Her name was Jesse Pearl Smith Hardesty. She was Pearl to her friends and sisters, Mom to my mother, Nana to me and my siblings.
She was a schoolteacher before she married. I have a picture of her standing outside of a small schoolhouse with her hand on the horse and buggy that she used to take her home after the school day had ended.
She married a man that looked much like Vincent Price. I had a picture of him in a family tree type arrangement on a living room wall and many of my friends asked if I descended from a famous movie star.
Her husband, my grandfather, died young and she never re-married. She spent the remainder of her life as a ‘merry widow’. She adored men.
There was a beautiful little park in El Segundo. It was set on the top of a hill. It was a lovely place with its tall trees, green grass, lattice covered picnic tables, and lovely benches that afforded a serene view of the ocean. It had a concrete wading pool that was grand fun to ’swim’ in. My grandmother took us there often.
The little park had a grounds keeper. I don’t ever remember being there that the grounds keeper wasn’t busy tending to the lawns and trees. I also don’t remember ever being there that he didn’t find the time to join my grandmother on one of the lovely benches. They would chat and laugh and she would blossom. She became demure and witty. She became animated. She became at once shy and bold. She became a woman more then a grandmother.
She eventually started packing an extra sandwich in the picnic basket and they would sit and share lunch, laughing between bites.
As will happen when two people find themselves attracted to one another the grounds keeper asked my grandmother if she would like to go out to dinner with him. He obviously thought it was time to take the park visits to a higher level, but he wanted to wait until he got his new teeth.
I wasn’t supposed to hear him offer the invitation, but I had been walking behind them and they didn’t know that I was approaching. He explained that he thought my grandmother was a lady and a lady deserved to be seen with a man with a nice smile. My grandmother readily agreed, to the lady and new teeth business, and the invitation was tabled for the time being.
When I repeated what I had heard to my mother she laughed and said, “The poor man, he doesn’t know what he’s up against. Mom loves getting and giving attention to men, but she’ll never go to dinner with him.”
That statement of my mother’s intrigued me so I decided to start paying closer attention to my grandmother and the grounds keeper.
It was just before summer’s end. It would be the last of the park/swim dates. The minute we entered the little park the grounds keeper came over and greeted my grandmother. He stood there and smiled. He finally quit smiling and said, “Did you notice my new teeth! Now we can go out to dinner.” My grandmother also smiled, but her cheeks had turned pink and I knew that something was not right. Maybe his new teeth looked worse then the old ones, but I certainly couldn‘t see that they did. She eventually whispered something I couldn’t hear and the two of them walked off together.
I could see them on the bench together; her shaking her head and him with a down cast expression. What could his new teeth have done to make her so unresponsive? They looked nice and white to me.
Eventually he got up and left the bench so I grabbed the opportunity to sit down with her. I had to know what had gone wrong. And when I got the courage to ask her this was her answer:
“When men take you out to dinner they expect you to do other things. All men expect to have sex! And a lady doesn’t have SEX unless she’s married. And then it’s not something that one really enjoys doing. Men even come home at lunchtime for SEX. Can you imagine having SEX with a man just because he took you out to dinner?”
My grandmother was a tease!
But she was a good sport. We never tired of teasing HER about 'a little sex for a new set of teeth'. She would blush and tell us to shush, but she would laugh as hard as the rest of us.
Until ... years later when I got back from my honeymoon and she asked me ’if I had liked IT’!
“Yes I do,” I answered.
She shook her head and scrunched her face as if she was trying to understand something that was beyond understanding. I can only imagine how confused she would have been if I had told her it was my husband that didn’t like IT?
And HE had all his own teeth!