Anna This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


     I gaze at the face of the older woman sitting across from me. She reminds me of achild as she plays with her feet and slowly chews her food. She is wrapped up intelling a story about her childhood. As I study the creases in her dark skin, Ilisten how her Southern accent makes her voice rise and fall. I smile across thetable at her, and I can tell she is simply delighted with herself.

In herlittle kitchen, we sit near the window where we can watch the birds. The sun isshining, and, according to Anna, it's almost spring. "A robin pecking atseed means spring is coming soon," she says. I look at the birds while Annafinishes her afternoon meal. I try to picture the home that Anna always talksabout - a small house surrounded by tulips and daffodils.

Anna has 93years worth of memories, and she tells her favorites over and over again. When Ivisit, she takes me back to the days when life was safe, honest and simple. Inever tire of hearing her reminisce. She often tells stories of growing up on afarm with her brothers and sisters in North Carolina, and of living in New YorkCity and working for Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

I can't believe howmuch she has experienced. She has been retired longer than I have been alive! Infact, Anna has been making her annual batch of fruitcakes long before God waseven thinking about me (as Anna would say). I have to smile when Anna talks abouther fruitcakes because after all these years, she has only sampled one piece.When I ask her why she doesn't like to eat her cakes, she responds, "Oh no,I never liked fruitcake! I don't know why anyone would." Anna's eyes dancewith amusement as she begins to laugh.

After she suppresses her giggles,Anna tells me the story of her first batch of fruitcakes. "Now, when I wasworking for Nelson Rockefeller, he was saying that the store that made hisfavorite dark fruitcakes had closed. He didn't know I was listening, and forChristmas I surprised him with the fruitcake. After the holiday, I asked if hisfamily had enjoyed it, and he said, 'Anna, you told me that fruitcake was forme.' I told him he'd better share it." Anna starts laughing again, and hersmile warms my heart.

When Anna is finished eating, I move to her side atthe little table. I feel awkward and helpless next to her. With great effort shetries to lift her frail body from the chair. I offer my arm for support. After wemove into her bedroom, she suggests we put on some music, and requests Handel'sMessiah. A smile spreads across my face because I have already reached for thatCD.

As music fills Anna's small bedroom, I can tell she wants to sing. Shemoves her lips to the music, but I can only hear murmuring sounds. I want to giveher my voice so she can sing, but instead, I turn up the volume a notch and watchAnna's fingers move to the rhythm. She is concentrating on the words, immersed intheir story.

As Anna listens, I struggle with the thought of growing old.Aging has left Anna's body fragile and weak. She has even lost the ability totaste food. Walking is a struggle, and it is becoming increasingly difficult forher to do things I take for granted, like showering. Aging seems so unfair to my17-year-old mind. As I watch her, I wonder how she is able to manage thosestruggles as well as her weakening body. I marvel at her self-sufficiency and herhope. I am intrigued by her spirit and the happiness she finds in simplepleasures.

Anna embodies courage and determination that surpasses anyperson I know. Although she no longer has a sense of taste, her favorite pastimeis cooking. Although she can no longer sing, her love of music is intense. Eventhough she struggles daily with stiff legs and sore muscles, she still has thestrength to pull herself out of bed each morning. Anna is my inspiration. Herbody may be weak, but her spirit is strong and vivacious. When she laughs, herwhole body shakes, and I know she is smiling from deep within.

Annachallenges me to wake up every morning and make the most of each moment. Shereminds me to see the robins, to smile at children in the grocery store, and toovercome my fears. Anna constantly tells me, "I ain't never been afraid ofnothing in my life." Her pursed lips and the twinkle in her eyes prove sheis telling the truth. Anna has touched me with the wisdom of her words and thebeauty of her smile.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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