My Grandma Clifford was a rare bird. In my childhood, she lived in Oklahoma City in a historic home near downtown, a home which my great-grandfather built on land gifted to him from some family friends, the Nichols. Her father died young, as did her husband Harry, my grandfather. In the early 70's she moved back into her childhood home to help care for her aging mother, Minnie. Growing up I would visit Grandma there, for holidays, dinners, and special sleepovers. Wonderful memories.
The enchanting old house had a personality all her own. Full of history and decadence, a 100 year old Steinway, and the ultimate nooks and crannies ripe for the playful mind of a child. The dining room sat 24. Comfortably. There were velvet chairs, Fortuny silk drapes, and chandeliers that would take your breath away. Tucked up amidst the bedrooms on the second floor, which you could reach via elevator, was a giant cedar closet fitted for table linens. For a kid of the 70's, it was like stepping back in time. And yet, this was just my Grandma's house. For all I knew, every kid had a grandma like mine.
The house was filled with finery and treasures, but Grandma Clifford never asked us to be anything but kids there. As I said before, she was one-of-a-kind. An amazing combination of strength and sophistication mixed with grit and no-nonsense. I've seen my Grandma clean quail, dove, and many a fish. That same night she'd clean herself up and entertain for a formal dinner event. She could hunt, fish, cook and was a whiz at scoring a baseball game. A die-hard Sooner football fan, it was not uncommon to hear her scoff at the refs for a bad call. "Come on, Zebra!" Grandma cared for others with a wide open generosity; her table, albeit gigantic, was a welcome place for many.
I've always loved the dichotomy of her rugged and refined selves. It was just so unlikely. So many of us women in this day and age grapple and question with identity and where we fit. At least I do. But she never gave a second thought to just being herself. Her beautiful, multi-faceted, amazing self. Plinky Child's Piano is a nostalgic little song I wrote about her. They don't make them like that anymore.