Story Skeleton: She Who Laughs at Grammy

An old hair dryer and a quote

By Angela Noel

August 3, 2017

“She who laughs at Grammy cries at the reading of the will,” says my grandmother, draped in curlers and a silken turquoise robe.

Lugged from some hidden corner, she plunks a mutant plastic Easter egg on the kitchen counter. She opens the domed contraption, extending its long neck. Settling herself in her barstool, she flips a switch on the device. Whirring, then a huff like a deep sustained sigh, begins. Beneath the dome, her head, to the lips, disappears.

And though risking my inheritance, I laugh a little. Countless moves, place to place over decades, and this hair dryer remains–a relic of beauty from the semi-ancient past.

And now, right this second, she sings softly to herself.

* * *

I return to that moment, my inheritance, year after year.

Grammy and Angela Noel at lunch
Grammy and me at my college graduation brunch. She, no doubt, did her own hair.


Your turn: What gifts of memory have your grandparents imparted?

Note: This post is one of a new series I call, “Story Skeletons.” Fictional or personal narrative, they represent the bones of the human experience– tiny moments that mean so much.
This one happens to be true. And if you’re interested to learn more about my high-flying, hair-drying Grandmother, you might find this post interesting: Dolores Meurer Reed: Devoted WASP, Rebel, and Microwave Critic. Or this one about her various attempts at not-dying while flying.

Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

42 thoughts on “Story Skeleton: She Who Laughs at Grammy”

  1. My mother had a full size, sit down hair dryer in our basement that did indeed swallow her up when she used it. (She was a tiny thing.) And just about devoured my older sister. I suppose to be sure they missed nothing there was also a portable much like the one in your picture for travelling purposes.
    Unfortunately, my grandparents were all gone before I had a chance to know them. Their gifts of memory are the memories my parents shared.

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to know your grandparents, but hearing your parent’s memories has it’s own kind of charm.
      I couldn’t believe she still had the old dryer! Imagine today’s handheld Conair lasting so long. So much of what our parents and grandparents had was built to last. That’s one of the lessons I took from my time with my grammy.
      I love the image of your mother and sister lugging their dryer around and disappearing beneath it. In my own experience at the hair salon, I do find the moments with my head in a wind tunnel sort of like a meditation. I wonder if they felt that way, too?

      1. I don’t know if it was meditative but I know she couldn’t hear my father under there. Hmm, maybe it was meditative.

  2. I remember that hair dryer! I had something similar – a big bonnet attached to a hose with a mechanism you could put on a table, bed, whatever. When I first got married I didn’t want my new husband to see me in curlers, so I would get up early and lock myself in the bathroom drying my hair. That ritual didn’t last long. He got over the shock fairly quickly.

  3. That brings back such memories! We had one of those growing up, as well! I remember going through my gram’s top dresser drawer, looking for hidden treasures to play with. I was always drawn to a small, blue keychain viewer – the thing you hold up to your eye, and point into the light to see a photograph of smiling people, in this case, my gram and grandpop. I collected those as a young adult, from amusement parks all over the US. I still have her old one, and I cherish it, along with all the others.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your memory with me. That’s such a beautiful reflection and a tribute to how much the little things influence us–generation to generation. I’d love to see a picture of your collection someday. Maybe your own post? Your comment, and living the memory just a little bit through your words, made my night that much brighter.

  4. Such a fun memory! Isn’t it funny how interesting thoughts pop up when thinking of others? I had to laugh right when I read the words “hair dryer”. My grandmother’s old hair dryer is still up at the family cabin and is used often – as scary as it is. You’ve inspired me to write a piece on my own grandmother. She passed away four years ago now, but the memories of her, one of my closest friends, remain clear. Thank you! You always have such through-provoking pieces.

    1. Thanks, Erin. I can’t wait to read more about your grandmother. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent a few months with her, in her home, soaking up the unguarded moments. 🙂

  5. The Grammie-nator… long ago in a youthful life She blessed me… can’t help but wonder bout her own life as a kid…

    1. I think it’s a credit to you that you’re wondering about her. Sometimes I think our parents and grandparents seem like people that just came into being rather than had lives that started well before our own. From your comment, I’m guessing she’s passed away? Is it possible to learn more about her now?

  6. I love this, Angela. My mother had a hairdryer like that and I remember firing that up so that my head looked like a giant dandelion puffball. So funny to think back on it and a sweet memory of your grandmother.

