A smattering of snow had dusted our neighborhood overnight during the much-hyped and overly-prepared-for snow event of January. On a Saturday morning, my good wife, as
usual, let me sleep in for a few hours, then roused me to enjoy the excitement while it lasted.
I rose from bed, bid everyone a good morning and then settling in with a steaming mug of coffee and a plateful of just-baked banana bread said, “Ah, I sure do love just watching it.” And it was gorgeous. Sporadic drifts of tiny flakes haphazardly floating to the ground or lodging in the evergreens that border our patio. I took a deep sip of coffee and relished the moment. “I sure do love watching it,” I said again, with no rush to lace up boots and get bundled in coats. Then it hit me. I sounded just like my grandmother who for as long as I have known her says, “I sure do love the snow and ice, but I’m not going out in it.”
It hit me extra hard, because – as a fan of Ernest Shackleton – I had prided myself on snow and ice hikes throughout my first 40-something years on this orb.
I have several memorable ice and snow adventures lodged in my memory: I cycled 20 miles on the Silver Comet Trail after an ice storm and had to stop several times to lift fallen trees off the path. I fondly recall a winter hike with my friend Allen as we completed an eight mile laborious route through a snow thundershower on Keown Mountain north of Rome, Georgia. And, just a few years ago, I gallivanted throughout the snow playing with my boys.
That was all before a near-enough-to-fatal bike accident in October in which when I broke several bones, tore half a dozen ligaments, got stitches and sustained a concussion. Since that time I have not become paranoid, but instead extra cautious. In other words, paying more attention to the little things like using the rails on stairs or making sure the floodlights are turned before going outside at night and, now apparently, avoiding ice and snow if possible.
So, that morning with the sublime flurry of flakes streaming down, I found myself without even thinking about it saying to my wife, “Oh, dear God, I’m turning into my grandmother!”
How did I react? Did I put down my coffee and go running for my boots? Did I roll my eyes and yell, “Let’s go hiking!” No, I re-filled my coffee, reclined on the couch and said, “Well, that’s not so bad. And it is very pretty. I think I’ve done enough hiking in the snow. If the boys want me to come out and play with them, I will. Otherwise, I can watch them fine through the window.”
Of course, as we all grow older, we embrace – rather sometimes with much resistance – traits from our family. I have many of my father’s traits and a few from my mother. But, I honestly did not expect to skip a generation and discover ways I was becoming like my grandmother. But when I mentally scratched out a list and looked at my life from afar, well, it was a bit obvious.
1.On my bucket list, is, to one day, have a sun room. It would be filled with plants, comfortable seats, lots of windows and a peaceful place to relax and read, listen to music and occasionally nap. My grandmother’s favorite place in her home is her sun room. And, yes, it is filled with plants and has magazines and books on every table.
2. I have also adopted a penchant for salads the last few years — I don’t mean Caesar salad or Cobb salad, but rather, Southern salads — tuna salad, egg salad and such. And, of course, enjoy them with crackers or a tasty aspic. Just like you know who….
3. My grandmother is always emphasizing family history. Remembering where you came from. Keeping in touch. I’m not the best at keeping in touch with my far-flung relatives, but remembering one’s family history continues to be at the top of the list of ingraining into my sons.
4. My grandmother generally keeps a Lewis Grizzard book within reach of one of her chairs or by her bedside. I suppose when she wants a break from her other reading, she enjoys revisiting something to make her laugh or smile. By my bed, I have two anthologies by Irish humorist John Keane. And, yes, if I tire of theology, biography or plain bad fiction, I go back to that book at least once a month to keep my spirits up.
5. One of my grandmother’s favorite places to visit is Callaway Gardens where she has had a yearly membership for decades. She enjoys the sublime Azalea Bowl, the myriad of other blooming plants and the general placid atmosphere. My family doesn’t do overnight vacations, but, on the rare day trips we indulge in, a day spent at Callaway is my favorite place to go.
Oh, there’s more ways than just these that reflect my inheritance from her. And I suppose if I was less secure in my masculinity, I might protest, but I am quite fine taking my time amidst the noise and haste as the old poem goes and if the worst traits passed on are a love of placidity and finding a sense of peace and beauty in this chaotic world, that I am happily resigned to that fact.
Mark Wallace Maguire