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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Granny-O and Transportation

By the time they had the first several children, Granny and Grandpa led a busy life. Granny spoke of meal preparation when the family was at its largest: frying 4 chickens, cooking 10 pounds of potatoes, serving 2 loaves of bread and a gallon of milk . . . that was for one meal. There were clothes to be made, from the underwear all the way out, and laundered and ironed. A house to clean, several children at different schools, once there was a sizable age span. It was determined that great efficiency could be attained if Granny could drive a car and combine errands.

It happened that Aunt Ruth was left at home with all the younger siblings while Grandpa and Granny went out in the Model A. They were gone less than an hour. No other driving lesson ever took place. No one still living today knows what happened during that time. She was able to handle certain types of machinery and implements well - a sewing machine, hand tools, kitchen gadgets, hatchet to slaughter the chickens for dinner and not at the cost of her own digits . . . but apparently not a car. My Granny never did drive an automobile, but - by God - she could get around.

First there was the walking: she walked longer, farther, older than most people. After Grandpa died, she was content with walking to the grocery market and pulling her purchases home in her granny cart. Sure, she liked it when one of us came along in a car and she could make bigger purchases, but she didn't complain. Once, when Grandpa was in the hospital in the winter, she walked to visit him with her umbrella against the rain. The belt to his bathrobe had dipped into the toilet and he was a fastidious man. She walked home with her umbrella against the rain, washed the belt, ironed it and wrapped it in plastic. She walked back to the hospital to deliver it to him. She was 70 years old and the hospital was 3 miles away. She still had to walk herself on back home, too!

But Granny's true transportation forte was riding the buses. There was nowhere in Los Angeles County that Granny couldn't travel with ease and speed. She knew all the routes, where to take a transfer and what time the next bus came. Throughout her 60s, she took the bus to visit her daughters and grandchildren a couple of days a week. From Santa Monica to Long Beach and West L.A. to Pomona, rode Granny with her bags. While riding on the Freeway Flyer, she'd piece quilts. When her stop was near, she'd take off her thimble and put away the fabric pieces. After pulling the cord to indicate she wanted the next stop, she'd gather the bags, typically containing her quilting, National Geographic magazines to be shared, a layer cake she'd made, outgrown clothing from one cousin to be given to another.

Ex and I had set up housekeeping and, like most teens, we had nothing to start with. Granny boarded the Greyhound and headed for L.A. with more luggage than the law allowed. There was some concern that the VW Beetle wasn't going to be able to handle Granny, Limes, Ex and all the luggage, but we managed. Think: Jed, Granny, Jethro and Ellie May pulling into Beverly Hills. The 72-year-old woman had packed and transported everything from a CorningWare coffee maker to bath towels, from sheets to a hand mixer. We could actually survive and even thrive for years on what she'd brought. On the Greyhound bus!

When I was in elementary school,I loved Wednesdays because that's the day Granny took the bus to our house. When I came home from school, she'd be in the living room, piecing a quilt, talking with my mother, waiting for me. We'd visit and talk. My Granny and I never ran out of things to talk about. There was never silence between us because there were too many things to be said. At 4:30, we'd start packing Granny up. We'd wait to hear the toot of the Helms Bakery truck pulling up in front of our place. My mother and I carried Granny's bags. The Helms man always handed me a free cookie and took Granny's elbow to help her up into the truck. Once firmly lodged in the truck, she'd take hold of the brass handle and ride standing to the bus stop. Mr. Helms transported her that way for years. 4:45 on Wednesdays, so she could get home and make Grandpa's dinner by 6:00.

This post started with just snippets of memories. The soundtrack might be "the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round." I think this is my concluding thought, though: little inconveniences such as walking 12 miles in the rain (in four separate 3-mile spurts) to wash and iron a man's bathrobe belt, or hauling bags and bags of stuff 25 miles aross Los Angeles County on the bus while keeping one's hands busy with quilting in the moments unclaimed by other demands . . . . didn't stop her from doing what she needed to do. I don't believe I ever heard her complain about anything. Not once. She just did what she did, and didn't let much get in her way.

Last Saturday night as I took a life step, I was sent an e-mail that said, "I am so proud of you. You do what needs to be done!" Oh, my dear one, I am an amateur, an abecedarian, a dilettante. But she's an inspiration and I can learn!

In my ears right now: The Who - Magic Bus. What else? Maybe Magical Mystery Tour would also be appropriate.

Something that charmed me: Finding an image online of a genuine Helms Bakery truck. They were beautifully appointed with oak cabinetry and drawers and they smelled as good as the wares they were carrying. Little old ladies didn't need to be concerned about accepting a ride to the bus stop with one of the gentlemen in white uniforms.


  1. My grandmother never owned or drove a car, either. She walked and took the bus until her late 80s, anyway, probably longer. I spent a lot of time with her, and we were compatible that way. I loved to walk, and we would walk all over town together, eschewing even the bus on many an occasion.

  2. I love the stories about Youthful Badger and Mumma in Erie. You were the apple of her eye.