Afternoon at Grandma’s

I admit it – I did not take this photo. That is me, sitting in my Grandma’s living room when I was 13. I remember feeling quite grownup that day as my younger brother and sisters were outside playing, but I was in the house with the grownups discussing grownup things.

I found it in a folder full of old photos and odds and ends my sister gave me after my mother died. The photo was badly faded and scratched and I thought I would see what I could do to bring it back to life. Technically I’m satisfied with the results. But… I think part of the charm and mystery of old photos is how they look old, the details fading into time along with our memories.

Something a bit odd happened when I restored the colour – that top came flooding back, it was a fairly loose, light woolen weave with that wallpaper-floral print. It had a light satiny slip underneath. Someone gave it to me used and it retained the vague odour of mothballs. I loved it – wore it until it was deeply out of style and then saved it for another ten years or so.

Sadly, it looked just awful – but when you’re 13, at least for me, it was about so much more than how it looked. Right around that time I bought the first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. And purloined my mother’s copy of The Sensuous Woman and spent a deliciously wicked afternoon in bed reading the entire thing cover to cover (and I have not been able to eat soft-serve ice cream since without thinking of the instructions contained there.) I didn’t tell Grandma about this new twist in my reading material. She still gave me those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books to read, which I dutifully did for another couple of years – until I twigged they were editing out the good bits and if it was worth reading I should stick with what the writer intended.

Published by Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

8 thoughts on “Afternoon at Grandma’s

  1. Ah, that magic age…feeling too old for lots and being told I was too young for the fun stuff! But books were free range for me. I never had to hide or camouflage my reading material. That was the bonus of a mother who majored in English Lit.

    What a great gift to have this wonderful photo. I can believe that bringing it back to life brought many memories back to the surface.


    1. Yes, generally books were free range – but The Sensuous Woman was an explicit how-to sex manual, that was given to my mother. Turned out she was deeply offended by it – never mind that I had read it! From there I started reading just the ‘juicy bits’ from Jacqueline Susanne novels – interspersed with Tolstoy and other spiritually more nourishing fare…


    1. Yes. Starting Monday, you will go back and read the full version of every Readers Digest condensed novel you ever read. The literary god of the Universe will be watching and taking notes.
      And you thought retirement would be easy.


    1. Ha ha! I was always happier with the grownups – I was the eldest of four and had to maintain my superior status. Keeping company with adults helped reinforce my authority – and with that lot authority had to be maintained at all times!


  2. Oooh. I remember The Sensuous Woman. I found it at my neighbor’s house when I was babysitting. Then, to my luck, she bought The Sensuous Man. I’m certain that she knew that I was reading them, but she was the cool neighbor, the first one to go braless. She smoked and wore halter tops. I wanted to be her when I grew up.

    I remember sitting inside with the adults on Sunday afternoons with the family, and the only thing to read were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. How awful now to realize that they were actively taking parts of books and that’s what people were content to read. I read Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth this way, then read the complete thing years later.

    70’s clothes…how stylish we were…


  3. Close – it was 1969…
    I never did get to read The Sensuous Man. Too late now, I suppose.
    We lived in rural upstate New York then – I had no cool neighbours to look up to… I lived in books and magazines, dreaming of culture and sophistication and wondering how I would ever find my way into the ‘real’ world… Not sure I have yet, but it’s been fun trying…


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