Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, July 30, 2012

For Show

My kids have believed for quite a while my ability to function independently is slipping. Since about the time they reached the age when they could buy me a drink (not that it has happened so far, but technically they "could") they seem to find it a minor miracle when I'm able to perform even simple tasks, such as grocery shop and return home without incident.

I'll admit there are times my own missteps add fuel to that fire.

Like the time I broke with well established pattern and actually actively shopped for new kitchen towels per se, rather than accepting the best of what the thrift store had on offer.  Initially I was impressed with my choices.  The towels were on sale, there were no shipping charges and I loved the amazing graphics.  

My self congratulatory glee lasted right up until I released the new towels from their adorable woven ribbon bindings.  I began to suspect my gorgeous towels might not be very functional.  They seemed a bit on the thin side.  The proof would be in the using, however so I set reservations aside and put the towels into rotation.

Fast forward several weeks later and all suspicions were confirmed.  Despite that relative flimsiness the towels look great but are still somewhat stiff after weeks of repetitive use and washing.  Most importantly, the towels are just not absorbent.  That whole "soaking it up" part of the job a towel is created for?  The wicking of moisture from one surface to another a towel is supposed to perform? Fuhgeddaboudit. The spills may move but they don't sop.  These beauties simply don't roll that way.    

Recently I hung one of my "nice" towels, the set of towels I have no intention of using as such, and thought to myself, "this one is just for show".   You know, decorative, useless, sitting in the room just for the way it looks.  

That term, "for show".  It really wanted my attention for some reason.  I finished reloading the dishwasher and sat down to think about why.  After a moment's reflection it dawned on me.  I already have a bit of history with "For show".

At the time I was around six years old. We'd just spent a good portion of our summer vacation driving to Virginia from Austin. We were on our way to deliver our family's version of the dauphin ( of the direct heir to the throne variety, not the sea mammal) to be viewed by royalty in the form of my mother's eldest sister.

Dorothy, or "Dot" as everybody called her, was the matriarch of my mother's large clan at the time. This meant her benign powers extended into and settled gently over the vast majority of households in no less than three surrounding counties.   While every aspect of her demeanor fascinated and delighted me, I was especially taken with her clear dominance over my Mother.

I may have been young, but it was plain as the nose on your face.  My Mom, all-powerful and unquestionably the Queen of our Universe, had somehow been diminished, transformed right in front of my eyes.  As she tearfully handed over my baby brother for his first kiss from Aunt Dot, my Mother simultaneously reverted to the adored, but by no means revered, Baby of her family.  

If my Aunt Dot could pull that off, if she was further able to order both my parents around, an indignity which in her company they apparently enjoyed?  I was in thrall to see what other magic this woman could conjure up. 

In the days that followed I watched my aunt closely, studying her every move. Being something of a mimic, I tried relentlessly to reproduce the wonderfully soft vowels and consonants her accent served up.  I took to softly repeating whatever she said to myself, carefully auditing whether I'd accurately copied her tone and rhythms of speech.  She coached as I began working more idiomatic speech into our conversations, exaggerating her drawl as a way to tease.  

My cousin, several years older and an only child, was only too happy to turn many of her usual chores over to me while she disappeared into her summer routines.  I didn't mind a bit.   I'd been playing second fiddle to my baby brother for the better part of a year by then, and as far as I was concerned, any attention from the great and powerful Dot was good attention.  This was no less than a reordering of the universe back to where it once stood, with me in the center, as it should always be, forever and ever. (amen!)

For the duration of our visit, our combined family's evening meals were major productions. Beginning around four in the afternoon, my Mom's big sister held center stage in her kitchen, with me as faithful understudy. She began to invite me along on her gathering trips to the garden, include me in conversations about what to prepare next and even started sending me, not my cousin, down into the cellar to fetch jars from the cold pantry.  

Thus it was the afternoon when I clumsily spilled a newly filled glass of grape juice all over my aunt's kitchen table.  My Mom, worn down from days of uncharacteristically submissive behavior, snapped at me to grab a towel and clean up the mess before it spread.  I looked around, spotted a towel conveniently hung over the nearby oven door handle and reached for it.

"Honey, that's for show" Aunt Dot cautioned me.  

Distracted as I was by my embarrassment at spilling, I misheard and completely misinterpreted her warning.  I thought she had somehow given me the go-ahead, that she'd actually said "for sure" as in yes, please child, that is exactly the towel I want you to grab and use to staunch the purple river seeking egress off the side of my table.

So that's what I did.

I can't remember what it was exactly that was so special about that particular towel.  I can only hope it was not a sentimental keepsake, one of my maternal grandmother's many hand crocheted or embroidered pass-along treasures.  Because whatever it had been, it was now a soppy purply mess.  

My Mom.... well. Let's just say my Mom joined me in losing our composure.  Fortunately for me, her big sister did not.  The rest of the visit is something of a blur, frankly and I suppose I ought to be grateful I not only survived my infamous act but past that was allowed to remain in the family despite certain obvious and getting obvious-er flaws in my character.  Not to mention my coordination.

I imagine my survival had something to do with how distractingly cute my baby brother was (and still is).  Pretty irresistible, yeah?  It's those baby boy curls. Plus the chubby cheeks.  That combination'll sock you right in the heart every time.  

It's just too bad my Aunt's "for show" towel couldn't have been more like the ones I've got currently sitting in the drawer.  I'm pretty sure you could throw grape juice all over any one of my snazzy pizazzy towels and it wouldn't leave so much as a drip mark. 
On the other hand, it's just as well my kids don't know the story about how I ruined my favorite Aunt's special towel. They would probably take that as evidence I never have been able to function independently.  For sure.


Tina said...

As charmingly delivered as this post is, the thing that really impresses me is the drawer of neatly folded towels. A thing of beauty, that is. You should see my drawer--not so neat. Not neat at all.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: You might be surprised to hear those towels in the drawer are all ironed (at least at the moment).

I thoroughly enjoy ironing as a mindless distraction when whatever it is that is wrinkly isn't demanding. Which explains why I will never ever iron my husband - even by accident.

Cat said...

There is just so much to say about this post that I don't even know where to begin. Really, it would take a long, leisurely lunch! As always your writing touches my heart and my funny bone. I've nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. Feel free to play along or not. Mostly just wanted you to know you're appreciated and I adore your expressive and insightful way with words!

TexasDeb said...

Cat! I am all blushy, aw gorshy, and foot scraping in the dirt over here. What a sweet nomination and good Lord, lady! What heady company you've put me in.

Those of you who are comments readers? Get yourself over to Cat's blog immediately if not sooner, enjoy her photos and writing and then check the links to the other blogs she nominated while I try to compose myself. Just, wow, Cat. I'm both flattered and flattened by your kindness!