my great grandmother, dummer, spent her summers presiding over the screened porch at the farm. i remember her so vividly. her stockinged feet. the way her feet fit in her pumps. her shape as she walked, in the shade of the sugar maples, her cane finding secure footing amongst the pebbles, and stones of the gravel driveway.
in her wicker throne she stopped her game of solitaire to marvel at the blue of the august sky. my father always quotes her: "this is a vermont day you would want to bottle." she said lots of things on that porch that people remember. she was a calm, shuffling spirit.
her bedroom was on the back corner of the house. it looked over the vegetable garden and the northeast field. in her closet on the bottom shelf on the right hand side was a blue cardboard box. inside a tea set perfectly nestled in styrofoam.
dummer had picker uppers. long wooden tongs with felted grips, she used to pick things from the floor. dummer watched thunderstorms from the porch, she played spite and malice. she pronounced that when pepper, her beloved overweight cat, died he should be stuffed and used as an ottoman.
dummer instilled in me a fear of earwigs. i am not a frightened individual. i am not weary of much. but earwigs send chills down my spine. ever so often they appear in the drain, or under the mop head in the cellar and i think of my great grandmother. as i sat at her feet on the porch, she explained that earwigs loved dark, damp space. she continued about their inability to go backwards. which she deduced meant they would enter my ear and furrow through my brain, laying eggs as they went. of course as i have grown i know that this is not true. but it is true in that she said it was, and i believed her, and despite rationale and scientific knowledge, i, to this day am not thrilled within any proximity of earwigs.
most noteworthy of dummers influence is her requirement of story telling. i had the blessing of running free amongst acres of wilderness and fields when i was a child. i would go into the day and find respite in the cool of the porch for lunch. the porch being dummers domain, i would sit at her side and we would talk, she would teach me of the creatures we saw through the screens, play cards and general young girl, great grandmother activities. i often would inform her of what had transpired in the fields and woods during my day. she would respond curtly that i was simply reporting facts. she was much more interested in the story of what had happened. she encouraged me to embellish and exaggerate the goings on of my empire, and to rely upon the interaction of my imagination and the natural world i engaged with. for this reason i give her credit for the writer that i aspire to be.
dummer passed away when i was in fourth grade. i will always remember hearing the news of her death in the bathroom of the theatre i was performing in that evening. the thrill of the stage deflated as i understood the immensity of my families loss. her strength and grace are carried on in her daughters and granddaughters, my aunts and grandmother. thank you dummer. i love you and miss you.