I love this picture for a few reasons: 1. These are my great grandmas, Blanche (left) and Nell. They’re sitting by my sister, Ali. 2. The grandmas are like, “Look at us! We’re sitting by a BABY! Quick, Nell. Let’s put on our ear protection!” 3. Blanche and Nell helped raise about half the people in my family. (And any number of them are welcome to correct what I say next.)
Blanche could have been an MLB scout. She sized up the local company teams, and could pinpoint who would win the regionals. She died in 1984, after she saw her Detroit Tigers win the series. Nell was a schoolteacher, and then a school principal, and then the house mother for a sorority. Back while she was teaching (I think), she wasn’t supposed to be married—so, from the school board at least, she just hid that part of her life. I believe I’ve also heard that she drove like a bat out of hell. Blanche did not drive, because when she was 15, she hit a cow while she was going about 10 miles an hour. She got out of the driver’s seat, and walked home. (The cow walked home, too.)
For the last few years of their lives, Blanche and Nell lived together, in the house where I sometimes go to work on my novel. They backed through the garage door once, because Nell forgot to put it up. When Nellie threw the car into reverse, Blanche knew the door was still down, but she couldn’t get the words out fast enough to warn Nell. And really, Nell was pretty hard of hearing Blanche anyway, so crash they went.
At that cottage, I thought of them whenever I left the driveway. In fact, I thought of them a lot. A great number of people have lived around that house; it’s been on our homestead for over a hundred years. But somewhat surprisingly, Blanche and Nell were the presence I actually felt. There they were, sitting in their chairs, clasping their handbags, as I went in and out.
“Did she put up the door?”
“I just saw her do it.”
“Did she put the door down?”
“She hasn’t left yet.”
“Are you wearing my glasses?”