Grease on Satin


It was in those quiet times together, sitting extra close to my grandma when she would share one of her childhood stories. As a little girl, I was always spellbound listening to her deep, rich, velvet voice. Grandma's simple vocabulary, honest expression, and poignant dialogue always stirred my feelings. We had a deeper connection than just blood. Grandma and I shared the same emotional DNA.

I never questioned why Grandma chose me to be the one to hear her most private childhood hurts. She certainly had plenty of people to confide in, having a family of seven children and twenty-eight grandchildren. Grandma, for her own reasons, bequeathed her painful childhood legacy to me.

I was 10 years old the day Grandma told me the story that would magnify her caustic childhood into both my mind and heart forever.

Grandma's stories always began with her remembering something.

"Honey, I remember running all the way home from school without stopping, just so I could tell my mama I had been chosen to be in our Christmas play."

"All the children at school had voted and I had been chosen to be the Angel. I was so proud,because I had never been chosen for anything in my whole life."

"If there was a grander feeling, I had never felt it before that day."

"Melodie, I tried to tell my mama the wonderful news and she just turned around, acting like she never heard me, and walked back into the kitchen. I ran up stairs and cried. I had hoped that just this once my mama would be proud of me."

Sadness fell on me as I absorbed my grandma's pain.

"Honey, accepting the part as the Angel meant also accepting the responsibility of providing the costume. My teacher had suggested a long full white satin dress as the perfect attire. I had choked when hearing this, knowing I had no money," explained Grandma.

I felt the anxiety my grandma must have felt.

"As I laid upstairs in the dark, it all seemed impossible. I knew for sure my mama would never help me."

"Melodie, I prayed through my tears, 'Lord, I have no satin dress to be the Angel in the Christmas play. My mama won't help me. Papa doesn't have any money. Lord, please help me, so I can be an angel'."

Biting my lip, I prayed desperately that God had heard my grandma's prayers when she was little.

Grandma continued, "I went to school the next day so worried. During lunch, my teacher Mrs. Hoag called me up to her desk. She pulled out the most beautiful white satin material that I had ever seen. She started measuring me. I almost fainted, not believing what was happening. I thanked Mrs. Hoag several times, and I joyfully thanked the good Lord all the way home."

I clapped my hands together excitedly, feeling relieved that God had helped Grandma.

"On the day of our play, Mrs. Hoag handed me my Angel dress. I had never seen a prettier dress in my life. I walked carefully home not getting the dress dirty, as I carried it."

"My younger sister Vi combed my hair, and then helped me put the Angel dress on. Vi told me I was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. I was moved by her compliment, I had never been called beautiful before."

"Then Mama started yelling, 'Where do you think you're going?'" Before I could get out an explanation, Mama reacted.

"'Get over there and do those dishes!' She screamed. Picking up her pancake turner, which was sitting in a frying pan filled with grease, Mama swatted my bottom hard, as I went by."

"I cried, 'No Mama!'"

"Standing there at the sink I did every last dish and pan, as the tears ran down my face, knowing Mama wouldn't let me tend to my dress, until every last dish was done."

"I tried desperately to get the grease out, but the water just increased the size of the stain. I didn't know what to do. Total panic and shame fell over me. Knowing I still had to go to the Christmas play, I bravely put on my coat."

"Mrs. Hoag greeted me cheerfully at the door and then seeing my face asked, 'What's wrong Lilly?'"

"I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, no words would come. I took off my coat and turned around for her to see the back of my dress."

"Mrs. Hoag never said a word; she whirled me around and quickly untied her beautiful gold shawl and wrapped it around my waist in one motion. She took a step backward and proclaimed with such conviction, 'Lilly, you make the finest Angel I have ever seen'."

"Taking a deep breath, putting my shoulders back, I walked up front to take my place. I heard quiet whispers of people saying how beautiful I looked. My classmates were all looking at me in admiration. I will never forget the thunderous applause at the end of our singing. It was a grand Christmas play."

As an adult woman, I am inspired by my grandma's convincing testimony, as a little girl who bravely partnered with God when her parents could not give her the love, hope, or the help she needed.

My inheritance was not a painful memory of grease on satin. It was instead, a powerful visual etched in my mind and DNA of a beautiful 10 year-old girl, standing courageously 'up front' in a white satin Angel dress trimmed in gold, singing a Christmas Carol as loud as she could.

Copyright 2003, Melodie Lynn Tilander lynnmelodie@hotmail.com

Melodie Lynn Tilander transitioned from a corporate career, Vice President of Marketing. She resides in Oregon with her family. Melodie enjoys being near the water, writing, and creating stain glass/stone design. Melodie has written several stories you can find in the 2theheart archives, and her story "Grandma's Quarters" is featured in the new 2TheHeart book, coming soon!

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