Or Maybe a Typewriter Key Bracelet
By Sandy Harmon Johnson
Our writer’s club had a tie for best story at our last meeting Feb 23. To me, they are interesting because they differ so much in style. The theme that our members were encouraged to use in their stories that month was “love.”Bob Kaster
She entered the world a redhead with a silver spoon in her mouth, and when she passed away, she took a vast history of all things Grants Pass.
It was a warm summer day, June 14, and I had a lot on my mind with my class reunion coming up in a few weeks. The reunion was always the highlight of the year for me. I looked forward to going to Grants Pass, my hometown, seeing my classmates and reminiscing about so many things. The phone rang, I guess I didn’t look at the phone display to see who was calling or I might have instantly prepared myself for the message. “She’s gone,” he said.
A fifth generation native of Grants Pass, she started playing the accordion at age five and continued to play the rest of her life, including at the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration, In 1953 at age 19, she was selected “Cave Queen” and traveled around Oregon promoting the city of Grants Pass. She was well-known throughout Grants Pass. She was a classy lady.
My aunt. I vaguely remember her standing in my grandma’s living room, wearing a pleated skirt with blouse, and a bow on the top of her head adorning her long red curls. Holding the accordion, that was almost as big as she was, she was ready to play polka music.
My first vivid memory of her was with her and her future husband, a basketball champ at Grants Pass High School, taking me to a high school basketball game. I was wearing a children’s Caveman letterman’s sweater they had bought for me. The smell of the gymnasium and popcorn and the excitement of the crowd and players remains with me. I was wearing that particular sweater in my first grade picture. I don’t know what happened to the sweater but I wish I still had it. The years went by, she married, had children, I moved to Iowa, and we drifted apart.
Her mother and father (my grandparents) died, my mother died, and her husband died. She was alone, except for her two children who lived in Oregon, and me, her only other relative. We grew close, although at times it became a strained relationship. She was very generous to me, beautiful things she gave me that I cherish and would never part with. I eventually deeply loved my aunt. I struggled with many things she said to me. I learned to let things go and let them slide over my head. That was very hard to do. I did it, and we grew very close.
She’s been gone eight months. Not a day goes by that I want to message or call her, there are so many things I want to tell her and ask her. Some are simple, others are complex.
When I bought my iPad, she bought one 3 days later. She loved her iPhone and the Echo. She would tell me about Alexa and I said, “Oh, I don’t want one.” When the weather was cold, she would wear cute sweatshirts. I told her I didn’t like sweatshirts. The last time I saw her several months before she died, she reminded me of my disinterest in Alexa and sweatshirts. She knew I had changed my thoughts and bought a few. And she said, “You really like Grants Pass and consider it your home, don’t you?” I smiled and said yes.
I’m left with her son, and her daughter who is moving to North Carolina. A loving relationship is budding with her son Tom, who lives in Portland, and myself. He comes to Grants Pass monthly, as he has a historic home there, business interests, and to look after her home. He sends me family pictures of 70 years ago, calls me, and during the conversation he says, “I can’t believe she is gone.” As we chat on the phone, I chock up, can hardly talk and fight back tears. But we also laugh while reminiscing. He tells me that I am his only relative on the West Coast. Tommy is like his mother, classy and good looking. Once a red head, now grey hair, tall, thin and very well dressed. A gentleman who uses a flip phone and carries his mother’s 1948 Royal portable typewriter with him as he travels between Portland, Grants Pass and Palm Springs. I tell him his mother gave me a vintage typewriter key bracelet years ago and I lost it! Of all the things she has given me, I would trade one for the bracelet. I never mentioned to her that I lost the vintage typewriter key bracelet. Tommy and I knew she would scold me. He will look around her home for another one, perhaps she bought one for herself.
As we ended our phone conversation, I said, “I love you, Tommy.” He replied, “I love you too, you are all I have, and I will see you very soon.”
The Siskiyou Writers’ Club is a local group of folks with a passion for creative writing of all genres. The club generally meets the last Thursday of the month in various locations throughout Siskiyou County. The next meeting will be Thursday, March 30, 2023, 5:00 PM, at the YMCA in Yreka.
For more information, contact Bob Kaster, 530-598-5204, email [email protected]
or Mike Grifantini, 530-710-4882, email [email protected].