Writing Center
Fall 2009 Edition

Grandma's Love

Joy Hardin
Expressive 1010 1st Place
Professor McNicoll

It was Christmas Eve day. Our car was zooming down I-15. The top was piled high with presents. The back was crammed with suitcases and bags. We were going home for the holidays. The only sound in the car was The Grinch playing on our portable DVD player. With my husband, Chad, concentrating on the holiday traffic, and the kids engrossed in their movie, my mind was free to wander—to wander back to a time in my life when I was younger, back to my grandma. A tear slid down my cheek as I reflected back on my grandma and the love that left such an imprint on my life and has continued to touch the lives of my children. I was eight and in trouble again. Tears were leaking out of my eyes. I knew Grandma would take away the pain. The sight of her kind face, just a little above my own, softened with age and wrinkles, always made me feel better. I snuck up Grandma's rickety, wrought-iron steps and rapped on her door. Opening the door, she took one look at me and exclaimed, "Just who I wanted to see. I have been wanting to play a game of Yahtzee but I had no one to play with." She reached into her coat closet and pulled out a game of Yahtzee. The rattle of the dice soon drowned out all of my troubles. I never did get around to mentioning what had happened. Later that evening, Grandma came over to our house for dinner. When she arrived, she smiled hello. Two gaps in her bottom front teeth showed me that she had once again forgotten to put in her fake teeth. They were tucked away in her bra—"to keep them safe," she had once whispered to me.

"Time to eat," Mom hollered from the dining room. There was a stampede to the table. When we were all gathered around the table a hush spread across the room preparatory for the blessing. Grandma reached into her shirt and pulled out those teeth. My mom hid her face in embarrassment, as the room erupted in gales of laughter. To us children, it was totally cool that grandma would be so brazen.

I chuckled, drawing Chad's attention away from the road.
"What?" he asked me.
"Nothing," I replied. "Just some old memories."
"Are you okay?"
"Fine." I said. A smile crept across my face. "It's good to remember."

"Okay." With that, Chad's focus went back to the road and mine went back to my memories.

I was in the bathtub at Grandma's. My sister, Bonnie, and I had been invited for a sleep over. Grandma insisted that we take a bath before going to bed. Grandma's long fingernails dug into my scalp as she scrubbed my head good and clean. After rinsing out all the soap, Grandma handed me a washcloth to protect my eyes as she poured apple-cider vinegar over my hair. It was a sure cure for getting all the impurities and buildup out of my hair and to strip it clean. The odor seeped through the rag, stung my eyes and burned my nostrils. After Bonnie and I had both been bathed, we climbed into her hide-a-bed, anticipating what was to come. Sitting in her oversized plush, chair, Grandma began. "One day, Brer Fox and Brer Bear wuz sittin' 'round in de woods, talkin'." Sitting up, we listened; there could be no lying down to listen to the shenanigans of Brer Rabbit. No sir, we soaked it all in sitting up; we didn't want to miss a thing.

"Just one more," we cried out when she finished the story. After a few more stories, Grandma finally had had enough. With a kiss on the head, she told us goodnight, then turned out the lights. Grandma's snores soon rattled the whole house. Tossing and turning, we tried to get some sleep. Finally Bonnie could take no more. "Grandma, you're snoring too loud," Bonnie hollered. Grunting and snorting, she rolled over. Silence reigned just long enough for us to fall asleep. "Mom, I'm hungry." My daughter Michaela's complaint snapped me back to the present. We had been on the road for two hours and The Grinch's credits were playing. I searched around in the goodie-bag for a sandwich. Once she was satisfied, I went back to gazing out the window. My mind went back to a dinner. It was a different dinner than last time.

We had been invited to eat over to Grandma's. Her specialty was minestrone soup with salad. Not just any salad, but salad with shaved carrots in torn up lettuce. Not the bitter iceberg kind, but the sweet, green, leafy lettuce, topped with sliced tomatoes and green onions. Gingerbread cake with lemon pudding and ice cream always completed the ensemble. Grandma invited us over once a month to have her special dinner. I hurried over after school to help her make the cake. She pulled down her yellow ceramic mixing bowl—the one she got on her wedding day. It had leaves painted on the outside in golds and browns. The bowl had seen better days. It had a crack going down the center and chips on the rim. It was resilient though; it never leaked. I helped her beat in the eggs and scrape down the sides. The reward came at the end when I was able to lick the bowl clean. Mmmmm. Nothing could be better.

I glanced back to check on the children. All was quiet. I gazed around, recognizing the cheese factory as we passed through Beaver. Grandma and I had passed the cheese factory many times on trips back and forth from Cedar to Logan to visit her daughter, Aunt Joyce. Grandma was a notoriously bad driver; at times she would fall asleep at the wheel. At one point she turned up the off ramp when she was entering the freeway. Ever since then, I had become her designated driver. Grandma and I were singing along with Doris Day as I drove us up I-15 on another visit to Aunt Joyce, "Que Será, Será. Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Que Será, Será. What will be, will be," we belted out. The song switched and Grandma began singing, "Everybody loves a lover." She couldn't sing worth a lick, but what she lacked in talent she sure made up for in enthusiasm. I joined in with her, "I'm a lover—Everybody loves me."

The car slowed down, and I recognize the SunShine truck stop in Summit. We were almost there; the trip had blurred by. "Wow. We're already here?" I murmured. It seemed like just a second ago it was this morning and I was eagerly packing our bags in anticipation of going home for Christmas. I was in the back bedroom; suitcases were sprawled everywhere. There were clothes strung half in and half out of bags; toiletry items were piled high on our pillows. The kid's gleaming presents were waiting patiently in the corner. I was happily singing carols as I tried to organize all the chaos. Our goal was to be on the road by eleven o'clock. It was still early when the phone rang. I answered it with a chipper "Merry Christmas." On the other end there was a somber reply, "Joy. It's Shanna. Grandma passed away last night."

No, no, no, my mind screamed. It can't be. Not today. I was going to be down there that afternoon. I was going to hold her small frame in my arms again. She couldn't be gone. I couldn't have missed her by a couple of hours. But I had. She was gone. I searched out my husband and bawled in his arms, releasing some of the pain, anger, and sorrow that had erupted inside. Instead of going home to Christmas, we were going home to Grandma's funeral.

Nearly eight years have passed since that memorable Christmas. Life goes on. As I walk through my home, a few objects catch my eye: adorning my counter is a yellow ceramic bowl, with leaves painted on the outside in golds and browns. A crack runs down its center and there are chips on the rim. A Doris Day movie rests in my DVD stand. A game of Yahtzee sits on the top shelf of the coat closet. I stop and pause, "Grandma are you here, checking up on us?" Then one of my children runs and grabs an old worn book out of the bottom of the bookshelf.

"Momma, will you read to us?"
I begin, "One day, Brer Fox and Brer Bear wuz sittin'