What we choose to take
I’m sleeping on my best buddy’s couch, while the little green machine remains stuffed with everything I own five floors below in a parking garage in Vienna, Va.
Despite the fact that I’ve lived in D.C. before, have friends here, and know I will love it here – eventually, right now I feel like I just went from the Technicolor Oz to black and white Kansas. Except Oz is my home. I want to click my ruby slippers and go back. I miss the pink and yellow houses, the big, blue sky, the scarlet sunsets, and the lime-green margaritas. I’m also not used to everyone walking around looking so serious. And I haven’t seen one Guy Harvey T-shirt in days.
The drive up was fine, except for the claustrophobia. My things were packed around me so tight I could barely move my arms.
I found, in a last-minute, last sweep of my apartment, a package of those massive overnight pads – the huge ones with wings -- each the size of a small duffel bag. I tossed them into the pile on back seat, and anytime I hit the brakes, one would go flying past my head like a missile wrapped for my protection.
I brought with me only things I decided I could not live without: clothes, bedding, towels, butterfly-shaped magazine rack, cowboy hat, yoga mat, wooden walking stick bought in Tanzania, blue and white teapot, magic wand, flat-screen TV, and jazz collection.
And, of course, the goblets.
My grandmother’s set of four, blue, Carnival Glass goblets have moved all over the world with me, since her death on October 31, 1993. I took them when my sister and I cleaned out her little green and white house.
They are a beautiful, iridescent blue, with a grape pattern stamped into the glass. My grandmother loved grapes. She liked the way the light kissed the small, purple globes. They are worth as little as $5 each on the Internet – so I won’t be taking them to Antiques Roadshow. But I doubt I would part with them at any price.
They’ve lived with me in Florida, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and London, England. I usually keep them in a rarely-used cabinet, fearing some sort of accidental tap will send them careening to the floor.
I love them so.
Once, I asked my mother if I should give them to my sister, since she is the one Grandma remembered. Not me. Grandma didn’t know me in the end. My sister has Grandma’s red hair, freckles, and profile, and was recognized as family. I look like my father.
My face became that of a stranger, just another thing – in the blurred tapestry of her life in its twilight – that confused her. Because I fixed her food and prepared warm water for her bath, she decided I was the maid.
It wasn’t always like that. When I was small and she was healthy, I was like a barnacle at her side, helping her plant tomatoes, admiring her sunflowers, watching her turn wild blackberries into homemade pie.
In her simple house, with its cheap, Corelle dinnerware and old, thrift store davenport, those goblets were one of her few luxuries, one of a handful of things she could hold to the light and watch sparkle.
One summer day when I had not yet reached the double-digits, she took them down from the cabinet where she kept them hidden, held them up toward the sun, and touched the grapes with a work-weary fingertip.
“Aren’t they pretty,” she said.
I looked at her eyes. I thought they were blue – as blue as the goblets -- but she said they were hazel. I watched her eyes sparkle alongside the glass.
“Yes, Grandma,” I said. “They are.”