There are certain things they don’t tell you about grandmothers: they can be cunning under all that silver hair and talcum powder. Gullible, unsuspecting little girls don’t stand a chance. I know. I learned the hard way. Here is my cautionary tale:
I always loved to help around the house, and my mother and grandmother put up with my constantly being in the way as they did laundry, cleaned house, sewed, painted and cooked. They didn’t have to put up my being underfoot too often, for of course if it were any sort of decent weather at all I would be outside playing with the animals. But one day I just got too full of myself. My mother had gone to a china painting lesson, the menfolk were out working, and it was a rainy day. I was in the house with Grandmother and at loose ends.
I don’t know what caused all the trouble, but I took in my head that I was too good to be helping around the house. For some unknown reason, I wanted to be a queen.
My grandmother looked at me sideways, and after a long pause asked, “What does Her Majesty desire?”
“A Dr. Pepper,” I replied.
She brought me a frosty one she had chilling in the freezer and poured it over ice. This Queen business was turning out to be a pretty good life. It was too bad I hadn’t thought of it before.
“You need a crown and a scepter,” she explained, and fashioned me a construction-paper crown and a scepter from a yardstick. Then, for what seemed the longest time, she brought “Her Majesty” everything she asked for.
But as the day wore on, my grandmother said she would have to be excused from Her Majesty’s service briefly, for there was housework to be done before everyone came home. I jumped out of the rocking chair – er, throne – to join in the excitement of getting out the wonderful paraphernalia of cleaning: brooms and brushes and rags and furniture polish, silver polish and Bon Ami and Pine Sol.
But Grandmother would have none of this.
“Oh, no,” she explained, “A queen does nothing all day but sit on her throne. You must just sit and watch.”
By then my legs were falling asleep and I was bored to tears. I watched in complete misery as she carefully picked up the tiny crystal and silver bottles from her ornate, carved Victorian dressing table and began to polish. Then she started, as we always did during housework, to sing the old Southern folk songs. But when I joined in, she held up a hand to silence me: “Queens are to be entertained, not to entertain. If you want singing, one of your subjects has to do it.”
No polishing? No singing? Just sit in that rocking chair all day? That did it; I could stand it no longer.
“I don’t wanna be a queen any more!” I wailed.
At just the right moment she looked me right in the eye and asked, “Do you realize that if you give up the throne you can never get it back?”
“I don’t care! I wanna sing ‘Old Dan Tucker’!”
And thus ended the brief reign of H.R.H. Jill the First, Queen of Austin Street.
The moral of this true story is to be very, very careful around fragile little grandmothers: they can outfox you in a New York – or Old South – minute.
©Jill Teresa Farmer 2015