Grama Shaw

Even though I have reached the ripe old age of 45 I still have one living grandparent, my paternal grandmother. I was asked to write a story about her and I have to admit that, sadly, I have not spent much time with my grandmother. For whatever reason, I was rarely around her growing up. I did see her from time to time but often years would go by without seeing her. As an adult the same has been true, we rarely talk or even see one another.

Worry not, I do have some memories from my childhood and I am very good at embellishment so I will share my earliest memory of my Grama Shaw. I was seven years old and my parents had been divorced for a couple years and my mother, whom I lived with, was remarried. At that time, my Grama lived in Crescent City the same town I was born and raised in. I remember my Grama lived in Crasher’s Trailer Court off of Northcrest Drive not far from Pine Grove Elementary where I attended as a student in Miss Daleys’ second grade class. I lived with my mother at 925 Vipond Drive a couple miles further out Northcrest Drive on the other side of the school. I am pretty sure Grama was working part time at G&G Antiques just up the road on Northcrest right across from the Northcrest Grocery. I am not positive but I think Grama used to walk back and forth from work in those days. I am not sure what Grampa Shaw did for work in those days.

The details leading up to the memory are missing but somehow I had worked a deal where I got to stay the night with my Grama Shaw. I think my little brother had managed to stay over there a few weeks before and I was just trying to get my turn. I hung out in the single wide trailer helping my Grama do crossword puzzles and watching television with my Grampa. I do not think they had a single thing for a kid to do in their entire trailer. As old people always do we went to bed early and got up really early in the morning. Of course being in their fifties, and early fifties at that, they were not really old I just thought they were.

In the morning my Grama made breakfast and I was a little too young to take coffee and so there was really nothing for me to drink with my breakfast of eggs and toast. I was barely able to avoid having to put jam on my toast. I wanted it just with butter and Grama insisted I put jam on it and I held my ground. My eggs were cooked over easy and that meant runny yolks which was just awful for me. I was managing to eat the egg white and dutifully avoiding the yolk when my Grama asked me if I wanted some orange juice. I definitely wanted orange juice but I was pretty sure there was none in the refrigerator.

At that time I remembered you could make orange juice from scratch. I remembered watching my other Grama take a can out of the freezer and peeling off that white thing and taking the metal top off the cardboard can. They would squeeze the frozen blob out of the can into a pitcher and add water and stir. I had seen orange juice made and I knew how it was done. I was a smart seven year old and I knew just about everything. Then like now, I would just fake it when I was not sure. My entire world was about to be turned upside down.

Grama Shaw went to the cupboard and drug out an old ash tray from the deep recesses of a seldom used cupboard above the refrigerator. Nobody in my family smoked so the only time we used ash trays was when we were eating sunflower seeds so I thought it rather peculiar that she was dragging out this fancy looking glass ash tray. Grama grabbed a big knife and a couple oranges from a basket on the counter and chopped the two oranges in half. I was still very bewildered and I really thought she had offered me orange juice. At that point in my life, oranges were fruit and had absolutely nothing to do with orange juice which was a drink.

Well the story went from strange to truly bizarre as I watched Grama take half an orange and impale it on the ash tray. Not satisfied with throwing the orange away she proceeded to destroy it. I mean destroy it. This was not the usual routine people used when they snuffed a cigarette out, but I mean shoving it down hard and twisting back and forth pretty viciously. I was thinking take it easy woman. After all that, she took what remained of that poor pathetic abused half of an orange and threw it in the garbage under the sink. I was pretty sure half an orange would not have started a fire in the garbage.

At that moment the crazy old bird grabbed another half of an orange and repeated the process. I was not even sure how she could tell the oranges were no good. She sure was not happy with her oranges. I thought they smelled pretty good to me. I watched in amazement and just kept quiet because I could tell the woman was seriously pissed off about something.

At about the time I was pushing my eggs around my plate and trying to ignore the antics of my Grama, she turned her wrath toward me. I saw her pick up the ashtray and dump it into a glass and she brought it to me to drink. I was scared to death and had no idea why she would do such a thing. The glass was full of an orange colored liquid but all across the top of the liquid were scales. I thought this just looked entirely nasty. Maybe runny egg yolks are not so bad after all. The warm glass of rotten orange covered in fish scales was making my stomach turn and I was thinking about crying. I was pretty sure if I cried I would get my ass beat and good. My Grampa was one mean man and he had little tolerance for children. I was pretty sure I would be forced to eat that egg and drink that glass full of ash tray dumpings.
I sucked it up and ate the egg first and managed to sop up the runny yellow goo with my toast and it really was not half as bad as I thought it would be. I stared down that glass and thought if I closed my eyes maybe I could do it. I decided to try just a sip. I kept my lips tight to the glass and did not let any of the fish scales get into my mouth and they ended up covering my upper lip where I was able to rub them off and wipe them on my pants. The ash tray remnants were warm but did not really taste that bad. I suffered through and when the glass was about a quarter full I jumped up and took my plate to the sink and rinsed it off and rinsed the glass out. I never complained one time but I was sufficiently traumatized to never want to eat at my Gramas’ house ever again.

I would not experience fresh squeezed orange juice again until I was in my twenties and I have to admit that I may have judged Grama Shaw a little harshly on that day in 1973.

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