Thursday, May 16, 2013


She was soft and smelled like candied orange slices and then other times like coffee and sweet cream.  She would snuggle me in bed, holding me with a kind of love I never knew before nor after, and she taught me how to relax.  Whispering quietly, she would say, "Beginning with your toes, relax them.  Then relax your feet. Then your knees."  By the time she reached my tummy, I would be fast asleep, all curled up in her loving arms. It was here that nothing would ever hurt me, and I was safe.

She had a claw footed bathtub that she would fill with rose scented bubble bath and I would soak until I was all wrinkly and pink.  She would dry me off with towels that had hung on a clothesline and smelled of sunshine and warm grass and  then usher me to her feather bed.  There was a little soft light on my side table that glowed, highlighting the features of her tiny little bedroom. She always left it on all night so that I wouldn't be afraid.

Now looking back on it, it was at that time in my life when I felt for the first time what it was like to be loved and truly cherished.  My grandmother was the first woman pharmacist in Oklahoma City.  She had her own drug store and soda fountain. And she had a 'sap', with which she would swat the hands of shoplifters.  I still have the 'sap' and cherish it as I did and do her.

My fondest memories were of her sitting at her dining room table with her Smith Corona typewriter busy doing something 'grownup'.  Next to her typewriter was a crystal candy dish with the candied orange slices and a cup of coffee.  Occasionally she would pour me a dainty Dresden cup of warm milk and a little coffee and sugar.  And we would sit and talk, and she would tell me how much she loved me. I felt special and cared for and I felt like nothing would ever hurt me or change from the feeling I was feeling then.

There were special times I would visit her and she and I would sit on the floor in front of a cedar chest.  She would open it almost religiously and the fragrance of cedar would permeate the room.  Inside were packets of crinkled blue tissue paper that contained haunting memories for me that have remained to this day. 

She would take them out one at a time and gently remove the paper without damaging it. Inside each were treasures that belonged to another place and time and people.  Cherokee Indian hand beaded bags, sashes, tobacco pouches, blankets, and moccasins.  They mesmerized me.  She told me stories of how the Indians came into her drugstore and ask to trade these 'treasures' for tobacco.  She obliged and today my love of 'all things Indian' persists.  And my love of my grandmother lingers deep in the inner recesses of my being. 

I thank her for those moments that came and passed all too quickly.  I thank her for letting me know once upon a time what it was like to feel loved and to feel safe.

She passed when I was still quite young.  And I missed her terribly.  I still do. But I find myself thinking of her often, as my home is blessed with the Indian treasures she left me in the old cedar chest.  I have had them mounted and framed.  They are well over a hundred years old I feel quite certain. 

They warm my home and my heart.  And I could swear there are times when I can smell that sweet fragrance of candied orange slices and coffee, as I pass these pieces  of Cherokee history and of mine.

I often find myself trying to remember what it was like to feel loved and safe.  And then I remember my grandma, the love she lavished on me and the memories that will last a lifetime...memories that are like medicine to me that I pull out and unwrap much like the Indian treasures we opened and gently removed from the blue tissue paper. It is these memories I shall cherish and rely upon whenever I am feeling wobbly and unsure of life! She taught me to relax and to feel safe and warm and loved with her very special medicine. My grandma the Medicine Woman.

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