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Dance by the Light of the Moon III

August 27, 2009

Nanny was always hot.  In the summer she’d sit right in front of a floor fan with sweat dripping from her face.  She had a collection of hand-held fans I loved to spread out on the floor and look at.  She’d tell me stories about where she got them.  The paintings on the fans are what intrigued me.  They were like stories, unfolding slowly, revealing a little at a time until you could see the whole picture.

In the evening when the sun had lowered into the western horizon she might sit on the porch swing. The air was pregnant with the seductive scent of grapes maturing on the arbor.  I’d gaze at the cemetery across the street.  Sometimes she’d read me stories from the old Childcraft books that had old-fashioned pen and ink drawings in them.  I loved the story of the princess with the thirteen mattresses and the pea.


We were at a wedding reception, in line for food, when Nanny leaned over and whispered asked me, “Have you started your period yet?”

I remember being slightly shocked my grandmother was asking me that.


“Don’t worry, I started late.  All the other girls at school started before me.  They used to talk about it in the bathroom, so I’d pretend like I’d started too and carried around pads with me.  The doctors always told me I’d never have children.  But obviously they were wrong.  I got married older than most women, especially for that time.  I was forty when I had your mother.”  I remember looking at her “mother’s ring” that had her four children’s birthstones on it and thinking how beautiful her hands were.

I have a picture from that wedding.  It’s of me dancing with Nanny; I’m laughing and she’s wearing a pink dress.  There’s also a picture of her dancing with the groom.  She was always dancing.  She would break out into the Charleston at any random moment.  My mom does it skillfully, with the ankles twisting back and forth sharply in a way I can’t ever master.

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