I look at all the faces on the shelf and smile. Such beautiful kind and loving faces, mostly- and oh the stories they tell! They all resemble one another a bit and some more than others...
Grandma Hope there, leaning on the door smiling and hugging herself a bit around the middle as she so often-ed tickled us with not so nice for young ears jokes. I loved her. She was my earliest account of a corker. She- even in her long and some may say lusty life- partied with Al Capone after picking his ducks free of feathers along side the Illinois River. It was a well known fact that prohibition prohibited little along the shores of that somewhat wild waterway.
Grandma and Grandpa, to supplement their sparse income- plucked ducks and geese, cleaned turtles and fish for out of towners. And speaking of fish, Hope liked to drink. Not in an alcoholic way- more of a spectator sport way. She was really good at it. I can recall in my lifetime and even in her very later years, 90ish...she could really sock them back. Not beer, no- that was for cheap thrills. She enjoyed her Wild Turkey and drank it every day. Followed by a shot of water. "My tonic", she'd say. She is the only woman I ever knew over 50 who said the "F" word, but only in jokes- still, I was quite taken back. She'd just slap her knee and laugh.
I tried to see her every so often, just to take her for drives or listen to one of her wonderful stories. I believe she must have been around 86, nearing her next birthday when I traveled to Browning for a visit. She decided she'd like to take a drive and so we did. Very seldom did Grandma wear pants, almost always a "house dress" covered by an apron that would be discarded by the door as she left the house. On this particular day, she looked quite fetching and felt so, she said. Oh Grandma! I thought ice cream should be in order and so she directed me to a little town, several other little towns away so that she might get the best root beer float going.
She had a wonderful way of winking and elbowing you, kind of like a gangster might do-
"Here's the deal chickee, see...we're going to hit the soda shop and show these folks what's up. Tangle their innards and get 'em laughing, they've all got cobs up their no sees and a little sunshine from a sass like me might do them all good!"
I smile now, but back then- she always made me a bit nervous. You never knew just what she might say or do...see what I mean by a corker?
I recall driving back home a different route, of course- she had stories for every mile and she was not one for repeating a tale, rescinding certain aspects maybe... She was never a bore.
As we traveled down the black top, I recall several cars passing and her telling me I better giddyup if I wanted to save face. So, feeling always a little ornerier in her presence, I pressed down on the accelerator.
"That's the way chickee, get them coppers wondering what they're up against!"
What a joy, she and I buzzing eight miles over the speed limit, feeling the wind in our hair and just a bit naughty...when, sirens then lights prevailed. Oh my! I looked back and sure enough- the dirty coppers were after us. I looked at my speedometer, I was doing 63 in a 55- shamelessly I might add. I pulled to the side of the road- hoping that my transgression did not add up to a speeding ticket but maybe just a warning, because those are so much cheaper and I could ill afford a fine.
The dirty copper was a straight laced state trooper and he did not care one iota for my little fairy-tale like story of taking my Grandmother out for a nice drive and ice cream for her birthday. No heart, just steel ice where it used to be...he asked for my pertinent info and proceeded to write up the ticket. I just stared ahead and seethed, not noticing yet what was going on in the passenger seat. My seething turned to shock and disbelief as I noticed out of the corner of my eye a bit more action than decently necessary next door-
"Hey sonny boy..." called Grandma as she proceeded to hitch her skirt up her leg and slowly jerk it a bit, kind of like a tease, exposing her very wrinkled knee.
"This is my granddaughter and she is so sweet to take an old lady out for a drive, don't you think?!" She would look at him and then direct her eyes down to her knee and then up again, real quick- to see if he might follow.
Horrified is not the word best used to describe- well, my absolute breathless shock! Oh dear, what to do, what to do...
He smiled at least, and shook his head. Thelma and Louise weren't getting out of a ticket and Louise there was really something to behold.
As he handed me my ticket he said have a nice day or something to that effect.
To Grandma, he leaned in and tipped his hat, giving a quick wink-
"Happy birthday lady, stay out of trouble..."
"You may kiss my ass sonny, don't know what you're missing..." as she winked back, and jerked her dress back down over her knee- no use wasting flesh on the inhibited.
Long drive home, and she never stopped talking- telling tales that would raise the hair on your toe nails. I never once thought to question her behavior with the knee exposing, for after all- she was my Grandma Hope, and when she couldn't live up to her name, she never tried to live it down either.
Happy Birthday Elizabeth Hope...I'll never forget you chickee.