I was looking through the tags I received today and this one popped up. My rambling thoughts went to my childhood. I started thinking about spring.
In my life, Spring wasn't a season, She was a person. She was my paternal grandmother. She was an eccentric woman with scandalous ways. I don't remember her hair being anything but gray and cut short.
My first real memories of her were when she was living on Patrician Way in the western part of Pasadena. The road to her home wound through the hills and to a house of wonder with canyons on three sides. There was a Chinese Red gate with Chinese symbols on it, a front pebble garden with a waterfall and lovely little palms and plants. We almost always went through the back door.
It was a house of wonders for a small girl. To the right as we entered was a room with what I always called a "princess" bed. It was ornately carved and was so high that there was a special matching stool to climb up to it. The room had a bathroom of its own and held many hours of imaginary play for me.
To the left of the back door was the laundry area. There was a washer and dryer there. There were always blood smears on them from Spring's Great Dane Shane. Shane wagged that huge tail against the wall and the washers. Under her feet were the 3 fiercest dogs in the world . . .3 tiny Chihauhuas. They were the watch dogs and Shane thought she was a lap dog. We stepped then into the kitchen and dining area to see the panorama of the canyons surrounding the house. Spring would be in the living room, seated in her favorite chair. The house was furnished in Chinese style (modern, I think it was called).
Outside the windows behind her was a long wire . . . a chimp or monkey played there. I wasn't allowed to play with him because he would bite, but I was fascinated. I'd watch him and he would watch me.
I wandered through the house discovering all the pretty things there. It wasn't homey like at my other grandmother's house. It was exotic, although I probably wouldn't have used that word then. There was a chest in the hallway. It had hundreds of little drawers and Chinese symbols all over it. It always held my attention for a long time. There was a special way to open the little doors and drawers. After the chest was a room with bunk beds in it. It had a sliding glass door to the back yard. Spring was having some construction done out there and was keeping it a secret.
Further down the hall was Spring's room. It was huge! Everything in it was huge. She had her own bathroom there. The other bathroom was in the hallway. Spring had a lot of beautiful chunky jewelry. Her favorites were squash blossom sets full of turquoise. She wore them most of the time.
Back in the living room, Spring would be drinking whiskey and talking to my mother about things. In the window near her were her "cigs" and her "stick 'o pep". She would light up her cigarette and ask me to hand her the stick 'o pep. It was a little wand-like thing that put a spot of liquid peppermint on her cigarette. She was smoking menthols before there were menthols.
Usually, we would stay for dinner and Spring would cook gourmet meals. While she cooked, she drank. While we ate, she drank. During dessert, she drank. By the end of the meal, she was dictating my mothers life for her. Stabbing her cigarette in the air, she would start out okay, but soon I would hear the dreaded phrase, "Now youu listen to me!" That would signal the end of our day with her. My mother would cry and vow never to go back again, but soon enough we'd be off for a visit again, all things forgiven.
Spring was married 5 times and divorced or survived them all. She married one of them twice. She sent her two sons to military school and was in the WACs when it wasn't popular for a woman to serve our country. She was a gypsy of sorts, telling fortunes on Olvera Street in Los Angeles and reading tea leaves in China town. She made her millions billing for anesthesiologists in the Los Angeles area. She had two cabins in the mountains, a fast car which she drove like a bat out of he** and never hardly ever stopped for a kid to go to the bathroom. She was the antithesis of my maternal grandparents and I loved her and was fascinated by her.
As I get older, my memories of her come in little flashes. A drunken Spring sitting outside by the new pool with her friends. Suddenly she yells "Let's go swimming! Somebody get Penny" With that she pulled her denim dress unsnapped and dove in. She was naked and I was shocked. I was probably about 8 and she wanted me to strip and join her. Scared and scintillated, I did as she asked. Wow! I remember the rush now.
Years pass and Spring and I have not spoken because she tried to take my illegitimate child and give him to my sister. She tried to buy me. I walked away. I married, lived in Hawaii and had a daughter. Just after her birth, I receive a telegram. "Arriving SS Lurline" and the date and time. I was unsure, but went to the dock. Heather was 6 weeks old and I was 18. As the massive ship pulled in, I looked to the top deck. She was there, bigger than life, pointing down toward me. The wattle below her chinned wiggled as she said, "That's my great-grandaughter!" How could I hate her? She was my flesh and blood. Less than two years later, she was gone. My family flew me from Northern California to see her after she had had several strokes. Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were a source of pride for her. They hoped that by seeing me pregnant she would have the will to live.
She lay on a hospital bed in that room with a view. Her Siamese cat Nikki lay atop her, wasting away. Spring's face was distorted and her speech changed. I sat next to her. Heather, unaware, climbed up next to her and hugged and kissed her. She reached her claw hand out to my belly and said "Boy". She didn't say anything else. She slept. Just after my 20th birthday she died. Her memory lingers on.