The Story Of My Grandma - Poem by Herbert Nehrlich
It was a comfortable chair, her son taped the arms for her.
Sitting by the window and watching real life unfold
in the magnifying mirrors attached to the half of
the half timber, screwed in tight and polished with spit,
the latter to keep fog from spoiling the view, which it would.
It was always a bit embarrassing when she spit-polished,
as a rule she would wait until the obedient son came for his visit,
the obligatory once over of fixtures, heating system and her.
All eyes would watch him unbolt the heavy oak door, re-bolt
and fight off the trusty dog Strolch who was just testing his strength.
Husband, long underground, feeding his long loved worms,
had brought this trick back from the Bismarck, spit was the thing,
they used it for their sea goggles, for real when the ship went down,
even further than it was ever meant to be. Shot through the lung,
he had brought back only a couple dozen days, all numbered,
in the orderly writing of a true German soldier, officer, actually.
So when he did put the spoon down at last she had to learn
how to entertain herself, thus she became the town observer.
And she would nod off regularly, and get into states where
she would be neither awake nor asleep, and this proved to be
ideal for dreaming, and mostly for traveling and adventures.
Chairbound, so to speak, she spent countless hours in it,
needless to say, many thousands of trumpet like farts penetrated
the top and deeper layers of the fabric, but that was okay,
after all, no one could expect her to unload them at a more decent place.
And then, it was in the heat of summer, daughter-in-law came,
brought the latest from her garden, a true variety of veggies,
of which only the cabbage was of more than passing interest.
Cooked cabbage, raw and shredded cabbage and of course,
no German would resist the attraction of Sauerkraut, which needed to
be prepared, placed in shallow but large pan, there to ferment,
ready in 3 weeks, warm draft-free location desired. Yes, it was,
curiously, the perfect place for it, under the chair, kept undisturbed
by the black dress which hung, loosely, down to the ground.
Fermentation is smelly business, but culinary perfection and so,
the mixture of various vapours, released intermittently, but very
regularly, proved to be, as grandma was fond of remarking, so
AROMATIC, nothing that would bother anyone as no visitors
were ever expected or encouraged, only the son, who did,
by his own admission, suffer noticeably during his, what he called
daily constitutionals. Made him sneeze and sometimes gag a bit.
Life went on, water under the bridge showed in mirror number one,
and the post war recovery was taking place, things happened,
new- fangled Schtoff she called it, for she was from the old school.
Postman, who would stop even when nothing had arrived at his shop,
just to chat, nice chap, good family and what a disaster with that,
well...floozie of a girl, he couldn't have known, though, none of
the seven kids turned out either, could have told you that, a shame,
well, that fateful day in April, he came up the stairs, sneezed twice
and brushed the late spring snow off his uniform, flashing a paper,
white, with red borders, numbers, scribbles and holes, stamped
all in blue and green, it was the new LOTTO, a way to get rich,
if God willed it, and grandma got ALL excited for the first time since
that day when the Bismarck caved in and went to the Devil.
OTTO was the name of all first born males in the family, back to,
well exactly to the day when Attila the Hun faced his mad father-in-law,
name of Segestes, and one of the family tried to intervene, sadly,
fellow named Ottokar, he was the first one to have his head chopped.
No, not off, but salad like, they were a bit touchy during those days.
Six numbers out of 49, she had grasped that principle immediately,
and set to work when the Postman had gone to recruit others.
So grandma unscrewed her blue ink fountain pen, settled back and
waited for action. Each person passing by, was saddled with a certain
individual age, and that could be guessed with some degree of true
accuracy, and then entered into the number field, between the blue,
the green and the red lines and scribbles. And this she did, with care.
Come Monday morning, the Postman appeared in the right mirror,
running as if the Kaiser's tax collectors were chasing him for his gold,
he was also yelling, but not coherently or intelligibly enough, strangely,
until he had reached her chair, holding on to the taped arm and stepping onto the hem of her black skirt, and tipping the sauerkraut
over, and over, but never mind he was saying because grandma had,
against all odds, and inspite of all reason, and beyond the shadow
of a doubt, cross my heart and hope to die, she had won the big one!
'One cool million', whispered the bearer of good news and then,
also sadly, he did cross his heart and did die, right there, in front of
the old, comfortable chair, his head in the scum and juice of the spilled
Sauerkraut, half-fermented and aromatic, but he was beyond caring.
So, ladies and gentlemen, my grandmother had become, virtually
overnight, a celebrity, well known she had been, well respected and
sought after she was de novo. Fittingly, she started granting the same
type of thing that the pope and kings and queens gave. Grandma,
in all her beauty, with that freshly spruced up black dress, had become
the Audience Queen, which meant, of course, that her subjects would,
by appointment only, line up in front of that chair, near the new batch
of ripening Sauerkraut.
Years passed. A new dress had been tailored and the chair had received a face lift, no more tape, and arm protectors in green.
By the time grandma died the family had grown to a formidable,
loud mouthed and prominent size, there were 46 grandchildren,
37 great grandchildren, eleven living children as well as countless
nieces, nephews and friends of the family, all of whom, without
exception, did turn up at the funeral, as if she could care at that time,
but I guess money does make strange cemetary fellows.
Seeing the masses in black, with black armbands for emphasis,
I was beginning to practice my limited math skills, dividing the
rather princely sum of 1 million.
I needn't have fretted.
We all had a wonderful wake, with no rude awakening at all,
I ended up with a hot 100 grand, as the sweet old lady did,
contrary to convention and expectations, did not, never had,
believed in equality, or égalité, as she was fond of saying.
So I took my 100 big ones and left the country, before anything
would get the bright idea of following 'hot-on-my-heels',
and that was the story, as it happened, I later heard from
my Aunt Hulda that things had quieted down after a few months
and that she still loved me, but no one else did, after all.....
Promptly, and with great pleasure and remarkable generosity,
I had the bottle shop ship a case of Australia's finest to her,
in plain wrapper of course.
I think she shared some with Fritz and I am glad I am not such
a bad guy, after all. Aunt Hulda would have known.
And she said so, didn't she?
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