“There are angels masquerading as people walking around this planet”. No matter what anyone says or thinks, Fried Green Tomatoes will always be one of my favorite movies, and it is a source of great wisdom for me. While Fannie Flagg, nor the screenwriters, ever knew Dora Inez Lamb, they were talking about her. At the corner of Blood Road and Brocker Road, in Metamora, Michigan, on a large horse farm, lived one such angel. My great-grandmother, my “warm” grandma.
The memories I have of her are scattered and partial, but I remember the feeling that she gave me. I always called her my “warm” grandma. I was only blessed to have two grandmothers, and they are both on my father’s side of my immediate family. My mother’s mother passed away when she was seventeen, so when I was born in 1985, I only had the chance to know my father’s mother, my grandma Scott, and my father’s grandmother, my grandma Lamb.
She was 78 years old when I was born, but she quickly became one of my best friends. She could, and often did, find shenanigans of all kinds. She never found danger, but she found things that even as partial memories are some of my most vivid. I distinctly remember making raspberry jam, peach cobbler, and deviled eggs. To this day, I will not eat raspberry jam, peach cobbler, or deviled eggs. I only want to experience and remember one taste for each of those foods, and that taste is hers.
I remember feeding feral cats and setting those cats loose on the woman that rented my grandmother’s second floor. I remember my grandmother’s mean dog, Tinker, the snotty little Pomeranian. I remember her big cat, Mama. I remember my grandma telling me stories, and I couldn’t recite any of them if I tried. Every time I see an organ or a piano, and I am allowed, I reach out and touch the keys. My grandma often tried to teach me to play, telling me that I had piano hands. I remember the feeling of being with her, but I can’t recall the specifics any longer.
Keeping memories is something that I am good at. Among my tight circle of friends, family, and to the ladies that run the photo department at Walgreens, I am a legend. I take pictures of everything, and there are few spaces along the walls in my home that don’t have a frame. Additionally, there are few tables or counter spaces that don’t have a photo or album either. One of my many ambitions as a home owner is to turn the already finished basement into another living room. To create a welcoming space, I have lined the walls leading downstairs with photos.
There is one photograph that hits me right at eye level when I am about halfway down the stairs. Every day when I go downstairs to retrieve laundry, a pair of shoes, run on the treadmill, or get the dogs up from a nap, I see her. I see my warm grandma holding me in her lap.
She was probably whispering something to me, making me giggle the light laugh of a three year old. “You know, they land in our fields.” I’ll never forget when my grandma told me that Metamora, Michigan was an alien landing ground. She had the entire Time Life book series and the one about UFOs was a bedtime story one night. My great grandma would often have me at her farm to spend the night and spoil me when I was growing up. Metamora, Michigan is famous for a lot of things including historic farms, rich horse country, The White Horse Inn, and not so fabulously, a toxic waste site. However, I am sure that many residents do not know of the aliens. My grandma knew things that other people do not.
She’s smiling, and the only lines on her face are those that trace back to 81 years of laughter. I am smiling too, and I have six visible teeth. I also have my tongue sticking out a little, which is something that still happens when I laugh. Her hair, like mine, was light. Mine was the corn silk color of youth, and hers was white without a hint of gray. That may be why I called white hair “angel hair” for many years.
I am three years old in the picture, and it was late April, 1988. I am wearing a white and turquoise Minnie Mouse sweatshirt, which I am sure was all the rage among my preschool friends. Grandma Lamb was wearing a pastel pink polo shirt with white stripes. The long sleeves were fitting for each of us. One of our favorite things to do was play on my swing set in my parents’ backyard.
Her eyes strike me. They are the same shade of worn comfortable denim as my dad’s, and as my own. I find it funny that I share the same eyes as my warm grandma, because I would have loved to have known what she saw, what her life was really like, and what she thought of the world. She passed away when I was thirteen. I was not yet old enough to ask her the right questions about life and experiences. Although I doubt she could have told me. Dementia began its slow descent on my grandma’s mind long before she died.
There is something honorable about carrying her eyes into the world. I am looking at the world for both of us now. Many times I hope that I am making her proud, doing what I do. When I drive through Metamora, I still look at the fields and chuckle, just a little, about the aliens. I look at horses and think of my grandma’s farm. I have driven by the house multiple times, wishing that I had the means to buy it, regardless of the fact that someone else already own it.
When I stop halfway down the basement stairs, I see many things in this photo. I see my warm grandma, I see myself, and I see someone else taking the picture. There is a third party present in the room. Another person that saw us and managed to capture the essence of what it was like to be in my great grandmother’s presence. That person’s eyes saw us as we were, and for me, what I can remember about my Grandma Lamb begins there.
I see a face without any lines, minus smiles. I see white angel hair without a trace of gray. I see a little girl with a big smile and fair hair. I see two people genetically destined to share the same eye color. I see what I hope to be at 81. I see a graceful woman that told marvelous stories and made a little girl her best friend, her “baby”. Not coincidentally, she’s slightly behind me, and to my left, just over my shoulder.
I suppose that is where angels are supposed to ride.