birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Julia was a formal woman. She always wore gloves when she went out. Wrist or elbow length. Her signature accessory. Her other signature was her coiffed hair with invisible netting--a carry over from the Violet Grantham period. She always wore stockings, even with slacks.

Dinners at her ranch home in Orange Cove were also a formal affair. The table was set with damask linens and lace. Each place setting carefully set out. China. Tiny crystal spoons and bowls for individual salt and pepper. Fit for a doll's house, I adored them. Silver. She was the one to teach me which fork or spoon to use first. She also insisted on table manners. In private or public.

When visiting us in Fresno, she would take Mom and me out for lunch. The Highlife restaurant by day was just the same ambience as it was at night. Dark. Banquette seating. I could have whatever I wanted. Grilled cheese sandwiches with fancy curly toothpicks to hold it all in place. Shirley Temples. While she enjoyed her Gibson. Life was good when with her and Gramps.

She did not suffer children well. It seemed she was always teaching about whatever it was we were doing. I had to be well behaved and clean. Julia worked as a school administrator, rare for her day. As a kid I could not fathom "administrator", so in clarifying with her, I insisted she must be a teacher. "No!" And she would explain further.

Once, while visiting my grandparents in retirement in Morro Bay, Julia took me shopping. For lingerie. I was ten years old. We went to San Luis Obispo where the shops were. In she sailed and was fitted for a brassiere. I had never seen such a thing! Nor had I seen an aged body. For all her formality, she did not have a whit of self consciousness in the fitting room and accepting the help of the saleswoman.

Once she was outfitted, it was my turn. Julia chose the most heavenly peignoir set for me in ice blue chiffon. I was a thrilled Cinderella. All this exposure to the good things in life lead me to a false sense of destiny as I grew to an adult. A story for another time. This grandmother was less milk and cookies and much more Vogue; Town and Country.


Protector of My Heart