Up In Flames
My paternal grandmother Throcky rarely went out anywhere with me. I wanted to do so, very much, but she was prickly and difficult and prone to surprising changes of mood. And I was unfortunate.
I remember when I was little more than a toddler (before I had started school) and Grandmother Throcky took me to lunch at a fancy restaurant downtown where the diners were dressed up and well-behaved. I felt very grownup when I spread the cloth napkin in my lap and my grandmother helped me chose which silverware to use. I had a shrimp cocktail arranged on the rim of a small cut glass crystal bowl of crushed ice, and a taste of my grandmother's Waldorf salad.* But she never took me out again. I believe that she could not get past thinking that I was not her granddaughter. She always complained that I was so "cute" and she was not, complaining that she had a big "hump" of a nose. I knew that she was jealous but I never knew what to do about it.
When I was a young woman I tried again to get to know her, to do things with her that we might both enjoy. I invited her to a play, some sort of Shakespeare-esque production in a community theater. But just minutes into the play, an actor walked across the stage, ostensively lighting a night scene with a live flame torch in an unfortunate excess of verisimilitude because as he walked along he held his torch so high aloft that it lit the theater curtains aflame as he went. As one the audience gasped and leapt to its feet. I never like to be stampeded, for all the obvious reasons, and I pulled my grandmother back from running into the aisle. "Throcky, stay here a minute, let's see which way they all run, then we'll go out a different exit." My grandmother stayed with me but she was very frightened and I feared that she would bolt and be crushed in the crowd. Quickly a man with a deep voice bellowed out, "Everyone sit down." We all looked around to see who had taken charge of this emergency. He blended back into the crowd, but then we saw that the actors had grabbed the burning theater curtains down off their rods and were busy folding them over to extinguish the flames. Of course, the play was spoiled with smoke and fear, and my Grandmother Throcky and I never went to another play together. She did not even come to see me act when later I joined a small theater group to perform in a few plays.
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* "A Waldorf salad is a fruit and nut salad generally made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and traditionally served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal. The apples, celery, and grapes can all be green, which harmonizes the color palette of the dish."
Caption: Theater Curtains Went Up In Flames
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019