Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hook

My Grandma tells good stories. She probably doesn't know this, but it's true. I thought about this after my last post (about the day she was born). She always starts with a hook at the beginning - sometimes it's long, sometimes it short - which is what all audiences want and look for in stories (and writers really love them).

I was talking to her on Sunday at a family gathering and the issue was brought up about how someone smokes and we don't know how they can afford it (amongst a myriad of other reasons not to smoke). My Grandma said she was always glad she never smoked. She said a lot of her girlfriends smoked back in the day; we all know this was due to cool celebs that glamorized it and lack of scientific evidence that it killed you (painfully). Right after she tells us she never smoked, she starts telling this story about her mom buying a 6-pack of Coke every Friday to bring home to her and her siblings. (She brought some kind of food, too - I think it was hamburgers - but it was secondary to the Coke so I've forgotten). The Coke was something they looked forward to all week - I'm sure because of how little money they had for such extravagances.

The problem was this: there were seven people in her family. Now, I'm not a math major, I leave that to people that actually think math is fun and someday "it comes to you", but I can figure out that if you have a 6-pack of Coke you're one short if you have a family of seven. Anyway, what everyone would do is open their bottles and pour a little in a cup for the youngest, my Grandma's two-year-old brother. The problem with two-year-olds is that they really don't like the concept of once something is gone it's gone until next time (unless next time is two seconds from now). So, this little two-year-old had this mindset; thus, when his Coke ran out he went hunting for more. Apparently, he chose my Grandma as his victim. (Now...at this point, you're thinking what I was thinking: "Where is this going? Weren't we talking about smoking? Why are we talking about Coke?" But you must know my Grandma. As I said, she tells good stories. She has the most unassuming, unexpected way of coming full circle so be patient!) Anyway...her little brother starts pulling on her Coke bottle. Now, my Grandma's just a kid at this point, so she's not gonna go down easy. She wants to drink her Coke, plus she's thinking that she's already given her little, bothersome brother an equal portion of her share same as everyone else. Well, her brother keeps pulling and pulling and she keeps pulling and pulling...and then, he lets loose as she's pulling and the bottle hits her front right tooth dead on - the permanent one - and it smarts like hell and she can just tell it's not right. This sends her to the dentist.

My grandma reminds us that she's about ten-years-old at the time - the time when teeth are half-in/half-out and you're mostly snaggle toothed anyway - so it's already an awkward time (particularly to be a girl) and another missing tooth just won't help. She tells us how the tooth next to her big, now damaged tooth, the permanent incisor, hadn't come in yet, so that looked awkward. And the eye tooth she had wasn't permanent so the dentist pulled that as he thought that was where the nerve problem originated. Alas, it wasn't, it turned out her front tooth really was in bad shape - sort of dangling and just not that useful. She talked about how her teeth looked awful bad for a period of time and that her school picture was a shame, her with her some here, some there teeth. She used her hand to show us how they were at a complete angel in her mouth. And then she talked about the plastic piece they put behind her front right tooth to hold it in place. She said it was the most awful thing and that anything she ate with a strong taste would stick to that piece of plastic and she'd be tasting it for days.

Then, she brought us back to her girlfriends. Those girls that I'm sure wanted to be just like Lauren Bacall and Betty Davis - the young women that were always getting a cigarette lit from a handsome, mysterious actor. The girls that smoked because nobody knew better and it's what everyone was doing, right? They tried to get my Grandma to smoke. She said she took one drag and it was awful! That plastic piece behind her tooth tasted like nasty cigarette smoke for days. She just knew she couldn't smoke. And her last words at the end of the story were this: "I've never been so glad that my brother knocked out my tooth. If not, I probably would've been a smoker." Don't you just love my Grandma's ability to make light out of something most people would be angry about! I drove home that night thinking that most people could really learn from her and try to find the good in the bad when possible - me included!

And that is the art of my Grandma's story telling. I hope I did it justice. And what's the tie in to eighty-sixing? My Grandma's poor eye tooth and the eventual loss of her damaged, front tooth (her brother was nowhere to found the second time around).

1 comment:

  1. Yep - that is the way it went down - about 70 years ago!