Is anything more intimate and personal than a bedroom?
My grandmothers have both been on my mind this weekend. Starkly different, they were both God-fearing women who had much different but equally fulfilling lives. I never knew a great deal about their early upbringing aside from a few scattered stories shared throughout the years.
Their bedrooms held parts of them they held close to their hearts. Both had small cardboard boxes tucked away in niches, filled with tiny black and white photos of a life before marriage and children and grandchildren.
My maternal grandmother shared her room with my grandfather until she passed away. It was not a room I entered often. It was not off limits, but there was an unspoken veil of privacy that cloaked the doorway.
She had a large dresser with a tilting oval mirror, the surface cloudy as the silver backing broke down. I wonder what she saw in the reflection returned as she stared into the wavy glass?
A hairbrush, comb, and hand mirror laid just on top alongside a glass dish with wide hairpins she used to contain her wispy grey hair.
Beside the dresser stood her foot treadle sewing machine. I am not sure I ever saw her sew anything except the quilts she made by hand. The large pineapple four-poster bed was always made neatly with the slightly faded white chenille bedspread.
My paternal grandmother, seventeen years younger than my grandfather, slept downstairs while my grandfather slept just at the top of the stairs. We often passed through her room to use the small bathroom just off the utility room that adjoined her bedroom.
Until this exact moment, I never thought about when and where my grandmother bathed. There was no tub downstairs and I never remember her going to the bathroom upstairs. But of course, I was a child and most likely never paid attention to such things.
A tall cedar wardrobe stood in the corner where her dresses hung. The drawer at the base of the wardrobe housed a cardboard Whitman’s chocolate box filled with her jewelry. The pop-beads were my favorite. Underneath the liner of the chocolate box was a small black bag that held six well-worn silver dollars, now tucked away in my safe deposit box.
A small shelf in the utility room held dainty shoes with short heels and ankle straps. Hats with netting secured by rhinestones sat on a shelf above.
Atop her dresser sat two antique bubble glass silhouettes framed in gold filigree. Portraits of Blue Boy and Pinkie hung on the wall. In the drawer were flat boxes of delicately shaped stockings which unfurled into the perfectly shaped leg. My grandmother would roll them at the base of her knee.
I have fond memories of applying Absorbine Junior to the bottoms of her feet after a long day. I wonder if she felt the arthritics pangs I now feel myself.
When they were both alive I treasured my time with them, both so wise, so intelligent, so matter-of-fact. At that age, I never imagined feeling the same aging pains they must have experienced.
I never questioned their judgement and their wisdom. I could never imagine growing into such wisdom and undeniable confidence. I cannot imagine they ever questioned their ability to advise and lead as I sometimes do. Did they ever question their wisdom and pray they knew the right things to say?
Was their bedrooms their sanctuary? I am not sure women of their generation thought much about having a sanctuary. Their role was to always be there anytime anyone needed them.
I asked a lot of these strong women and they always delivered no questions asked. I only hope I can show to others even half the strength, kindness, and wisdom they afforded me. I was doubly blessed.