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Gnomes (A Story)

My grandmother (my dad’s mother) was called Mamaw. She grew up in Ahoskie, North Carolina, the town where my Dad was born. My mother frequently brought that up as an insult when my father used incorrect English. “It must be how they say it in Ahoskie.”

Mamaw had wavy, cotton-top white hair and thick round glasses. She also had a bit of a temper, so you wanted to stay on her good side. When she was about 80, she developed a very strong love for collectable clay figurine gnomes.

I’m not certain where the fascination with these little clay gnomes came from, but she was a fan with a capital F. Every Christmas, she would give each family member a gnome that ‘represented’ them. For example, she gave me a gnome that was a studious college gnome at my old college. I did not tell her he didn’t really represent me since he had a book in his hands and not a beer. I would just smile and act like the gnomes were the best gifts in the world. They very well could have been to another person.

My mother/father, sister, and I sort of dreaded getting the gnomes just because we already had so many. Each Christmas, my mother would say “I hope we don’t get those gnomes again this year!” Then, at Christmas, when she would unwrap the gnome, she would roll her eyes and sigh when Mamaw wasn’t looking. When Mamaw ran out of gnomes to buy, we were all a bit relieved.

Mamaw was a such a loving person, but as she aged, her ability to control her temper decreased a touch. She became easily irritated and would often snap at people without meaning to be harsh. Therefore, my dad’s eldest sister, Aunt Delia, decided to take matters into her own hands one night to prevent any Mamaw flares.

We had a large family dinner at Mamaw’s retirement home and rented a private room. Aunt Delia sat next to Mamaw. When Mamaw wasn’t looking, Aunt Delia secretly slipped some anti-anxiety drugs into Mamaw’s applesauce. Nobody noticed, especially not Mamaw.

Mamaw was a good story-teller, so she started engaging us with a few good stories while we were all enjoying an elegant, Southern cooked meal. After the stories died down, the table became full of chatter, and one on one conversations broke out. I don’t think anyone noticed that Mamaw was face down in her food. I actually witnessed the nose dive into her food when I looked over at her and saw her head slowly declining into her plate. Aunt Delia reached over to her to lift her face and try to wake her up. She reluctantly confessed, “I slipped her some Xanax.” My Dad exclaimed ‘Delia!’ The servers walked in and did a double take seeing how drugged up Mamaw seemed. We walked her back to her room, and she slept well that night.

A few years after that, Mamaw passed away. I think she was ready to leave this earth because she always used to tell me “Georgia, being old is horrible!’ She must have known she was going to die because she called my Dad and asked him to come over and see her at the retirement home the day of her death. After he arrived at her bedside, she died shortly after. May she rest in peace.

A few years after her death, somehow all of the gnomes accumulated at my folks’ house. This did not last too long however, because I found them littered all over my fireplace mantel one day when I got home. My mother just thought she would casually dump the gnomes on my mantel as though they would go un-noticed. The gnomes are now tucked away in my downstairs closet waiting for their next mantel.

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