I have been thinking back on all the people I’ve met before in my life. One of the people I remember very vividly (and miss a lot) is my Grandma Polly.

She wasn’t really my grandmother. No, my paternal grandmother died of tuberculosis when my father was thirteen, and my maternal one is living in another city in China. Grandma Polly was my mother’s English tutor, and later friend. She should be about…oh I don’t know…maybe eighty or so now?

But I do know that she was probably the kindest and most gentle person I’ve ever known.

Grandma Polly was thin and pale, and she had…greyish blue eyes, and there were these very fine, very delicate wrinkles on her face. Her curly hair was blondish-red. And she wore clothes that were light colors, like lavender. So really, in my mind, she was like the stereotypical grandmother–soft and delicate and faded, like a pressed flower, or old patterned wallpaper.

Her house was a classic “grandmother’s house”, too. It was low and not very big, because it had been built in the 60’s. Grandpa Bob, her husband, had bought it with his first wife when they got married, and Grandma Polly started to live there with him when they got married. It had this big backyard, though, with tall trees, and one year I remember her entire backyard was littered with empty cicada shells.

There was a lot of furniture in Grandma Polly’s house. Not a lot, I guess, but since everything was in warm tones, and there were all these little knick-knacks that she and Grandpa Bob had accumulated over the years, it seemed very full. It also smelled…old, the house; not unpleasant, just old, and the house was always filled with this quiet that made you feel like time had stopped whenever you went in.

Her living room had a very thick carpet, and this beautiful glass cabinet in the shape of a carriage. And a fireplace, and wide windows. The dining room had this wide, wide table made of dark polished wood, with a chandelier overhead, and even though I don’t remember seeing her use the table or light up the chandelier, the dining room had the feeling that it was waiting. Like the table and the fancy lights had seen lovely dinner parties in the past and were waiting for the day when another dinner party was held. And in one part of the house, there was this little space with red brick walls and high-backed seats like those in a diner, and it was dark and cozy and private, and sitting in the space made you feel like you were in a little restaurant in Italy. At least, that’s what I thought.

I can’t remember everything about the house, which is a shame, since I know it was beautiful. It had this aura of age. Grandpa Bob and his first wife both died there, and it was full of memories, of him, and Grandma Polly, and their children. Maybe all old houses are like this, but anyway, it was full of memories like particles of dust, and wherever you looked, you could smell something or touch something that would make you stop, for a moment, and almost see the past happen before you.

Most importantly, Grandma Polly was full of memories. She used to be a teacher, and she had beautiful, beautiful handwriting–light, loopy, perfect cursive–and we still have some postcards she sent us, that are filled with it. Her voice was always soft, her movements slow and graceful. She was a walking antique, all fragile-looking and faded. And she respected everyone–she was gentle. She was a Christian, but she knew my parents weren’t, so she never tried to force us into her religion or anything; she never said anything about my parents’ decisions; she would just nod and smile and wish us well. I guess she was raised in a time where people were supposed to mind their own business and be pleasant, but she really was nice, just because of her own personality.

I wish I could be like her. Quiet and refined and delicate and polite. And gentle. I regret having something of a temper, and I really do think of her a lot, and try to be as kind as she was. We’ve lost touch and all, but I do miss her, and I’m glad I got to know someone like her when I was little.

Because she’s one of those people that you think back on when you’re old, and feel grateful to have been around, if only for a brief time.

I hope I can be like that, and maybe leave a positive influence on the people I meet.

2 thoughts on “Gentle”

  1. You are a very good writer! I read your entire post. I feel like I know your Grandma Polly from your descriptions of her—and of her house.
    I had a kind and gentle grandmother, too, who was the Light of my childhood. I have grown older and become more like her. You may find this happens for you, too.
    Why don’t you get in touch with her again? I bet it would more than make her day!
    I am sure she loves you very much.

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