I wanted to sit in her muggy backyard in 106 degree heat. She was concerned that the weather would damage my laptop, and, if I stayed outside too long I would get sick. Not only was her granddaughter traveling around the country and talking to strangers, she was exhibiting irrational behavior! I really, truly, when I was dressed for it, and I was (after I'd removed the gloves so I could type) loved the heat. It's never 106 in San Francisco.

We did have a wonderful visit. We toasted her birthday and blew out the candles. We looked at the old photos in her hallway, at clothing she no longer wanted--I love the hand-me-downs I get from her (I have a pair of shoes she gave me that I've re-soled twice). We talked. And, by the end of our 24-hours together, after we visited Books-A-Million and the library, and she heard my stories and saw in action all of the wonderful, receptive people I had met... after she realized that, despite her air conditioning, I was as healthy as I've ever been, my biggest critic was proud of me for what I was doing.

Thank you , Grammy!

1 comment:

KennethSF said...

So in the end, your Grandma just chilled out, eh? ;-)