Painted Skulls and Roller Skates

Painted Skulls and Roller Skates

By Jasper Grant

My mother walked into my apartment on her last trip here and told my sister that I don’t have enough pictures of her side of the family displayed in my home.

I have always been a collector of my family’s past. Over the course of her life, my paternal grandmother saved a box of her most favorite items and gave it to me the last time I saw her. I try to open the box once a month and breathe in her past. I was very close to her.

While I don’t have a lot of pictures of my maternal grandmother up in my house, I do eat off of her china everyday. It was her wedding china that she received from her family the day of her nuptials in the 1940’s. It was a gift from my mom a number of years ago and to this day, it is one of my prized possessions. Many people have asked me why I choose to use them daily as they are over 60 years old. My response is, because they are supposed to be used. I would rather have the memory of my grandmother with me daily than sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

My maternal grandmother was a professional roller skater. Yep. You heard that correctly. A professional roller skater. I was born in Great Falls, Montana, and my mother’s side of the family still calls the great Northwest home. It was few and far between that we made it up to Montana from the small town of Paris, Missouri where I was raised. Back in the early 40’s, she and her sister were roller skating celebrities. They would travel around the country performing at roller rinks and competitions.

Recently, a number of painted skulls were discovered in the Andes Mountains in South America.  Archeologists believe them to be the first relics of a “memory” that were passed down to the next generation of family members. They said the skulls were displayed in the dwellings to serve as a reminder of the past- like photography is to us- to keep the memory and spirit of the deceased with them. While I am very happy I don’t have any of my relatives’ skulls in my home, the idea of why we hold onto the past is fascinating. Will the memory leave our brain if we aren’t constantly reminded of it in visual form? If the skulls weren’t passed down 1000’s of years ago, how would a child know who came before him/her?

For my mom’s recent birthday, I had an old poster of one of my grandmother’s roller skating shows restored. So vibrant and full of adventure and life. Legs for days. It was a complete joy to rescue this “painted skull” and get it framed for my mom.

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I enjoy all the painted skulls in my life. I honor their presence and importance in my home and life. So Mom, I now have a new skull in my home-in the form of 2 young sisters on roller skates having the time of their life. And I love it so. Memories will fade and wedding china breaks, but celebrating the joys of your roots certainly is cause to put on some skates and take a spin around the rink of life.


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Jasper Grant is the Artistic Director of B-Side Theatricals. He is learning how to play the banjo and has a dog named Banjo. (Not to forget Banjo’s brother, Hugo of course.) He plays the piano a little bit and likes to have people over to his house for food and wine.  You can learn more about Jasper on his website jaspergrant.com or follow him on Instagram @thisisjaspergrant