Monday, September 17, 2012

Reader's Diary #869- Tayeb Salih: A Handful of Dates

I was very fortunate growing up to live between two sets of grandparents. My dad's mother who lived just up a small hill from my house, and my mom's mom and dad who moved to a small bungalow just next door. I loved them all, but had a different relationship with the 2 sets. My grandmother Mutford was the stereotypical doting grandmother, always making me homemade popsicles and letting me sleepover. My Kendall grandmother was the other stereotypical grandmother. Purple hair, bingo-fanatic, bright awfully patterned shirts. My grandfather Kendall was a hard of hearing, rum-drinking, story-telling, wood carver— a stereotype in his own right of a older Newfoundland man. It took me a while to appreciate the Kendalls. They moved next door when I was 7 or 8 and I'd already had the relationship with the Mutford grandmother. The Kendalls were a bit on the loud side. The past to them was the good old days, which I didn't buy. And their Ramean accents were strange compared to our Twillingate accents. (I know Newfoundlanders are supposed to have "an" accent, but in my day each outport community differed greatly from one another in how we talked, and we were all different than the rest of Canada.) It took me until my later teenage years to really appreciate the Kendalls. I suppose it was the promise of Old Sam (rum) and Coke everyday at 4:00 that first got me going there. I was underage and loved that they didn't treat me as such. So over games of Yahtzee and drink so strong it made my voice drop several octaves lower than puberty had already accomplished, I started to grow fond of those old stories and my grandparents' sense of humor. And their love for one another. Married over 60 years, my grandmother still laughed hardest at Pop's jokes. My relationship with the grandmother Mutford pretty much stayed consistent, but it was the relationship with the Kendalls that had really changed, and thankfully for the better. In "A Handful of Dates," by Tayeb Salih, it's unfortunately the opposite.

About a Sudanese boy and his grandfather, "A Handful of Dates" is about the boy's growing awareness of his grandfather as a person. At the beginning the boy has a rather simplistic view about his world. He's happy, but naively so. I think all of us at some point have been disillusioned with a childhood ideal, so even if I can't (fortunately) relate to the grandparent disillusionment, the sentiment is very believable. "A Handful of Dates" is a fine coming of age story, rich in symbolism and with a fascinating setting to the unfamiliar.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Rum and coke at 4:00 every day! Well that explains a lot.

I didn't know my grandparents at all, and have always been a little envious of people whose grandparents lived nearby. Maybe not next door, though.

Loni said...

I think my children are going to be very lucky with their doting grandparents nearby.

Here's my story this week.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Well, it definitely depends on the grandparents!

Loni: But are they rum drinkers?

Loni said...

I'm a rum drinker. Does that count?