A Gilded Frame
Time passes, but I never forget Gram and Gramp; I never will. Trips to Maine were infrequent, yet whenever I got “serious” about a new beau, off we’d go to see my hometown, Camden, Maine. I always stop by my Aunt Madonna’s in Lincolnville, as well, to show the man off to my last remaining bit of family. My Aunt’s house was a small ranch with an attached garage. It stood on a hillside overlooking a field of low-bush blueberries and into a forest of pines. Megunticook Lake was a distant glare on the horizon.
That summer, a year after Gram’s death, we arrived about noon. I knocked on the screen door, beau in tow.
No one answered. The door was open. I went in. The breezeway was cluttered, floor to ceiling, with what appeared to be the remnants of a tag sale. As my eye scanned the mass, Gramp’s old shaving mirror beckoned from the back corner. I remember my Mom begging her sister for the mirror for me. My Aunt, who had cared for both Gram and Gramp until their deaths, apparently felt entitled to all the remains. The mirror was of no monetary value, yet each piece held a bit of my grandparents. She told us it was all gone, sold to pay bills. Yet, there the treasure was.
I was beyond angry. As my date looked on, aghast, I waded through the mess of newspapers and empty beer bottles, and retrieved the plaster-gilded mirror.
“Geez, honey, what are you going to do when your Aunt asks you where the mirror went?”
The memories were rattling around behind my eyes like a marble in a pinball machine. Gramp with the Old Spice shaving mug and the boar bristle brush lathering his face. I bought him a new mug every Christmas from the age of eight to about fourteen. I can feel the brush on my own cheeks as a tot of four or five. I can smell the cinnamon and cedar wood, with just the right hint of vanilla, which made you crave a cookie from Grammy; oh, the smell of that soap. I can see the silvery straight razor in his hand and the razor strap hanging beside the mirror.
I also recall Aunt Donna having a not so pleasant use for that strap.
My anger at her brought bile up the back of my throat. I regretted not going back for the pile of unsold Louis L’Amour books; I given those to Gramps too. He loved a good shoot-um-up.
“Well, if she has the nerve to ask me,” I laughed, “I ask her what mirror she’s talking about?”
I brought the mirror home. I could have grabbed the clock my Mom wanted: a deer jumping over the log, and the cut glass hair-retainer my sister wanted, they were sitting right there. “Hell,” I thought, “let them steal their own tchotchkes.”
You know, she never did ask me where that mirror went. She knew I had been down for a visit; I told her.
Every morning, when I walk to my kitchen, I pass that mirror and nod to the ghost of Gramp’s. He wears a flannel shirt, red and black plaid. There’s still a dab of soap on his throat. There’s a glint in his steel gray eyes, and I swear I can smell Old Spice.