Creative Non-Fiction

This Old Thing?


They’re called fox tails. Of course, they aren’t foxes at all. They’re minks lined up nose to tail, their little glass eyes making them look like escapees from the taxidermist’s shop. Back in the day, sophisticated ladies wore them around their necks. Back in my day, I wore them, too. But mainly for fun, and because in the ’70’s, we wore all kinds of things.

When these fox tails were new, they belonged to Grandma John. That’s your great-grandma on your dad’s side. She was gone before you were born.

Her real name was Sarah, but the family called her Grandma John. You see, John Winkler, her second husband, was the only grandpa your dad and his sisters had ever known, and they called him Grandpa John, so I guess her being tagged as Grandma John just naturally followed.

I met her on my visit to meet my prospective in-laws. My first look at western Kansas was in the middle of a blizzard, and I slept my first night with the strangers who plucked your dad and me from the storm, although they were, technically, relatives of relatives. It was the next afternoon before we were able to tunnel through the snowdrifts to Grandma John’s home.

You would have liked her ranch-style house. The front room was spacious, and it was completely 1950’s. The couch was square and firm, the drapes at the big picture window were made of bark cloth, and the carpet was that hard, knobby wool that discouraged stocking feet. The room looked like it had seen lots of ladies’ club meetings and bridge games.

However, the kitchen wasn’t 1950’s. It was timeless. In the center was a work table with a marble top, and the walls were lined with white built-in cabinets, the uppers fronted with glass, behind which were all the beautiful crockery, china, and home-canned goods Grandma John employed to serve the meals which helped you forgive her astringent personality.

She made no fuss over me when we were introduced. Now that I know more about the chemistry and politics of the family, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even cause a ripple in her puddle. But I didn’t feel unwelcome. Maybe I was too exhausted from the blizzard, maybe I was too young and full of myself to notice when I was being snubbed, or maybe she was just being herself, and I felt comfortable with that. Whatever the reason, I covered up with a hand-crocheted granny-square afghan and fell asleep on that hard couch while she cooked dinner for the family who were arriving later.

How did I get her fox tails? Well, years later, she gave them to me out of her closet one Christmas, as an after-thought, when she realized she had given faux-fur coats to your Aunt Dixie and Aunt Ramona, and she had gifted me with a length of yard goods from her remnant box.

I think I got the better deal.



5 thoughts on “This Old Thing?

    1. Not sure you would have liked her. She was on her own “mission” and didn’t waste much on others. Not even the ones who loved her. Still… she seemed comfortable with that. Impossible to know who some people really are.


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