At my granny's house, the picture frames were adventures. If you removed the backs, you could peel away layer after layer of photos. My father in his sailor uniform. My Aunt Mary in ankle socks. A picture of me standing in a crib with hair that curled straight up from the crown of my head.
It was just one thing we did when visiting granny. Her huge old two-story home in Cleveland had a big front porch and a ramshackle garage that eventually just toppled over.
On Sundays, we visited Granny and, until he died, Jeddo (which I think may be Croatian for grandpa; I don't really know). On her couch sat silk, fringed pillows with pictures of battleships and flags -- pillows my uncles sent home during World War II. On the couch and chair arms were white doilies Granny crocheted.
A full candy dish always sat on her coffee table.
I can't picture Granny except in motion. She was a scurrier. She had been heavy at one time, my dad said, but it was hard to imagine. Her thin face and long nose seemed to fit her perfectly. She wore her hair carefully rolled into a small bun.
It was not until you spent the night and followed her to the large, echo-filled bathroom with white tiles, white claw tub and white pedestal sink, that you realized her hair, when unwrapped, slid down to her knees in a smooth thin waterfall.
Granny pulled out pavitica and strudel when we visited. Sometimes we would have them at the huge dining room table. Less often, we went into the kitchen to sit at Granny's battered white wooden table in her old-fashioned kitchen. It was the table upon which I ate my first bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar instead of salt and butter.
Off Granny's kitchen was a little mudroom which seemed to slant just slightly less than the garage. Down four steps and you were in a small back yard -- Jeddo's pride and joy. Here were fruit trees and grape vines. We were taught to hold the grapes between our thumb and forefinger and squeeze out the sweet insides, throwing out the tough, thick skins. My Jeddo used the grapes to make wine.
After we had eaten and played and tasted grapes and taken apart the picture frames, or when the weather kept us indoors, my sister and I, and any cousins available, turned to step school.
I don't know if you've heard of it, or if we invented it, but it required only our Granny's mahogany staircase and the penny that was always lodged in the small shallow hole atop the newel post.
A child's fingernail dislodged the penny, at which point the "teacher" for the game hid it in a hand. Everyone else sat their tiny bottoms on the first step of the tall staircase, squeezing neatly beside one another.
The "teacher" then offered both closed hands to the first pupil. If you chose the penny hand, you advanced to second grade. If you failed, you lost a grade. Step school.
On other visits, we helped my father care for Granny's lawn. The cranky old manual lawn mower made quick work of her small lawn. And 10 minutes of watering brown patches seemed to do the trick. (I remember expecting the lawn to change from brown to green before my eyes.)
In Granny's basement were Jeddo's things. In a musty, old, unfinished cellar, even dark in my memory, was a real, honest-to-goodness barber's chair and an equally spectacular Howdy Doody ventriloquist's dummy.
A little like Granny
I never have candy on my coffee table -- it isn't very good for you after all. And I couldn't bake a strudel if my life depended on it. I don't have a newel post with a place for a penny. I have but one sister, and my children's only first cousins live in California.
But I do have picture frames. And if you should ever visit me, you might find that, upon removing the backs, you will find several layers of photos -- just like Granny's frames had.