Mae: Downright Shocking!

Probably the most normal things about my grandmother Mae Odell Kingsford were: the piano, the violin, The Wizard of OZ and roses. She loved them all. Understand this is coming from the perspective of an 8 year old…that would be me. I recall my curious fascination with her because she was so odd…quirky…peculiar in a controlled sort of way. From the vantage point of today, I can see where she influenced my life for mostly good and for one “downright shocking” perspective.

I am going to address each of those normal “things” about Mae, but first an observation of her. I’m saving the “downright shocking” until last!

You see Mae was a tall and very thin (too thin) lady. I never saw her eat anything and she never offered me any food from her tiny kitchen. I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to eat because it smelled old and musty in her house. Yet I wondered if maybe there wasn’t a random piece of candy somewhere…hidden that could appease my curiosity…I never found one. Interesting that my father’s mother was so thin. Is it possible that my eating disorder was passed down from a generation I barely knew? Was there some sort of curse that visited me as I grew up under such control and tightness?

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One day she and I did a coloring of the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz. She drew the bricks out with measured perfection that grew proportionally smaller as the road progressed on the page. I was fascinated with her precision and depth and began to wonder if I could keep my yellow crayon within the boundaries of her bricks. It was a tedious job…one she supervised with the same precision. I was proud of my work but I must confess, I do not like The Wizard of OZ. It scared me. I colored anyway.

Ahh…the piano and violin. Unfortunately for Mae none of her 9 grandchildren had an affinity for music. It wasn’t without trying. I took piano lessons for 10 years and quit…just couldn’t do it. My athletic brother took on the violin…he couldn’t do it either!

Now I’ve decided to save the roses for last because that was finally the place Mae and I connected and skip to the “downright shocking.” It happened after her death…I was still 8…when my mother and I were on task to clean her house out. Ugh..that old smelly place. I was assigned her vanity table. All the drawers needed to be emptied and I set out to do just that. As I opened the bottom drawer I couldn’t believe my eyes. Starring back at me was a set of falsies. Yep…two perfectly shaped foam rubber boobs! I was horrified and titillated all at once. Who else knew these were there? Why did my grandmother have them? When did she wear them? Did she wear them in front of ME? I snatched them up and stuffed them in my pocket before my mother could catch me.

When I arrived home I went to my bedroom to try them on. They were scratchy…you see they were old and discolored to an orangish hue. I believe I detected some shedding of the foam as well. Now what? I couldn’t wear them, I couldn’t show them to my friends (heaven forbid: What would they think?) and I didn’t dare keep them for…someday. So I decided to dispose of them carefully so as not to arouse suspicion.

I have often wondered if Mae and I had more in common than I thought. She loved her red roses I did too. She savored their beauty and aroma I did too. She was a woman who wanted perfect breasts and a thin body…me too!

I wish I could sit and have a chat with her today. She was probably more normal than I thought. I’ll bet she’d have something to say to me about those falsies and thinness. My guess is that she would know what I know now: There is more to femaleness than boobs and body image. I wonder if she had an opportunity to relax in her femininity before her demise? I know I have! What about you? Are you taking time to smell the roses? Are you relaxing in your beauty? I can only hope so and encourage you to do so.


Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.