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Call Me Crazt

By , Hoffman Estates, IL
Dear Ethel,
I am aware that you are probably already in Germany now, but I recently discovered something that has changed a lot for me. As we both know, no one was ever very fond of grandma, especially you, cousin, but I know there is something that has changed in her. Whether it’s been inside her all along, I have no idea. As many times as I had been to 3529 Bulton Street, the feeling I got just seemed different this time.
I had forgotten what this house had smelled like. The musty air filled with smoke and honey scented candles could make any man drop dead from a mile away. There still wasn’t a working air conditioning system, so the middle of July felt like the middle of a desert. The kitchen was painted with the aroma of pineapple pie and the walls decorated with blueberries. The old lady still has a thing for blueberries. Remember when we were little; we would get her those blueberry placemats and tablecloths for her for Christmas? No doubt about it, she’s always had character.

I haven’t seen grandmother in years because I was busy with college and work. But I also haven’t tried to see her in years because of her old attitude and temper. She wasn’t the nicest old lady, as you know, but I think that is because she doesn’t know how to be. I’m not sure if you ever heard this story, but she grew up in a house with nine children, and her dad (great grandpa) was a drill sergeant. He was literally a drill sergeant for an army training camp, and when he came home on weekends, he didn’t really know how to treat his children differently from his trainees. Grandma had grown up a bitter woman, but I could always tell she had a heart deep down. This was visible to me because whenever we would leave her house, right as we were going out the door, she would take my hand, leave a few of her favorite chocolates in it, and tell me to not let my siblings see. I think the reason she liked me more was because I was the youngest girl. I was the one she would be able to hold on to the longest. I just wished she would have shown that side of herself all the time. Sometimes I felt like there was something different then being the youngest girl, though. I always had a feeling that it was because I was most like her. Just as stubborn, reserved, and sometimes even cranky. As much as I despised her sometimes, I could see different parts of me that shined through her like a lighthouse on a foggy night. I think the rest of my family could see that too, but I never wanted to admit the resemblance.
I sat down at her kitchen table and gazed at the wooden salad spoons and forks that were adorned from her blueberry colored walls. Her house looked the same as it always had except for the fact that Curly, (If you don’t remember, it was that nasty little schitzu) wasn’t running around making a mess. She got old and died a couple years ago and I haven’t heard grandma talk about her since.

Grandma walked in and took her macaroni and cheese off the stove, and put the small curled noodles on a plate, setting them directly in front of me. She smiled and sat down. I stared at the lines above her nose and mouth and examined her bright blue eyes hidden behind her white bushy eyebrows. I wondered the last time she had been outside because her skin was pale as milk as if all the vitamins had drained from her body. I hadn’t noticed how old she had gotten in the past few years while I’d been gone and I almost wish I would’ve come to help her out once in a while.

She began with, “How have you been child?” Then, I proceeded to tell her about what I have been doing in college, even though I knew she wasn’t listening at all; either that, or she couldn’t hear me well enough to know what I was saying. She just kept nodding her head. I stopped talking and looked down at my food. I was now remembering that she wasn’t very easy to hold a conversation with because she either made you feel like she didn’t care, or she would get side tracked by something else going on in the house, which I really don’t understand because there was usually nothing going on. The only time she ever had people at her house was when we would have our family gatherings, but every other day of the year consisted of her being alone.
We finished eating and I got up to clear her plate, but she insisted on doing the dishes herself.
“Go sit in the living room, I’ll be there in a moment.” Grandma affirmed.
“Are you sure? I would really like to help—.”
“—No, It’s fine, just go and wait a minute.”
I walked out of the kitchen across the creaky floors and sat down on her vintage dark red couch that was placed crooked against the wall. There was no television in her living room so I got up to look at the various pictures along the walls and on the tables.

She had old black and white pictures from when she was growing up. Every picture looked crammed because her parents always tried to fit every one of the nine kids in it, which was virtually impossible. She didn’t have any recent pictures which made me think she didn’t care about her children or grandchildren at all. I kept scoping her collection, wiping off dust as I went. I came across a heart shaped box that had blue ribbon wrapped neatly around it. As I pulled off the ribbon, I listened to make sure grandma wasn’t coming so she wouldn’t think I was searching her house. I didn’t hear the creaks over the floor boards yet, so I thought I was in the clear.

When I released the ribbon, the small piece of history revealed a flashback into my childhood, and then it all came back to me. The small girl in the picture held the slimy cold strings and brought them to her mouth, unknowing of the red sauce stains that engulfed the area around it. The red swampy mess oozed between her fingers, making more of a crime scene than a twelve o’ clock meal. From her patterned strawberry shirt hung a single strand of what failed to enter into her mouth. Directly above her eyebrow was a small spot of red coloring that she wore like a fashion statement. The picture of the little girl was me. Do you remember how much I loved spaghetti when I was little? Grandma would always make it when we came, so the tasty noodles remained a holiday treat.
I was so surprised she actually kept this picture. As I walked through her house, I started to get the feeling that my impressions of grandma when we were children weren’t very accurate. Also in the box were those chocolates she would sneak to me whenever I left. When grandma did things like this, I realized that she had always cared.
She walked in the living room, and by that time I was back sitting on the old couch. She sat down and gave me a big blue satin book she was holding in her hands. Behind the dusty cardboard backing was every picture from our family visits and when we were children. I felt a tear roll down my cheek as I looked through our family gatherings special memories. There were even pictures of you and me, Ethel, when we were a mere five years old.
The time had come for me to leave, and as grandma and I were saying our goodbyes, she took my hand and set a small piece of wrapped up candy chocolate in my welcoming palms and closed my hand. I smiled at her and left the house, knowing that I would be back to visit soon.

Come visit her with me Ethel, and I promise you’ll be glad you came.








With love,








Betty





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