15th Thread: A Grandmother from far away lands

Amazone Halicarnassus_dessin Gil Woo Lee portrait de femme  Izumi Miyazaki autoportrait au centimetre:with measuring tape dessinOrlan autoportrait:selfportrait dessin

Grandmother was not kind to anyone except for me. She did not know one has to be nice, because she came from far away lands. I have her narrow eyes, her thick hair, which remained black until the end, while Mama’s was already streaked with white. Even my skin is not as light as my sisters’. I received the worst from my ancestors, being  yellow and skinny like my grandmother, but at least, she was small. My mother would measure me from head to foot with her hands. She would say:
–  You’re bony and ungainly, and your nose is too short. If at least you were nice, but you lie and you are devious. Women like you who are too tall do not find husbands.
This unknown lineage, in a country I did not know, I belonged to it more than my sisters. You’re lucky, your skin, unless it changes, is white. Anyway, it does not really matter. Look, my sister who was so beautiful, her husband is so cruel to her.
Scythean_resurrectionI loved visiting Grandmother in her rooms. She had brought a large bronze chest when Grandfather married her. She would open it for me. It smelled of elsewhere. I would finger the heavy fabrics embroidered with golden coins. The jewels were adorned with goat skulls, fish, trees, fruit garlands. The gold anklets with snakeheads were just the right size for me. When everything had been taken out, at the bottom of the trunk, lay three daggers. Sharp, pointed, joyful. I coveted them most of all.

You would have thought that, harnessed in these clothes and jewelry, I would be weighed down. But when Grandmother wrapped me in thick cloth, when she circled my neck and wrists with heavy chains, when she slid a dagger in a belt of hammered gold, I felt lighter, I wanted to run, run far on Grandmother’s eastern plains. She would laugh at seeing me all dressed up, she would make me gallop around the room, yapping her guttural words as she hardly spoke our language. I imagined myself among these women who, according to the poets, go to war to abduct their husbands, yield swords, work metal, slice meat, slice their breast. The meet in councils while the men stay at home to tend to children and spin wool. It is even said that these women take their pleasure when they straddle their horses or their men. Shh. Shh. And just when I had forgotten all about our home and its implacable walls, that I  had stricken down one by one the enemy warriors and grabbed their coffers overflowing with booty, Mama arrived, her bun all messy. She shrieked. “Take off these rags right now! ” She marched me out, without a glance for Grandmother who went back to her favorite place. Kneeling on a mat on the floor, she watched the flames of the fire and caressed the beads of her amber necklace.

Have you seen Grandmother’s bronze trunk in the closet? It will be yours when you get married.


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  • Gina de la Chesnaye

    This is my favorite of the stories thus far. I appreciate the immediacy and intimacy of the relationship between the Grandmother and granddaughter as well as the use of “You”. In telling the story directly to her daughter or the “You”, we are complicit as well in the secret “readying” imaginary or not of the Granddaughter by her elder. There is lineage and history and a passing down of strength against rivals that is wonderful and deeply powerful especially as told from the point of view of a child who has become the mother to child “You.” It is as if a Greek goddess were to tell her own story or of course, an Amazon. Well done and thank you. I look forward to more.

    • Arabella Hutter

      I’m so glad you like this entry. I’m fond of it too. I like how the women start having a life of their own, independent from me. I love that unconventional grandmother, and the needed escape she brings to her granddaughter! In fact, my Swiss grandmother was quite unconventional too. She lost her husband when she was very young, and I always thought that helped free her from conventions. My family and myself and maybe my children would certainly have been more conventional had my grandfather lived. Another example of this “thread” or cascading effect down generations.

  • sonia Hu

    When I have time, I will read from the beginning to the end, very interesting to read! I also love the illustration, nice job!

    • Arabella Hutter

      Thanks for the encouragements, much needed for a long term project like this one!

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