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Humor February 2018

Eureka! RumpleSilkSkin!

By Ruth Chamberlin

The new jiggles are on the inner side. I twist both arms, left, right, left. The jiggles twist left, right, left. Pretty! I do it again and again. I’m mesmerized. Ripples run elbow to wrist, like rivulets in rows on the ocean floor (sand at low tide) except mine are movable, choreographed in the twisting, and minuscule, crepey, a little puffy.

First light, a misty day. I’m stretching in bed when I see it.

I say, hoo! (to myself, so I don’t wake Burt) and I rotate one arm at 90 degrees. Slowly. Straight up. The way a queen says hello to the crowd. Rotate, rotate.

It’s true! I try both arms. I have new jiggles — on my forearms, of all places. Granted, my upper arms have jiggled for a long time. You know, the kind of flesh that keeps waving after you stop waving. But forearms?

The new jiggles are on the inner side. I twist both arms, left, right, left. The jiggles twist left, right, left. Pretty! I do it again and again. I’m mesmerized. Ripples run elbow to wrist, like rivulets in rows on the ocean floor (sand at low tide) except mine are movable, choreographed in the twisting, and minuscule, crepey, a little puffy. Oddly, they shimmer. Maybe it’s the mist that makes them shiny and silvery. More “S” words come to mind — satiny, silky, shivery — and “W” words—whispery, wavery, wrinkled. 

“Wrinkled”? That’s to be expected. I’m 79, though I feel younger, just getting ready for life. Some days, about 13!

Am I ready for adulthood? Who gives permission for that?

Then I get it. I do the queen’s wave and grin. I have Grandma Jutila’s skin! My mom’s, too, at my age!

My paternal grandmother (my mother’s mother died young) was a Finnish immigrant, wife to a lay minister in the Independent Finnish Apostolic Church, midwife at 200 births on the North Dakota prairie. She knitted booties for babies she birthed, raised her family, planted, harvested, canned, churned, cooked, preserved, sewed, wove. As far as I know, she never spoke English. Oh, but she loved us. Without a word, she loved us. When she leaned over us to press peppermints (chunky, pink, X-marked) into our hands, her cushioned bodice came with her and she smiled her modest smile. Three-quarter sleeves let her inner wrists show. Her skin was rippled and soft. RumpleSilkSkin.

My mother was born in North Dakota but she grew up speaking Finnish. On the Braddock ranch (today “Betty’s Hunting Lodge”), she was a chuck wagon cook at 15 and slept in the wagon with her rising dough. When she and Dad moved us to Washington, they bought the Park Apartments by Esther Short Park in Vancouver, a rooming house for mill workers. Her baking drove renters nuts. By eight a.m. she had finished three pies, six loaves of bread, two dozen sticky buns, two pans of pulla sweetbread, two dozen cookies, and cinnamon-sugar pie crust bits. Aromas floated up the stairs and down the halls. Homesick men hung around the lobby, hoping to buy a loaf of bread, a pie, anything.

She later baked (famous, asked-for) pies at the Totem Pole Restaurant and the Quai Restaurant. Lemon meringue. Deep-dish blackberry. Her baking was an act of love. Into her elder years, she kneaded dough with champion hands. Her forearms were rippled and soft.

RumpleSilkSkin.

Blizzards. Hardships. The Great Depression. War, loss. My mother and my grandmother survived and thrived. Hardy people! Creative, faith-filled, kind-hearted. Overcomers. Their courage was self-effacing: no false pride. They paid attention to internal things and lived out the beauty of their callings. They came out glowing — with wrinkles! Their skin spoke of hurdles flown over or stumbled over, near misses, triumphs, joys. They earned their skin, and they wore it with grace. In Finnish, courage is sisu — meaning, precisely, guts.

“Guts” says it all. Here I am, the owner of this new skin. It’s part of my heritage and my narrative. I’m running at the next hurdle, and I smile and nod to my forebears, thanking them, wanting to honor them. I’m in privileged company, in the land of sweet courage.

Oh, ladies — of any age! Gentlemen, too! Let’s celebrate crinkles! Let’s pooh-pooh the purveyors of the popular, pitiful, poor-minded pursuit of perpetually puckerless pelts! Let’s hear it for fluffy skin! Ruffled, frizzled, rippled, twinkly, glimmery, glossy, wiggly, wriggly, jiggly, shimmery skin!

RumpleSilkSkin!