AvatarRecently 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

About jonnietootling

It seems forever that I have seen myself as a writer, enamored of life and great literature. I have been a journalist, a blogger, a published novelist; hold both a Bachelor's and Master's in literature and creative writing. Now in my 70's I am blogging here about existence, philosophy, art, literature, people of every stripe, finding our way through life, and growing old with panache.
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6 Responses to WACKY-WALL

  1. Phyllis says:

    🙂 Going to the downtown Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas as a little girl…will anything compare to that experience? Thank you for so vividly describing that! The Zodiac room was an amazing restaurant when Helen Corbitt was at the helm. Her cookbook is one of my treasures. My father’s name was Neiman and his twin brother was Marcus. They were born in 1909, your grandmother’s peers, and were not named for the store. Those are just two old commonly used Jewish names. My parents had their three girls very late in life. My father went to high school with Stanley (Marcus) and one of their sisters worked for Neimans for decades in their fur and fine ladies clothes departmen. I still remember Saturday visits to her, busy in her little office and telling us to strictly mind our manners while we were at the store because everyone knew she was our aunt AND to not touch the beautiful things in her office, she was getting ready for important clients coming up from east Texas, AND to never spend this kind of money on clothes. 🙂 Maybe we will go there again soon when you’re once again settled in the metroplex.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Phyllis, what a rich story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have great memories of my grandma and department store dining (among MANY great memories) but she was not so wacky. Yours was the kind of grandma I would like to be, given a chance. Well, maybe not searching for so many husbands as I am rather fond of Ric, but otherwise she was my kind of woman! What an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joella Ewing says:

    What a grandmother! I’m so glad you had the experience of her grit and guts and love. My sisters and I don’t have any fond memories of grandmothers. Daddy’s mother died long before we were born and mother’s mother was a bitch from hell. She gave mother away her grandmother when mother was three to marry some man who didn’t want another man’s child. Mother never got over that and was a broken winged bird. But mother and her half-siblings did all the normal things one does for an aging parent, including Sunday visits about once a month in Forney, outside of Garland. She was raised in a lower middle class family with a lot of nice things, (she was even a quite good artist who did a painting hanging in our bedroom) but chose to live in a dump like Ma and Pa Kettle with a cistern, outhouse, and dozens of cats.

    Uncle Bud, a career Navy man and admiral’s chef on a ship, sent all his checks to her to bank for him. He was shocked when he came home on leave to have no money. Zip. Zero. Nada. She’d spent it on things like $25 rare flower bulbs. My dad had to lend him money to get back to his ship.

    My sisters and I hated going. She was grumpy, never made cookies or anything like that, always had dozens of ferrel cats that my dad had to gas once or twice a year while we three girls wailed in the house; also a water cistern with a dead snake in it. It would have been nice to have a normal grandmother. Even nicer to have a scrappy one like yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Joella – what a sad memory of your grandmother. She was a miserable person — she herself was in misery and unfortunately, shared it.


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