I was looking through my photo albums this week, trying to find old pictures of me and my sister. I found a lot of strange pictures, not sure why I’m saving them. I weeded out the stack, but then I found this picture of flowers and was about to throw it away when I saw this written on the back: “flowers from the trash.”
Like a thunderbolt the memory hit home, oh yeah. This is a ‘Grandma Carroll story’.
I am blessed to have both of my grandmothers alive and well. They are amazing women in their own right; compare the two, and they are polar opposites, but they get along well. My dad’s mom, Grandma Rosemarie, is a New Yorker who has been living in Georgia for over forty years now. This isn’t her story today.
Today, we’re talking about my mom’s mom, Grandma Carroll, from Southern California. She is a classy woman, who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty; she can recite her entire life story to any checkout clerk in whatever time it takes to bag her purchased items. She is a complete instigator, and over the years she has been known to klepto items, mostly from restaurants. Her claim to fame is a purple chair she stole from a bar once.
And people wonder what led me to writing.
So there I was, I had just gotten over the big breakup with the first love of my life. I had moved home to lick my wounds. I was home for three months, sulking in and out of the days, I had gotten a little job at a book store to keep my mind off of ‘that’ guys, and my friends took me out as often as they could to get my mind off of things. It all finally worked. I got a little stronger, I found my heart and anger and my mom duct taped me back together again and I shook the months of depression off and realized that I was living at home. Home had done what it needed to do, gave me back myself and rebuilt me enough so that I could move forward. I headed back to Boise, Idaho.
I left on a day when my dad was working, so my mom had to drive me to LAX. She hates maneuvering the California freeways, so for company on the way home, she invited my grandparents along to see me off.
I knew we were in trouble when my mom pulled into the airport parking lot. My grandfather erupted, “we’re waiting with her?” So. Cal grandpa is old school, the last of the cowboys, never show your emotions, live to work, and all business sort of guy. The business of the day, as he saw it, was to drop me off at the airport and go home.
The second fun part, after I began to sherpa my luggage, because I didn’t want my mom to have to carry it with her bad neck, and grandpa had just gotten out of the hospital a month ago and wasn’t’ allowed to carry anything heavy, and grandma needed her hands to talk to us a hundred miles an hour.
Our merry band made our way across the overpass and found the line I needed to stand in to check in. Grandpa, not happy about the line, went outside to see if there was curbside check in. There was, but the line was just as long.
That’s when Jane Seymour showed up. Dr. Quinn Medicine woman herself. My grandmother loves star sightings. She hiked her purse up on her shoulder and began pointing Dr. Quinn out to me, my mother, and my grandfather. It was my turn to check in, so because we weren’t paying her enough attention. My grandmother grabbed the person nearest to her to start pointing out Jane Seymour, “and what’s the husbands name? I didn’t know she was so short, look at that red jacket, wow, I bet everyone will be wearing that jacket now.” We didn’t pay very much attention to grandma until I was checked in, I turned around and noticed that the couple she had decided to verbally attack had very confused, frightened looks on their faces. I figured out why, when they turned to each other and began speaking in French.
“Grandma, come on, it’s time.” I smiled apologetically at the couple and pulled grandma off of them. “Oh, they were French? I’ve been to France, do you think I should tell them?”
“No.” Was the politest way I could answer her.
My mother has done a wonderful, loving disservice to her children. She has made our family a tight knit group. She decorates for every holiday, and makes sure we always feel special on our birthdays. She is the queen of surprise parties, and as kids, always signed the napkin in our lunches ‘I love you, mom.’
She has also instilled a sense of adventure in her kids. None of us live close, we are spread all over this world, but we always come home. And each time we leave, it’s heart breaking.
It was now time for me to get back on my own adventurous path, ticket in hand, backpack on my back, I started to cry, mom started to cry, grandpa was looking at his watch and grandma was digging in the trash. The tears stopped instantly.
“Mom, what is she doing?” I pointed out the problem at hand.
“Mom, what are you doing?” My mom asked.
Grandma came out of the trash, triumphant, waving about a big ass bouquet of red roses.
“Grandma, put those back.” People were watching now, grandma was giggling.
“I don’t think she said yes.” Was her comment, she was already writing the story in her own head. Someone had shown up at the airport with flowers to propose, she said no, he threw them away.
“Do you think we should look for a ring in there too?”
The compromise was that she didn’t dig in the trash any more and she could keep the flowers. They looked sad, like someone had indeed thrown them out in anger, or heartache. It was the reason I declined them when my grandmother offered them to me to take with me. I didn’t want to begin this new chapter with an item of heartache attached.
Finally, we parted ways. I watched as my mom herded my grandparents back toward the car, watched as grandma stopped two more people and told them about the flowers, pointed out the trash can she found them in and wondered at someone who would throw away perfectly good roses that were obviously so expensive.
Later, when I called to report I arrived safely. My mom told me that grandma gave away two of the roses to baggage handlers with the instructions to ‘give them to the special girl in their lives.’ Of course, said rose wasn’t passed over to the baggage handlers until they had heard the whole story of Jane Seymour, the French couple she scared and the trashcan where she found these perfectly good flowers.
A week later, I got a letter in the mail with a picture of the roses on the table in grandma’s house. The flowers from the trash.
My southern California grandmother is a little crazy, but then again, she’s also a champion of the downtrodden. She and the flowers just make sense. As I write this, I am thinking of waxing poetically about grandma Carroll, until I remember her parting words to me, “Do you think I should go find Jane Seymour and give them to her.”