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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Opposites Equally Unknown

Two grandmothers, so opposite. On the paternal side is Candy-Grandma. So named due to my suspicion that she didn't quite know how to handle 7 grandkids at once, landing on her doorstep with their father in tow, so she plied them with candy, pizza, and cold-cut sandwiches fetched from the deli up the corner. There was probably ice cream afterward. It was at Candy-grandma's that we learned of Capt'n Crunch cereal and Hershey's syrup from a can. Spending a few nights, or even a week, as my sister, cousin and I did in the summers, we were introduced to the pink, green, blue and faint-orange plastic cups and bowls of Tupperware, as we set the breakfast table before we went to bed each night. She plied us with candy-colored clothing; my favorite, a pseudo-suede dusty purple mini skirt that I wore with my awesome white go-go boots that zipped up both sides, in 5th grade. I never really "knew" this grandmother, I just know she represented "stuff".

On the other hand, we had the complete opposite spectrum of grandmother-hood. The bohemian/gypsy grandmother who taught some of my siblings to smoke, cigarettes at a very early age, and other things later in life. This grandmother of the 'underground' restaurant in the groovy Grove. The 'cook' on boats sailing the Caribbean with young Greek-god looking boys/men, perhaps bringing contraband back to the groovy Grove. The grandmother often at odds with her daughter, our mother, telling her we were all fucked up. The grandmother who'd rather you didn't call her grandma, but use her given name. In her younger days of motherhood, she also wanted our mother to refer to her as a sister. Several of grandma's many siblings were only a few years older than mom could have flown. Only not so good for the child...maybe we were all fucked up somehow. I never felt extremely close to this grandmother or felt like I really knew her.

Both Grandmothers departed us at what I consider early ages (pretty sure both were less than 70). I was not quite awake then...still half asleep in frog pajamas (Tom Robbins). So many questions I would ask them both now. And bohemian grandmother could find out that what our fucked-up family does best, is put the fun back in dysfunctional!


Mary Salome