“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Look at her! The lady knew bling before bling became bling. From head to toe she oozed class. I used to watch her meticulously apply black mascara and blue eye shadow, something my grandmother never touched. She wasn’t finished until the foundation, rouge, and lipstick had been applied. The perfume, the outfit; there was always a hat.
She stood 4′ 10″ and weighed 110 pounds. Born with one leg shorter than the other, it is believed the family created a story that, as a baby, she was “dropped” causing injury to her hip. Given the stigma, lack of information, and fear about genetic deformities, she chose to forego having children. More likely, I later learned, she was born with a dislocated hip in a time when surgical corrections were rare. The result: her entire life, she walked with a significant limp.
There was little she couldn’t do. Little she didn’t do. Hazel de Helen Butterfield Kasae was my father’s aunt, and long after I towered over her, in my eyes, she was gargantuan. Had she lived, she would now be 114.
When necessary, she could be hell on wheels (but usually wasn’t). I loved her with all my heart, probably because she was full of sass and vinegar.
Wordplay. I knew where it came from, but I had forgotten how pervasive it had been in the scads of letters we exchanged. This was also true of my grandma, Hazel’s older sister. My father had a master’s in Zing, that uncanny ability to nail someone verbally before they knew they’d been “hit.” They were witty and sarcasm was an art. They loved words and they knew how to use them.
About 15 minutes after I asked grandma to sign my autograph book, this is what I received. Her biggest wish was that we’d lived closer. I later ripped out the page (thankfully, because I no longer have the book). I was nine.
Grandma loved poetry, but it was Hazel who played. She would start on one page of a folded piece of stationary and move to the next without telling the recipient which page to read next. She kept us guessing. Her letters were so much fun to read it hardly mattered what she wrote. I loved her showy, floral script:
Their personalities came through in their styles. Hazel’s flash and flare taught me to play with words, that the visual and how words appear on paper, makes a statement. Sometimes it was just a word, a name. Hazel called my father Slim. He wasn’t.
Grandma’s artistry, her ability to put her heart into words and phrases, impacted me more than I realized. Grandma taught me how she put her heart into writing.
I received long, fun-filled letters from dad while I was in college. His style mirrored that of his predecessors. If you weren’t with someone, your words had to count. They were meant to sting or zing, cause a reaction, evoke laughter.
He would tell me about a weekend at the beach with mom, how they took long walks in the sand. Then he’d write, “I walked your mother’s ass off.”
Grandma and Auntie Hazel left a legacy filled with sass, vinegar, love, and warmth. It’s all over the pages of their lives. Recent blood tests reveal high levels of sarcasm. It lives.
Whatever the story,
I rest in the knowledge
I learned from the best.