A childhood memory of my grandmother, who I love.
Would you like to pull the posters?
Words I thought I would never hear.
The posters lived in the Cartoon room, down the hall. A room we all revered–it was not for playing in. But I am twelve now.
We need… 1 Cat, 3 Horse and 2 Elk Hunter… and the prints ‘Gone Huntin’ and ‘Hand Signals’.
Only the prints are labeled by number, not name.
#59 and #65. You’ll memorize which is which soon enough,
I follow her down the hardwood floor of the hall we are not to slide down (you’ll get slivers) and into the holy room.
Behind the bright-blue door the posters and prints are all stacked neatly, each skew in its own cubby, like a hundred coffins in their crypts, labeled neatly by name and number.
The room is dark and cool.
Snap. Gramma flips the particularly chubby and stubborn light switch on and the fuzzy Alaska pom-pom balls that hang from the door knob bump and twist around each-other as we enter.
The bright overhead lights illuminate the rows of stacked paper and the the short green carpet below, which is firm beneath our bare feet.
The smell is exciting. Later when I go away to design school, and start working in the print lab, I identify and know it to be the smell of ink on paper, but for now it is the smell of opportunity and responsibility.
Gramma wants my help pulling posters.
Tick, tick, tick. Gramma shows me how to count the posters with her manicured thumbnail, so you can pull multiples at the same time. It’s harder for me because I bite my fingernails. I manage to count my two posters and slide them out, careful not to bump the corners along the sides of their cubby.
And then back up the hallway we bustle, holding the posters up by their corners. You can hear the“Waong, waong” of the thick poster paper as they torque slightly as we walk.
Gramma teaches me to roll the posters on the green felt of the pool table.
You don’t want any creases.
My hands are smaller and it’s harder to get that first roll to arc perfectly without bending, the way Gramma does it.
As long as I can remember Grandpa has researched various outdoor sports, crafted clever jokes and turned them into cartoons that tens of thousands of people will stand in the middle of a mall or gift show and laugh out loud at. Sometimes us grandkids got to go to the shows with him and shyly shake our heads, cheeks aglow, when strangers ask us if we drew the cartoons.
And back at home, Gramma’s workshop is a well oiled machine. When you stay to help out, you wake up (or at least hear her from where you lay, half awake in the extra bedroom) at the crack of dawn, bustling to get the mail out on time. The days are spent taking phone orders and tallying up show inventory, keeping meticulous ledgers and labeling mailers. Drinking lots of coffee. Us kids mostly help by organizing catalogs, licking stamps and folding boxes while we watch cartoons. But as we get older we are given increasing responsibility.
And pulling posters is the holy grail of responsibility. Sticky, clumsy, fingers can’t be trusted to handle the cartoons.
If Gramma asks for help pulling posters it means she thinks you’re ready. That you are clever enough to navigate the maze of labels and coordinated enough to slide them carefully from their cubbies and roll them neatly into their boxes. And that she needs your help.
I help Gramma finish getting the mail for the day ready; properly labeling packages, running postage and taping up the corners. We hand the bundles of packages to the mail lady off the snowy back porch and as we stomp back in from the cold, Gramma shakes her head at the mail lady, who’s always a grump. I roll my eyes in agreement and smile up at her.
Gramma smiles back down at me, eyes sparkly and cheeks rosy, in camaraderie.
Today I helped pull the posters.
My grandparents have run their own business out of their home in Oregon selling outdoor sport cartoons drawn by my grandfather since 1985. They also raised 4 kids, and have 20-odd grandchildren and a handful of great and great-great grandchildren.