My grandmother’s back yard was small but for me
it was always pleasant. Paul Scarlett red roses grew on the fence along with
sweet smelling Honeysuckle. Privet hedge immediately out the back door lent
its aromatic nostril-tweeking, also. Birds of every kind made the restful
place their own. A giant tree stood with sprawling branches to create a
canopy over the entire space and tiny berries from the neighbor’s Hackberry
tree were part of what drew the squirrels as they frolicked, like spoiled
children, up and down the trucks of the trees.
On this day, so long ago, there was a break from
everything peaceful. My little sister stood on the small cement patio
directly outside the back door and she was crying. Always small and thin she
was the youngest of all the children and sometimes was left out as the often
greedy, older children made their demands answered simply by being the
“squeaky wheel.” Her delicate spirit and quiet ways made her the child that
was often over looked when it came to owning toys. However, somehow she
possessed a doll that always rested in the crook of her arm. It was her,
one, true possession. The only child who lived next door was my sister’s
playmate. This little girl was pampered as only children can be. There was
no end to the many playthings she possessed but, as is often the case, the
child’s eyes had fallen on the doll so lovingly cradled in her friend’s arm.
A pulling contest between the two children ripped one of the doll’s legs
from its body and stuffing came pouring out of its body.
The tears my little sister cried were so heart
rending but what could I possibly do to slow her grief? It was then, my
grandfather stepped out of the back door and came down the steps to where
this small play was being acted out.
Of course, Grandfather was so admired by his
granddaughters. He was tall and had delicate, handsome, fine-features. His
manners were impeccable and this made us believe that he had, indeed, been
raised at a hacienda in Mexico where servants combed his hair and dressed
him until he was sixteen. The ring on his long tapering fingers held the
crest of his Spanish family. It was with this ring he sealed the wax on the
back of the letters he sent home and that same crest appeared again on
letters he received. He was the only one who could read the elegant, flowing
letters which held penmanship all in Spanish.
Now Grandfather was reaching down for my
“Don’t cry, Sweetheart!” He spoke with perfect
English. “Let me see your little dollie?” And all the while he was soothing
my sister’s sadness because of her loss he was also pulling needle and
thread from his pocket.
His fingers with their manicured nails were
pushing the doll’s stuffing back in place. As soon as the doll was put
together again he carefully took needle and threat and stiched the torn
places on the toy. We never heard Grandfather speak his Native language all
in the interest that we not be separated and taken out of the “main-stream.”
One of us observed later in life and lamented.
“I wonder what was in that main- stream?”
And so it is, today. I often watch and listen to
comments made by those who cry about someone speaking another language in
their midst. My mind goes back to the soft Ponca language my grandmother
spoke so fluently even though that was only when her sisters came to visit.
Somehow or another, I feel sad that is all gone. But the saddest thing was;
I never learned my Grandfather’s native language, Spanish. Now as Mother,
the last bridge to the Ponca language, will soon be gone, I guess we will,
for sure, finally be, in that “main-stream.”