My Grandmother, Salome (pronounced Sa-Lome' and not Sa'-La-May) was a very strong-minded and religious woman born to Polish-German parents on a farm in Alpena, Michigan. The only book she ever read was a little Polish missal she had with a photograph of her mother on the front leaf. She was an active censor of any books I happened to be reading when I was a child, and there were a few that ended up getting thrown away. Once I remember I was reading a Nancy Drew mystery, "The Ghost of Blackwood Hall," I believe, and when she spotted it on the dining room table, she picked it up and asked me if it was about the Holy Ghost.
"Um, uh, yeah," I said, "Yeah, the Holy Ghost." So I was able to save that one from the flames. But she didn't even want us reading the Holy Bible, as the Old Testament was filled with such shameful behavior.
I later would think how ironic it was that her name was Salome, and my grandfather was John, as in Salome the dancer who called for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Grandpa died when I was still an infant, so his early demise somehow paralleled the Bible story. Grandma Salome would rather have been a nun; she made that very clear to everybody.
There are quirky things about her that I fondly remember. She used to bake this extraordinary bread that had cherries in it. The scent rising from the oven would titillate and intoxicate everyone in the house. A warm slice of that bread with a big slab of butter on it certainly overrode any negatives feelings I ever harbored about Grandma; in particular, the time she literally washed my mouth out with a bar of Ivory soap for talking back to her when I was 12 years old.
She was a big fan of Johnny Cash and Billy Graham. She also adored spooky movies and let me stay up late to watch them with her. She prayed on her rosary constantly. I'm not talking worry beads here, where you mindlessly meditate on "God is great" or something. I'm talking about every small bead calling for the full "Hail Mary" prayer, and then the five big beads (spaced between every ten small beads) demanded the full "Our Father." She would spend hours praying on her rosary and if you were anywhere in the vicinity, that meant you would be corralled into kneeling down and joining her. (Looking back, maybe all that time on my knees is what sowed the seed for the Total Knee Replacement I would need forty years later......)
Grandma had this dream once which she shared with me. There was a flood which rose up and swallowed up all the people of the world. Then the river and all the people began to turn black. She prayed on her rosary and just before everyone had turned black, the tide changed and everyone turned white again, and the floods receded. I don't believe this was about race whatsoever. This was a religious dream which is actually pertinent to today. Our economy is the flood that is about to drown everybody in negativity. People are losing their livelihoods, their homes, "turning black."
In Salome's dream, all it took was the positivity of one person to start a paradigm shift, turning the tide, and making life worth living again. One person today who energizes people with hope is Obama, our new President, who is using his energy to help us all. I see this paradigm shift as the one way that We the People of the World can use our collective energy to rise out of these economic and environmental floods. We must not let ourselves get sucked into the mire, like that horse in "Never Ending Story" named Artex, who could not lift himself out, and thus perished. We must learn how we can help each other as a community, and if we need to go back to the way things were before corporations, technology and space travel, then so be it.
We have to learn to be a love-based society and not a fear-based one. Election Night 2008 made it very clear that the majority of Americans, and the world, want to dispense with the fear-mongering. We elected not just a man, but a family who brings us hope. With hope we can accomplish anything.