Welcome back to Grandma’s Masks. If you missed last week, just click on the Serial Fiction tab above. Today we rejoin Emma as she muses about men – this time the men in Lucy’s life.
Now Lucy, she has the opposite problem. Too many men, most of them attractive, high-energy, successful and bright. I think they see her – her height, her deep voice, and her air of having her shit together – as a great challenge. She flirts with all of them, but the one she’s hooked up with is a guy who’s around forty – Lucy likes older men – and a museum director in New Mexico, where Lucy has spent her last two summers working on some archaeological dig. He’s an art lover, so you’d think I’d like him, but I don’t. He’s too sure of himself. Surer even than Lucy, which is probably why she’s gaga about him. He’s taller than her too. His name is James, and you can bet no one has ever called him Jim. I know I’m being unfair, but he’s so sure of himself, he makes me want to puke.
I loved Grandma, but I worry that I might be like her, one of those solitary loners who really does want to be left alone, like Greta Garbo. Funny how that one line Garbo uttered about a hundred years ago still resonates. As if a woman wanting to be left alone is so absolutely strange that men still have to comment on it.
But feminist musings aside, do I want to be left alone? Jeez, I don’t know. Grandma liked to be left alone, but she lived inside her head, which was teeming with noise, confusion, color, movement, passion and life. She created all these strange elaborate worlds where no one was alone. No wonder she needed peace.
Suddenly I remember another conversation we once had, back when I was about fifteen and anguishing over not fitting in at school. “I don’t belong anywhere,” I wept.
“I do,” Grandma said. “I belong in my own head.”
“Huh?” I said, with fifteen-year-old scorn.
“When you belong to yourself, no one owns you,” added Grandma. “It’s good to know where you belong, but be careful not to get belonging confused with owning. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but it’s something all women must know. Because if you don’t, you might be destroyed.”
Belonging and ownership were some of Grandma’s favorite themes, showing up over and over in her work. There’s a mask story about this, what is it? Dragonfly, I think.
Yes, Dragonflies and Bees. I look on the wall for their masks, and there they are. How handy, she hung them up side by side. The Dragonfly’s body is green on the right side, blue on the left, with a blue and a green wing to match. The eyes are made of tiny pieces of shiny foil paper – green or blue, depending on the side – arranged like a mosaic in a spiral pattern. The wings are shimmery gauze that Grandma painted with darker blue and green spirals with tiny sparkly gold flecks.
The Bee mask is plural; not just one bee but a swarm; a bunch of pudgy little golden blobs that look more like small, naked, fat fairies than bees. Fuzzy gold hair covers their bodies like haloes, and out of the fuzz on their rear ends peeks their stingers, made from rose thorns. And tiny feathery wings that could not possibly help them fly. But then, the same is true of real bees, isn’t it? And they fly anyway.
I know what story I will tell next.
Come back next Wednesday for the beginning of Grandma’s story about Dragonflies and Bees. I promise that you will like it – insects have such interesting personalities.