Rainbows, hangers, and kitchens may not have anything in common to anyone else, but to me, they are all small reminders of a simpler and happier past. A past where I had a best friend that cared about me more than anything, and I had someone I trusted with every piece of my being. I get tear in my eye and a lump in my throat after a storm and the colors of a rainbow become visible, and when I go into the same old, run down, kitchen to cook for my family. The simple memories hit me in the soft part of my heart, and bring me to my knees. People ask me who I think about when they see the tear roll down my cheeks. My grandmother was an angel to many, and a hero to me. The smallest things keep her here forever.
Growing up with a single mother, I spent a large amount of time with family, so my mom could take on an extra job while we took a short break from our busy lives. I had soccer practice twice a week, goalkeeper practice once a week, soccer skills once a week, and a large social life for a seven year old. My favorite times were weekends without soccer tournaments. The weekends were the times when my grandmother would pick me up to spend time with her. I would say goodbye to my mom on Friday mornings at 6am and wait anxiously until 5 to be picked up. I would get checked out of after school care and immediately start describing my week to my grandmother. My little mouth ran faster than a race car and my small hands talked just as fast while I told her about everything. My heart jumped with joy at the sight of her. Her face would light up as we walked through the old gym to the truck. This was my time to just talk about me and have someone listen to every little thing. My mom didn't always have time to listen to my stories before work or practice. My grandmother always seemed so happy every time I saw her and observed her. She was kind to everyone until her very last moments and is still finding a way to give back to the ones she loved.
When we would drive home, I would always end up with my head in the clouds. I would like to gaze out the windows and we drove and quietly mumble my observations. The rain was my favorite to see while we were out. Grandma told me to always cherish the rain when it came because water means new life. Water brings us and mother earth the life to carry on for future generations. Nothing can survive without the water. On the other hand, the rainbow that followed meant more to me than the rain ever did. My grandmother would pull out her small disposable camera to capture the vibrant colors. She would turn the dial until it would click into place, lift the flash lever, and snap the image. This seemingly slow process plays in my head every time I see a rainbow. The only time I see one now is when I am going to an important banquet or event. The day might seem gloomy and depressing, but it makes me feel closer to her. It feels as if she is telling me that she is proud of my accomplishments. My older sisters had her in person for their graduations, honor roll banquets, honors initiation, and other events. I have the red, orange, blue, and purple of the bow. The sight of the rainbow feels like a warm hug from her once again. She isn’t here in person, but she is still encouraging me. With her by my side, I cry in silent remembrance, and I try to swallow the lump in my throat. Wherever I am going in life, I know she is never far from my heart.
The old dirt road leading to Winslow still has her on it. The twisted dirt road that is surrounded by nothing other than power lines and bushes. I see her sitting on the shoulder of the road. The beat up, green ford that is missing its tailgate, broke down on that road. My grandmother and I sat there for what seemed like forever while we were trying to get to Walmart. As I got increasingly more restless in the metal cage, I started crawling around the cab. I tapped the dashboard, talked, sat on the floor, sang George Strait, straddled the top of the seats, stretched across the seats, and explored the small area. Every time I hit one of the seats, dust would pollute the air. It smelled like livestock and mud. Putting the smell aside, I found my way to the back seat while I rambled on about soccer, school, and life in town. Under the seats, I found cords, paper, tools, and a wire hanger. Her sweet face glowed with happiness as I let my imagination run free. I imagined that we were in outer space. The truck was our ship, the bushes were aliens, and the hanger was our blaster. We both shouted commands to each other as the aliens were advancing. We saved the universe as we sat idly waiting for help to arrive. Then we were in the jungle hunting dangerous animals. We drove through the tall, green trees looking for predators. Finally, we were in the Lord of The Rings. We fought seemingly bad guys and nasty monsters. She had a sword and was riding a horse. I had the hanger as my bow and the seats were my horse. Our journeys ended as soon as someone came to help us. The next adventure was never far away. She made sure that I didn't lose the magic and fun.
Back at home, not in town, I would sleep on the couch. My uncles took the two small bedrooms, and my grandparents slept in the bigger third room. I only wanted to be with grandma when we were home. Every morning I would wake up to the smell of her cooking. The sweet aroma of fried potatoes and spam filled the old house. The sound of crackling grease and dough being flipped filled each room with life. When I rolled over to face the kitchen, I saw the dough being flipped and the flour puffing from her hands with every hit. My grandmother stood in front of the window blocking the rising sun coming from the east. She walked to the the stove to stir the corn meal, which was always my favorite. I didn’t move for a few minutes as I studied her every move. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed by. I would rise to join her. First I would have to take a bucket of water outside to wash up for breakfast. After pouring cold water over my head and my face, it was time to go inside. My three uncles would get up after me and my grandfather would walk to tend to the sheep. She fed everyone who went the house, family or not. She was always sure to cook for the family. My grandmother cared for everyone, and food was only a small part of it all.
It has been ten years since I have seen her loving face. I took up taking pictures of rainbows, driving to the nearest Walmart in Winslow, and being that person who takes care of everyone I meet. I spend my weekends without 4-h at her home on the reservation. I rise with the sun, start the dough as the rooster calls the morning, cut the potatoes and spam as an alarm clock. My uncles continue wake to the smell of food and all wash up using the same tin bucket and cup. All four of them walk into the kitchen hoping to see her again, but try to smile when they see it is only me. I capture rainbows in the click of a camera. I travel over an hour for supplies. I let my imagination run free with wire hangers, rope, pens, and almost anything else. I take care of family, and anyone else that passes through the house. In every small thing, I feel her with me. My grandmother was an angel to many people she came to meet, she was my hero. I work everyday to be more like her. I am raising myself to be as caring, helpful, and thoughtful she once was. Looking for the next rainbow, I will treasure every drop, every person, and every meal.