Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Grandfather's Nose

After reading and commenting on the daily blogpost over at Chiot's Run I thought I would post something similar here. Chiot's Run posted photos of her nieces and nephew playing in the snow, and talked about favorite seasonal memories.

My favorite seasonal memory is of my my grandfather. We would visit my grandparents every Christmas when I was a kid, and it was common for us to all go on a family walk after a very prompt noon lunch. My aunts would come, as would my parents, and my grandparents. My mother would tote my brother along for a while but often he would end up trailing behind with my grandmother and myself. We would hike up through the woods or across the corn fields, and as a kid I was always trying desperately to catch up. Hopping through the snow, and frequently complaining early-on of being tired (often rescued by my grandmother who would turn back with my brother and myself).

It is by sheer luck that I stumbled across this photo of my mother and aunt going for a walk at my grandparents' old house.

My grandfather would always be up ahead with my mother and her sisters. He was the leader, the real outdoorsy one, briskly walking while managing to relish in the forest around him. Any time I could catch up to them they would hush me because they were watching for birds. They taught me the various winter woodpeckers, the silly songbirds that neglected to migrate, and the seasonal visiters like the Junco.

My very specific favorite memory is that my grandfather, due the cold and nose-hair-freezing temperatures, would always have this little drip of frozen snot at the end of his nose. He had a very rounded sort of old-man-type nose, but something about it's shape leant to the gathering of snot and condensation at the tip in a perfect little droplet.

Sometimes he would quickly blow through his mouth and the drip would fly off into the unknown, but within moments it would be back again. It never grossed me out, it just amazed me that he was always so caught up in what he was doing, whether it was bird watching, testing the ice on the skating pond, or walking to the track to exercise his race horses, that he would never wipe it away. I understand now that the gesture would have been futile; his nose would have produced another droplet for him to wipe within moments.

Whenever he was outdoors he was focused beyond caring about the drip of snot precariously perched at the tip of his Harrison-nose. I can still picture his knit red hat, folded up to balance at the back of his head in a way I always associate with fishermen. Of course the hat on the back of his head comes to mind quickly, as his agile pace often left me a few paces behind. He always walked with balance and assurance and I would try, in my grouchy-little-kid-way, to mimick in order to seem like I was less of a wimp. Even today I find myself mimicking his poise in an effort to trick myself into believe I am as nimble in the snow as he was.

He was and is an intense and astounding rolemodel, and has shaped me immensely, and I am eternally grateful to have known him.

Who are/were the rolemodels in your life and how have they shaped you? Did they shape you more as a child, or do they continue to influence you?


  1. Great post! I can picture Mr. Harrison vividly!

  2. Lovely post - a really nice pen portrait of the old man - excellent