(this is my Grandma Ethel, a year or two before her death in 1984)
How did it come down to my asking a relative for a loan -- something I’d never do? Perhaps a quote from the New Testament had come back to me (I’d studied the Bible over the years on different occasions for different reasons). In the book of Matthew, that great quote Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it shall be given you. . . and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” How could you not love such amazing, consoling words?
Anyway, by the time I was grown up enough to care and inquire about her and her really interesting but possibly unglamorous life, Grandma Ethel in general didn’t have much to say, didn’t tend to reminisce out loud, just kept more and more to herself. It really was rare to have a conversation with her, and she never seemed to mind, oddly enough.
One of the high points to her life was when she’d visit our cousins in Seattle, Washington, from time to time in the sixties and seventies. Grandma would return from trips out west with our “perfect” Von Der Linn cousins, simply raving about what nice, well-behaved children they were. The implication being, in my head, why can’t YOU, Barbara’s kids, be good like THEM? We definitely resented those Seattle cousins, thought of them as “goody-goodys” and wanted to prove to them that WE were better ‘cause we were cooler and smarter and all of that. And certainly we were hipper, 'cause we were older and urban and cool, and liked better music. Besides, New York was cool, and Seattle (at that time) definitely wasn't.
When the Undertones came out with the song, “My Perfect Cousin,” I sang along, loudly.
Being a "free spirit" like my cousin Karen, and also deemed the sensitive, artistic one in my family, I would get these urges for free-ranging wanderlust, doing adventurous things like moving to London, England in my mid twenties. I was in search of my heart's desire, of course, so I could not be stopped. Not that my family ever tried to talk me out of any of my schemes -- either they were too accepting, or too lazy, or my ideas just weren't actually too weird and dangerous enough to veto. I had to live with that disappointment of not being badass enough, so I sighed and got on with it. Another adventure, another experience to write about later on and embellish – like here and now!
Anyway, I knew I'd need money and cash just wasn't my strong suit, being a musician and freelance writer. In writing, I nicely asked grandma to lend me $500 so I could make the trip. I wanted to go to England and make it as a songwriter and vocalist, just like Chrissie Hynde. It was 1981 and I admired her music & spirit in a huge way; we’d just met at my friend and bandmate, Dianne Athey's, apartment (as mentioned before, they were best friends in Akron, Ohio, at college), where the two old friends polished off a bottle of wine and pretty much entertained me. At one point in the evening I told them of my plans to move to London. Chrissie said to me, in her part Ohio, part Brit accent, in an offhanded drunk manner, "Sure, go to England, it’ll be good," so I figured it was the modern-day Delphic oracle predicting success and firmed up my plans.
Grandma, at this point a sweet tempered, forgetful old lady who daydreamed a lot, mostly communicated with me through the mail. I'd get a page-long handwritten note from her every now and then. She had a flowing, gentle scrawl, almost perfect handwriting but starting to taper off absentmindedly at the ends. . . .
Did the money from grandma come? What about those darned perfect cousins?
You’ll just have to read #57, next. . .