Recently I began to decorate my writing office in the new condo, deciding that I needed to lighten the mood with a touch of whimsey. Normally I don’t “do” whimsey but this is a creative room, after all, and the décor should inspire in some way. Then I had the audacity to hang my grandmother’s portrait right there in the middle of the Wacky-Wall.
That seems disrespectful unless you consider the fact that my grandmother McAmis was no ordinary woman. Oh she seemed to start life normal enough. Yvonne Kerr was born in 1901, before women had the right to vote; her family farmed in Olney, Texas; she married one of the McAmis boys in the roofing business, and bore him sons. Then life took a turn.
Long before it was fashionable, she got a divorce, went into the working world, remarried more than once. She moved around, in and out of the household of her eldest son (my Dad), labored two jobs to put her youngest son through Med school, and was considered an unusual family Matriarch.
There was a spirit to her; a desire to experience life fully. She dated younger men, forbade my Dad to call her “Mom” in their presence, and insisted all of us in the new generation call her Mother Mac. The word “grandmother” never passed our lips!
Mother Mac was very tall, big boned as we would say in Texas. I do not remember her being a beautiful woman, but some of the pictures in the family album indicate she was. I do remember her love of the nicer things in life.
Our family was poor, thanks to the Depression, and later, an illness that drained the family coffers, so a big outing might be a grilled cheese sandwich and a Coca-Cola at the corner café. It was monumental the year she took me downtown to Nieman Marcus.
Perhaps I was 11 or 12, but I remember window shopping first, and then entering the shrine. Rows and rows of glistening counters with diamonds and gold bangles and cashmere throws. We dined in the tea room on starched linens, drank fruited tea from crystal glasses and nibbled scones.
My grandmother’s very being suggested there were possibilities in the world and she hung on to those hopes for decades. Even when she was elderly and infirm, she put on her white wig, dressed in her muu-muu, and made it to my uncle’s ranch house for cocktails each evening, then zig-zagged her golf cart back to her little house nearby, flinging her toy poodle Fancy from seat to floor.
If spirits live on, then I can only think she is happy staring down from the Wacky-Wall. Perhaps she will inspire my next novel, but I do have to tell her I am not planning on writing one of those bodice-rippers she bought and read, surreptitiously hiding the books from my dad and uncle beneath the silk unmentionables in her bureau drawer.
— Jonnie Martin