Lee Pitts: Nora and Grace
On most days I can look out the back windows of my house and see two ducks that mean the world to me. They are not your typical ducks in that they have taken up permanent residence in our yard, never fly away when the weather doesn’t agree with them, despite the fact that I hardly ever feed them, and they don’t leave behind any messes. They are the perfect pets. Did I mention they are also made of concrete?
I’m fortunate in that I got to know two of my great-grandmas. I loved them both dearly and so when their possessions were scattered to the four winds I grabbed the concrete ducks that sat in each of their respective yards. Every time I see them a smile creeps across my face and I’m reminded of the special occasions when my mom’s family would gather at our house and my two great-grandmas, Nora and Grace, would sit three feet apart and not say a word to each other. If a tarantula would have been crawling down Grace’s face Nora wouldn’t have said a word. I don’t think it was so much that they didn’t like each other, I have no concrete evidence of that. (Well, maybe I do!) It’s just that they came from different worlds and had nothing in common.
It’s unreal how much each duck mirrors their namesake. Nora the Duck is larger than your average duck and dwarfs Grace the Duck. Grandma Nora wasn’t fat, mind you, she was just a large woman, big boned, with arms that looked like she could out arm wrestle a blacksmith. Diminutive Grace, frail as a China doll, has a chipped beak, and looks like she could break in two at any minute. So too did her her namesake.
Grandma Nora was a hardy, plainspoken country gal from hardworking farm and oilfield folk. She had an orchard before moving into town later in life where she lived in a small, tidy house down in the valley. I got the impression she didn’t have a lot of extra cash laying around. I can’t ever remember her being sick, doubt that she spent two days in a hospital in her life, and lived to be over 90 years old. She wasn’t what I’d call the jovial type but at least she’d wink at you once in awhile and I believe if this young teenager would have asked, she’d have given me a sip or two of beer after I mowed her lawn.
Grandma Grace, on the other hand, was pure city person, if you can call a town of less than 10,000 a city. She was the dutiful high-society wife, married to the town mayor, fire chief and leading businessman. She was a big shot in the Eastern Star, lived high on a hill and wouldn’t say you-know-what if her mouth was full of it. She lived a much shorter life than Grandma Nora and I always thought, a much sadder one too.
Even though she was a foot shorter, I got the impression that Grandma Grace looked down her nose at Grandma Nora. It was almost palpable, as if Grace came from a higher caste. On holidays, which was the only time we dared put them in the same room, Grandma Nora would join in the penny-ante card games and would share a beer with Uncle Buddy. I’m quite sure this mortified Grandma Grace to no end.
Grandma Grace was deeply religious, the daughter of a minister who built one of the first churches in town. And when I say “built” I mean with his two hands. Grandma Nora, on the other hand, spent about as many days in church as she did in the hospital.
Grandma Nora lived a frugal life and didn’t pay much when I mowed her lawn and weeded her rose garden. She was very particular about her yard and would inspect the job I did and always have a complaint, suggestion and occasionally even a compliment. Grandma Grace paid much better and seemed appreciative, but would not have come outside to inspect my work if the house was on fire.
It’s spooky how much Grandma Nora and Grandma Grace were like the ducks of the same names. They remind me of country folks and city slickers who simply don’t understand each other. The city lady and the country gal, side by side in our yard, and they still haven’t said a word to one another in years. F