    1. Ha! Wonderful. I love that you wanted your head to look like a dandelion puffball! As kids, we get so much more of the FUN from these kinds of things. Your comment reminds me to seek the fun today!
      It is a sweet memory, I feel lucky to have it. 🙂

  7. Wow I remember those …what a contraption and if they forgot about you you came out redder than a beetroot it was fun having your hair done…not 🙂

  8. This reminded me of the hair-dryer my sister had. It was a plastic head covering that you put on your head and attached the tube so the warm air would hit your hair. Hadn’t thought about that or my sister in big fat curlers for a long time. Thanks for pulling out that memory.

  9. Oh flipping heck! I had quite forgotten about those contraptions of yore; now it’s come screaming back with a nod of knowing nostalgia. Seems so long ago now, but very funny looking back; and yet, at one time it was state of the art in drying hair!!! Wonderful memory jogger 🙂

    1. Ha! Yes–glad it brought back memories for you. These little artifacts seem so simple, but really are a time capsule bringing all that once was, back into focus.

      1. I think its easy to forget the little things because at the time we take them for granted and then time slips in and it gets left behind. Often they resurface on bereavement when you have to start dismantling a life that once you were really connected with. I think that’s where childhood memories really start to rock you. I’m now #nostalgic !

    1. Someone will have to explain to me why “blue rinse” seems like a good idea. Maybe when I give in to my gray hair it’ll all make sense. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I loved going to my grandparents house. Especially my Grandma Cole’s she was always baking or cooking something yummy. Both sides of my grand parents are gone now, but I have fond memories of them both. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you had a chance to know them. My grammy was a terrible cook–she told me she used to saute onions so her husband would think something good was on the stove, but could never really deliver. But, like your Grandma Cole, every grandmother has some gift to offer-whether tasty delights, or a life of adventure, or some good thing for us to carry with us in our minds. Thank you for sharing your memory!

  11. That’s a beautiful photograph of your granny and you! I think the biggest legacy my nanu (as I called my granny) left me, was to believe in myself. To not let others pull me down. And to remember that I have the power to change anything about myself that I don’t like. I think I needed to be reminded of this today…so thank you for this post! 🙂

    1. Oh that’s a beautiful legacy. I’d love to hear more about your nanu. Maybe there’s a blog post in there somewhere for you, too!
      The power of knowing everything is a choice, not always what happens to us, but how we respond to it, is such incredible insight. We all need reminding now and again, I know I do. I’m glad you remembered your nano’s wise lessons again today!

  12. I was getting to think that blue rinse was no longer used, until some of my friends (!) sported bluish (close to purple) hair. It does make yellow-gray hair whiter but necessary to go a little easier on the rinse. Ah well, it has brought back memories of yore. And I hope my kids let me know if I start sporting rouge circles or blue hair . . . or maybe a few chin whiskers that I can’t see. I promise to laugh at myself. 🙂

  13. Love the idea of these story skeletons! I love when something can evoke so much from so little.

    1. I’m glad you think so! I’m wondering if other writers might like to contribute a “skeleton” of their own for the collection. I’d definitely love to see how you, for example, took the idea forward.

  14. I love my Grandma, but sometimes she says such mean, funny things!

    At my sisters wedding, one of the bridesmaids was pregnant with twins. Grandma was excited for her, and came over to chat. She congratulated the bridesmaid on her babies and said she must be so excited to meet the twins… But she said it to the wrong bridesmaid!! The poor lady was like “erm, I’m not pregnant!” Grandma, looked at her with a confused shocked face, then giggled and ran away! I think she didn’t know what to do, so she just booked it!!

    Mainly though, when I think of Grandma, I think of waffles. Her waffles are sooo blooming good!

    1. Okay, first–waffles. Of course those are amazing. Second, OMG your grandma giggling and running away is hilarious. Not, of course, for the mistaken bridesmaid, because–ouch–and that would be an unfunny moment for me, too. But I loved reading this memory just the same. I’ve for SURE put my foot in my mouth without the excuse of being a grandma. So I know how it feels to WANT to run away, though I don’t think I’ve ever actually done it. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love it.

  15. So many. I was so very blessed to have such lovely Grandparents. I never knew my Father’s Father, but luckily the other 3 lived to good ages. One of my favourite memories was towards the end of my Grandfather’s life. He lived until he was 92, but sadly had advanced Alzheimer’s towards the end, but in a rare moment of clarity he turned to me and said “You’ve got to remember two important things in life, always do the right thing and never give a shit what anyone thinks about you”. I try my best to heed this advice as much as possible. He was such a legend.

    1. That’s such a beautiful memory. What great advice, too! Such a clear message must have been very important for him to make sure to convey. Alzheimer’s is so cruel, the gift of this rare moment is great indeed. Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. Pingback: Grandma: A Guest Post

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