The only two uncluttered surfaces in her dimly-lit room were the single bed in the far left corner and the half of the couch nearest the door. Stacks of dust-laden hat boxes covered a wooden rocking chair; some had even migrated to the floor at the base of the chair, serving as a kind of fortress. Cigar boxes from Stadler’s with cheap “spickled” jewelry and larger shoe boxes with still more costume jewelry were stacked behind and as high as the couch, each supporting the other in a kind of symbiotic relationship.
An old black rotary phone with very large numbers, as if for children, and a shortwave radio were the most prominent fixtures on a night stand, her connection to the outside world. Hairpins and rubber band spilled over onto the floor and were tracked through the room, eventually making their way into the dust at the side of the well-worn path to the bed.
Clotheslines intersected at various intervals above our heads. Scarves, runny seamed hose, old winter coats and sweaters on hangers took up permanent residence there.
Everything was lacquered with a coat of dust so thick you could pick it up by the edge and peel it back.
She’d let my younger sister and me look at her “spickles” when we’d visit. And most of the time she’d let us sort through some of the boxes and try on one gaudy piece of jewelry after the next. For hours.
We punched out paper dolls and their assorted wardrobes. We feasted on homemade egg noodles, Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, “pwingles,” and Butterfingers candy bars. We puffed with all of the manners of an assumed adult on candy cigarettes.
She apologized for the state of her apartment; we took no notice. This was where our Nanna lived. My memories of this room are all happy ones. We never did anything wrong here. We were her “little angels” and could do no wrong.
Whenever we had the hiccoughs, she’d tell us to “think of the one who loves you the most,” and they’d be gone. And we did. And they were. We believed she had everything to do with it. As I’m sure she did.