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Oh How I Missed You
I remember my grandmother waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs.
I remember she smelled like roses.
I remember searching the crowds for her white hair that seemed to shimmer in the sunlight.
I remember her wrapping me in her arms and whispering to me softly…
“Oh how I missed you.”
It is evening now, and the sun is sinking behind the soft rolling hills. A girl steps off an airplane. She is small, but not fragile, and she wears blue shoes that buckle. The girl holds a coloring book and seems oblivious to the chaos surrounding her.
Suddenly, she calls in a soft voice to a little boy near her. He is busy playing with one of the airport telephones, but he turns his small frame at the sound of her voice. He eagerly rushes towards the girl and takes her hand.
She is too young to be embarrassed by this gesture, so she pulls the boy out of the mob of businessmen and tourists, and towards a couple, who must be their parents, toting several bags.
The boy runs towards his mother, and she scoops him up in her arms. They start to talk excitedly, their exact words getting lost in the sea of noises surrounding them. The man claps the little boy on the back and soon the boy’s body starts to shake with laughter.
Now it is just the girl who is left out. She brushes her hair out of her face, and taps her blue shoes on the checkerboard carpet. She is obviously excited about something.
“Mommy, daddy,” I whine over the airport clatter, “Let’s go….I really want to see gram.”
My dad now has his cell-phone pressed against his ear, and looks kind of mad at whomever he is talking to. He doesn’t hear me, and I bet the voice on the other line is his oldest brother, asking to borrow his tuxedo again. My uncle does that a lot, and my daddy says he sometimes keeps it for longer than he’s supposed to.
I sigh, and sink down into an ugly maroon colored chair. My little brother is laughing, longingly staring at the complementary airport phone booth once again, and my dad is still yakking away. I wish I could run away from them; run away into the arms of my grandma, but the airport’s high ceilings and hustle-bustle of people intimidates me.
Suddenly, my dad’s phone is closed with a clack, and there is a light tap on my shoulder. It’s time to go. The walk to the stairs is routine. We rush past the I Love San Francisco gift store that is crowded with tourists holding miniature golden-gate bridges. When we pass the Jamba Juice stand whose smoothies I absolutely worship, I don’t even stop to look at their new flavors. I am only thinking of two things.
One: I am in San Francisco.
Two: My grandma is here.
With this thought, I stand on my tip-toes and crane my neck, trying to see above the heads of all the grown-ups rushing by.
And then I see her. And I forget my brother and the airport telephones and my dad and the tuxedo and even all the tourists goggling over their dumb golden-gate bridges that they don’t seem to realize are just mass-produced in a factory somewhere.
My mouth turns up into a smile, and then I am running.
The little girl’s eyes grow wide, her face breaking into a smile, and then, quick as a wink, she is running. Running past the throng of adults. Running past her parents. Running past the little boy who adores her so.
The buckle on her navy blue shoes comes undone and starts to flap against her leg, but she continues running as if she doesn’t even notice. Or care.
Then she flings herself into the arms of an older women with clothes the color of apples and hair the color of snow. And it is obvious that this is the person she was in such a hurry to see.
The women hugs the little girl, who can’t be more than six, very softly and then bends down to whisper in her ear….
“Oh how I missed you.”
I soar down the airport stairs and into the arms of gram’s waiting hug. She leans down so that she is at my eye level, her blue eyes bright, and I notice she smells like roses. Just like she always does. I close my eyes, hugging her tighter, and she smiles and whispers those five words she will continue to whisper every time she meets us at the bottom of the stairs until the end of time and they give me strength. And everything else just fades into the background.
I love to remember those days, those days before I knew she wouldn’t be here forever.
I remember secretly feeding gummy worms to her dog until one day she caught me. I was oh so scared, but then to my surprise she just laughed her twinkle-toed laugh, sitting down on the floor beside me.
I remember stopping at in-n-out burger on the way to the beach, stretching our sore legs. We would order the same thing, right down to the burger with no special sauce and the chocolate milkshake, and we would sit together, listening for our receipt number.
I remember going for walks in the morning and collecting eucalyptus seeds and having her tell me to watch out for the poison oak because she said it looked different from the poison ivy that I was used to in Georgia.
I remember the box of ballerina stickers she always kept in her office, especially for me she’d say.
I remember her the way she used to be; before she was tired all the time, before the cancer infected her body, before she was in and out of the hospital, back when she would still be there waiting for us, smelling like roses at the bottom of the stairs.