My grandmother has always been somewhat ambivalent about religion. On the one hand, she resents the notion that her actions should be guided by charity and meekness. On the other hand, her Pentecostal grandparents, who used to threaten her with demons when she was a child, instilled in her a lifelong fear of hellfire and damnation. This creates occasional internal conflict, but Nanna is a woman of spirt and determination, and most of the time she is able to stand firm against divine intimidation. Bear this in mind as I explain about the refrigerator.
Not far from Nanna’s house the family keeps a cabin on the river, a convenient little getaway that comes in handy when we convene for the holidays and wish to avoid Nanna’s abominable dogs. Mom and her siblings share responsibility for its upkeep, and few years ago Mom volunteered to buy a new refrigerator for the kitchen. This raised the question of what to do with the elderly but functional model then in residence.
Nanna, unsurprisingly, was quick to claim it for her own. After all, she pointed out, she only had three or four refrigerators in her house already, and since they were packed to overflowing she was rapidly approaching the point where she would be unable to stow any more leftovers and might have to start throwing away perfectly good food from 1993.
We spotted a few flaws in this logic, but decided it was better to give her the fridge rather than risk her unloading her surplus food on us. This is always a danger at family gatherings.
Before the fridge could be moved, however, we received a visit from Lisa, the neighbor, a genial soul who proposed that rather than give this refrigerator to a woman who already had several, we should donate it to the Christian Mission and have it passed along to a family in need.
Needless to say, Nanna did not care for this idea at all. She and Lisa argued over it for some time and perhaps Nanna would have prevailed against a lesser opponent, but Lisa has a stubborn streak to rival Nanna’s own (this is exactly why my grandmother has always disapproved of her) and through a combination of grit and guilt she eventually induced Nanna to cede her rights to the fridge.
“You’re doing the right thing,” Lisa assured her, generous in victory. “This will be stars in your crown!”
Nanna had been forced into charity but was determined at the very least not to be gracious about it, so she went to my Aunt Sharon to complain. It was an unfortunate choice of audience, given that Sharon is a devout Baptist and has modeled her entire life on the principle that ‘tis better to give than to receive. She listened in horror to her mother’s rant, which ended with a mocking repetition of Lisa’s last words and a grumble of, “Stars in my crown shit.”
Sharon, affronted by this slur on the hereafter and concerned (not for the first time) for the fate of Nanna’s immortal soul, told the whole thing to Mom in a state of high indignation and opined that Nanna was “not even going to have a crown.”
The refrigerator did end up going to the Christian Mission, though, so hopefully actions speak louder than words.