November 2, 2014

The Precious Grapes

 photo GreenGrapes.jpg My grandmother had an impeccably decorated house. It was a split-level in Belleville, Kansas and she had purchased all new Ethan Allen furniture. Her home had central air, a real novelty to us back then. I remember at first being unable to sleep with central air because it blew all night long. But the house was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Amazing!

Grandma had nice things, some of which I have now. In fact, I have her Ethan Allen dining room set and the secretary desk that she often used.

But there were the grapes. Ah yes, the grapes.

When we showed up in Belleville for some holiday, probably Easter, along with the cousins and assorted aunts and uncles, we spotted those glass grapes instantly. Hers happened to be blue, but otherwise they looked just like the image in the corner up there.

We were told not to touch, which was rare at Grandma's house. Obviously we knew we couldn't play with those grapes, but now we understood we couldn't even touch them. They were "precious," we'd heard one of the aunts say so. We decided among ourselves that those were some very expensive glass grapes. (They're not glass. They're lucite and you could drop them from a five-story building without breaking them.)

For years of visits, I wanted to touch Grandma's grapes. I craved to touch them. But I never once did.

My grandmother died in 1969. Just a few years ago, I met my Aunt Kathy in Salina for a librarian's convention. (I'm not a librarian but Aunt Kathy made me an honorary member of the Kansas Librarian's Association and the three-day conferences each year were a blast.) We got to talking one day over lunch and that's when I told her that I'd so loved those grapes but had never dared to touch them, much as I'd wanted to.

"I wish I'd known that!" Aunt Kathy cried. "I just last month gave those grapes to the thrift store!" Aunt Kathy lives out near Hays, Kansas, too far for me to justify a drive for glass grapes.

"They weren't really fragile at all," Aunt Kathy told me. "They're lucite, not glass. I guess Mom just didn't want you kids playing with them."

"Oh. Well. I didn't know you had them," I gulped. Damn. Why didn't my mother take the grapes when Grandma died? I'll never know.

About a week after that convention, I got a UPS package. Of course you know what it was, though I did not. Which is why when I got through the packing material and saw those blue grapes, retrieved from the thrift store by my aunt, I sat down and cried.

I love my blue grapes. They're difficult to dust, but they mean so much more to me than just decoration. I keep them on the second shelf of my grandmother's secretary desk. Right where they belong.