My dear friend Sharon knows me well. She often gifts me with things she instinctively knows I will love; tea, food, bouquets of flowers in small bottles. Proof was in the pudding when she recently handed me a lovely, adorned gift and out came a book that seemed tailor-made for me.
It was tailor-made for me – as Sharon knew it would be.
Since I first brought Valerie Kack-Brice’s For She is the Tree of Life: Grandmothers Through the Eyes of Women Writers home, I have found myself buried in this treasure trove of stories and poems about which noted writers talk about their grandmothers. From Maya Angelou to Ethel Barrymore, Isabel Allende to M. F. K. Fisher, I have been like a guest in their lives and I have been filled with a longing for my Yia Yia, who I write about often here on the Cutoff.
For She is the Tree of Life has followed me now, for many-a-week, into the livingroom then to the bedroom, out to the arbor and into the car. I’ve portioned out each chapter like a daily dose of chocolate, one sweet morsel at a time. I think I will place it next to my treasured birthday gift, At Grandmother’s Table, where I know right where to find it for inspiration, and a fond memory of a good friend. I hope she reads it as well, and maybe remembers her own grandmothers.
This is from the poem, Second Language, by Andrena Zawinski, one of many treasures found in For She is the Tree of Life. It brought to mind my Greek grandmother, Yia Yia, and how she would wind my hair, making rag curls.
In that long moment before sleep sets in,
when the clock ticks above the silence,
I think of her. She was the woman who named
the world for me in patchwork Russian. Baba,
studa baba, rolled her socks down to the ankles, wrapped silver braids beneath babushkas,
thought dressing up was wearing a fresh apron.
Baba trained my fingers to press pirogi dough,
never scolded when I ate the filling first;
tied my hair in rags, shaped long ringlets
round my full moon old world face.