I drove to Little Rock on Wednesday, getting in at 11:30PM, to attend my great-grandma Grady Faye's funeral on Thursday morning. To me and my cousins, she was Grady Faydie. Just like I didn't know she was my step-great-grandma until college, I also didn't know that Grady Faye was her real name, I thought it was her grandma name, (we like to make up our own, my grandmother is Gramadear). The funeral was in Prescott, the small town where my grandmother was born and raised. She said it used to be thriving when the railroad brought it lots of people and business, but the highway has since diverted both commerce and visitors. Compared to how it used to be, she said it's practically in decay. Seeing historic main streets and store fronts abandoned and falling into disrepair, as well as hundred year old houses that are begging for new paint, roofs, foundation work... is a sad testament to how architectural history is often treated.
My Grady Fadie knew something about style, though. She went out in a pink casket, with pink roses, wearing a pink suit with hand-sewn pink sequins and beads on the collar and cuffs. If I wasn't terrified of caskets over cremation, I'd do the same thing.
Cremation is an odd thing, though. My mother was cremated, and it has left me with a sort of "lost" feeling as to where to "visit" her, as there's no real grave. There's the place where the ashes were scattered, and a shared plaque, but it's not really the same.
Gradie Fadie is being buried beside her first husband. A few hops up, my blood great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried side by side: August and Thelma. I never met either of them, but I have great-grandma Thelma's Prescott High School class ring, a perfect fit. The date has rubbed off the front except for a barely visible "19," but her maiden initials are still clearly visible inside the band: T.P.H.
I also have my grandmother's Prescott High School class ring, and my mother's Parkview High School ring. It makes me regret not getting my own class ring, as it will leave a gap in the collection.
This was Grady Fadie's house, and sadly, I will probably never see it again. She moved in when she married my great-grandfather August, and my grandmother was born in the Prescott hospital and raised here until she left for the University of Arkansas and married my grandfather. She said the back den used to be a screened in sleeping porch for hot, Arkansas summer nights, and several of the trees surrounding the house are pecan trees. Grady Fadie used to give me ziplock bags full of the pecans that fell to the ground. The house is ninety years old.
After the funeral, we skipped the typical deli tray luncheon and went to Maxine's Diner. I had to get fried okra, because aside from loving it, Grady Fadie used to make it for me. My Aunt Carol and I split this gigantic piece of coconut cream pie. She had to hold it up to her face for a size comparison.
Before leaving my grandmother's house in Little Rock, (my grandfather is still alive, but he's in a nursing home), I pulled this dress out of the closet in my mom's old room. My grandmother made it for her to go to a formal dance when she was in high school, and the lace details were made by great-grandma Thelma. For some reason, this dress has always fit me, even though my mom's wedding dress most certainly did NOT when I tried it on back when I was engaged. I love it, and Austin is a city in which I could actually wear this, where as I would feel people were looking at me funny if I wore it in Little Rock. My grandmother is going to shorten the skirt so it hits at my knee, and I can't wait to wear it.
I'm now back in Texas, but am staying over night at my dad's house in Copperas Cove.
This is only the second time I have been back in Little Rock since I moved. Little Rock has the affect on me, where I have a memory tucked into every corner and crevice of it's cityscape, so that I feel as though I own it. I can tell you how everything looked twenty years ago from personal memory, as well as up to sixty years ago from family stories. I spent time with friends, with Michael, with family, in what feels like every building, parking lot, street light... it makes everything feel as though it is mine, and makes me unafraid of any space.
When Lennon and I go to Dallas, he says the same thing about it and Grand Prairie. He drives down the streets wide-eyed and relaying stories about every inch of street he's traveled. I suppose I do the same thing in Little Rock.
Do you have a town or place like that?