During our youth and through our early adulthood, my sisters and I had the gift of a feisty, ingenious, aesthetically discerning, deeply religious, strict and unwaveringly interested Grandmother. Through the years I have become evermore grateful for her astute intelligence, her love, guidance and absolutely, her discipline. Her voice flows within me along with my own. Sometimes it tickles my funny bone but mostly it is patient and encouraging.
I remember one time, when I was with her, I was painting some cherubs and had just finished a rather nice one with curly black hair. I probably called her attention to it, “look Gramma Dee.” She looked away from whatever hand work she was doing, to asses it. “Angels don’t have black hair,” she admonished. I was startled. I looked into her face, her dark eyes and jet black hair with wonder. I said nothing, went back to my work and started a blond cherub. “Is it because of all the light in heaven, Gramma?” She nodded, “no it’s just the way God makes them.” I thought of her beautiful hair, so black it reflected blue like the night sky, casting the light of the millions of diamonds woven into its swirling mane. The contrast between her own physical beauty and her words helped me to set my conviction that God has no such preferences.
Her world was full of antiquated devotion and all the antediluvian portrayals and adornments that went along with such belief. I didn’t mind the contradictions because I loved the oiled darkened pews, the dusty velvet prie-dieu, the vaulted stone arches, echoed footsteps, hushed whispers and stifled coughs, the private porticos, carved confessionals with sliding screens, white wrist-gloves, black laced caplets, starched collars, long cloth buttoned robes, the wistful saints, crying Mary, Jesus, both grotesque and beautiful in his unimaginable suffering and the breathtaking stain glass that went along with it. Angels everywhere, the alluring, robed, sirens, with heavily feathered wings, partially human deities that could fly between worlds and out of harms way, I loved them the most.