My Grandma, The Detective

My Grandma was an armchair detective. This was a woman who was so far above me in experienced knowledge when I was a child, that she was actually a kindof magical witch doctor. There was always something very awe-inspiring about her physical knowledge, and yet her knowledge of people and the world was so far behind me (even as a child) she seemed almost Neanderthal. But in Domestics, my Grandma was a magical, mystical witch doctor full of unseen knowledge.

Every “winter” (hey I was in Phoenix) her and Grandpa would come down from Nebraska and spend the “winter” in Apache Junction in Arizona. This means she would frequently visit, and I would occasionally have the misfortune of being left to her care. I say this as an unfortunate circumstance because she was much cleverer than my mother and nearly impossible to outsmart.

During the middle-young years of my life (the “Calvin” years), I absolutely hated to take baths. After all, I was a tomboy and had just spent the entire day getting myself sufficiently dirty. Dirt depth (and amount of surface area covered) is a matter of pride to a tomboy. It’s like a statement of status. Why would I want to wash it all off? What if someone should see me after that? They’d think I hadn’t been outside, into anything all day! With my mother this was not too much of an issue. Mom would send me into the bathroom, I would  run the water and sit on top of the stool fiddling with bathroom stuff for a few minutes, drain the tub, come out and go to bed. Occasionally mother would remark on how dirty my bedsheets always seemed to be, and come in and scrub me herself, or make my sister Leigh take a bath with me. This, I feel, was Fate ensuring that my situation did not actually reach critical mass where I would simply disappear into a large pile of dirt never to be heard from again.

However, Grandma would visit. These were the nights I dreaded. Grandma had this Rule of Inspection after bath time that was a particularly crafty piece of childhood oppression. She insisted on getting in a good inspection of each of us, me particularly (of course older sisters Leigh and Lore were in no need of Bath Enforcement). Jumping out of the bathroom, running to the bedroom and jumping into bed pretending to be instantly in a good, deep sleep did no good. She would actually come in and get me up for the Inspection. Well, as I implied before, this woman was a master detective. She could always tell whether or not I’d actually gotten into the bathtub, if I had scrubbed, how long I had scrubbed, and how hard I had scrubbed. The first thing she would do when I came out was have me hold out my arm and she would feel it. If it had just been sitting in the bathroom, I would get the “that’s not even been wet !” response. I hated these words. I heard them many times. Sometimes I would actually just wet down my arms before exiting the bathroom. But she could always tell! If they were just dampened, she would have me lift my shirt and feel my belly. That was a sure giveaway. So I would be forced to actually get in the bathtub. On those occasions, of course, I would simply get in and play around with making waves and such. Take my toys in and have them drowning, rescuing, and experiencing all manner of huge water-related adventures. This would take the appropriate amount of time to get me into some prune-ish appearance. Surely that was enough? No. This woman could always tell whether or not soap had actually been involved. To this day I have no idea how she knew. But in again I went. Then I would soap down, use the soap as a rescue boat for a few of my drowning toys, lose it in the water a few times, and at least once send it accidentally flying across the bathroom and onto the distance floor (making me get out, walk across, fetch it and soak the entire room on my way). I’m not sure mom ever figured out why so many towels were always used on nights Grandma visited.

There! Now I’m clean! Soap had been used. Again I would undergo the Inspection. Grandma was not above using a magnifying glass to aid in dirt particles detection. She used it for reading anyway so it would be nearby. I swear with this modern telescope the woman could single out individual specs on individual cells that I had missed. She often complained in life about how bad her vision was, but I never believed her – I had undergone the Inspection. That was only one of many fake-out schemes this woman had going. Of course I found it odd that she could never find her glasses on her own, and would often have no idea who I was if she saw me first thing in the morning – but if I was dirty? !! The woman would actually search for the sore redness of hard scrubbing scars, and if they were not there, in again I went! Eventually I would be forced to actually clean myself, scrubbing away all the day’s hard play and dignity.

The good part about Grandma`s visiting was that, due to this long test of wills process, I often got to bed much later than any of my siblings.


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