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Glimpses of the Past

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I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my parents’ bed watching cartoons with my little brother Cameron. We had both finished our homework early that night and so our parents had agreed to let us watch some television before bed. We still had twenty minutes remaining in our time limit, so that’s why I was puzzled when both of our parents came into the room. I glanced up at their faces. Both of them had a solemn, far-away look in their eyes. Upon seeing them enter, Cameron pleaded, “Aw, come on! You said we could have twenty more minutes!”

In a serious tone, my dad replied, “Cam, it’s not that. It’s your grandma. She passed away earlier tonight. I’m sorry, guys.” What happened following this exchange is a blur to me. A stiff lump started to form in my throat, and my cheeks began to burn. I leapt off of the bed as quickly as I could and made a run for the doorway. As I fled the room, I felt a sharp pain as my foot crashed into the door, but it didn’t phase me. I was numb to everything. I proceeded to dart down the hallway and into my room. I immediately shut the door and collapsed on my bed. As tears streamed down my face, I shut my eyes as tightly as possible and tried to remember a different time when life was simple.

I begin to recall one of my first childhood memories. I am about three years old, walking with my grandma. We are on vacation in Scotland. We are trudging up a steep hill covered in long, weed-choked grass, passing the occasional wooly-haired sheep. The bitter wind whips at my face, and I try to find solace by holding up my small arm as a shield. This doesn’t help me much. But my grandma keeps urging me on, saying things like, “Come on, Lauren! We’re almost there, just a little bit further!” Then suddenly, the strain leaves my calves. I remove my arm, look downwards, and notice that we were now on flat ground. We have reached the top of the hill. I look out and gaze in bewilderment at the vast expanse of rolling hills, grassy knolls, and the small, bustling village below. It is absolutely breathtaking.

As I drifted back into consciousness a few minutes later, I heard a faint tapping on my door. “Who is it?” I called out softly.

“Can I please come in?” It was my dad.

“Okay. Sure, I guess so.” I begrudgingly got up and went over to the door in order to unlock it and then resumed my position as a tightly curled up ball upon my bed. He perched on the edge of my mattress and attempted to explain what had happened.

“She just went in her sleep. There was nothing anyone could have done about it. We should be grateful that God took her when he did and that she didn’t have to suffer any longer. But the most important thing to remember is that your Grandma lived a very full life and that she loved you very, very much. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, Dad,” I mumbled in return. He gave me a kiss on the forehead and said goodnight.

As he was closing the door behind him, he popped his head inside and said, “Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow, your mom is flying out to Grandma’s house to help pack up her things, so I will be looking after you and Cameron for the next couple of days. You don’t have to go to school tomorrow if you don’t feel up to it, either.” I said okay and that I thought it would be best if I took the day off tomorrow. Then I heard the barely-audible sound of the door shutting. Laying there in the dark, so many thoughts were racing through my mind. How could God let this happen? Why did she have to go now, in this way? I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I felt taken aback and powerless. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to answer any of these questions right now, in this mental state, so I just decided to go to bed. My eyelids began to droop as I slipped away, back into my memories with her.

I am standing on a chair, stirring the contents of a humongous pot. As I rise upon my toes and attempt to peer over the rim, I can feel the warm heat from the stove’s flame tickling the front of my thighs. We are making Grandma’s special fried rice, and its distinct, mouthwatering aroma is wafting throughout the entire house. She hands me a fistful of chopped onions to add to our concoction. I reach my palm high above my head and gingerly toss them in, with this action being followed by a subdued sizzling noise from within the pot. After a few more minutes of stirring, we are finally done, so we begin to dole out heaping spoonfuls of our rice onto everyone’s plates, including our own. And when I take that first bite, my taste buds are just about set aflame. It is just as delicious as ever.

I was awoken abruptly early the next morning with the sound of my dogs’ barking coming from the kitchen. That’s probably Mom, I thought. I’ll bet she just left for her trip. As I heard the mechanical groan of the garage door closing, affirming my suspicions even further, I considered my options. I figured that I could either lay in bed for the better part of the day, dividing my time between sleeping and thinking, or I could go outside or do something to try and get my mind off of everything that had happened. I slipped on my plush yellow robe and my fuzzy slippers and plodded down the carpeted stairs. I noticed the unopened newspaper laying on the kitchen counter and the fact that the television was turned off. That means that Dad and Cameron aren’t awake yet, I thought. And that probably means that no one has let the dogs out yet. I looked over at my two dogs sitting on the couch. Their brown doe eyes pleaded with me to let them outside. As soon as they saw me making a move towards the door, they eagerly jumped off of the couch and started barreling towards the door leading to the backyard. Just before they were about to crash into the sliding glass door, I swiftly pulled it out of the way like a matador. Instantly a wave of sweltering, muggy heat encased me. I walked outside onto the back porch. Even though it wasn’t even June yet, it was humid as ever and the sun was shining like on a hot summer day. As I rested my elbows on the rickety railing with chipped brown paint and stared out blankly into the trees, I began to recall a day that I had spent with my grandma a few summers back.

I am sprawled out on my grandma’s couch, flipping through one of her old photo albums while absent-mindedly petting her pug Gracie. Grandma is intently watching the news, her eyes fixated on the images of devastation and destruction caused by the new wave of floods across the Mississippi River Valley. As I turn the weathered pages of the photo album, my sweaty fingers leave prints on the pages. It is excruciatingly hot today, so much that the little curly hairs framing my face are all plastered to my perspiring forehead. The small fan in the corner of the room does little to ease the humidity. I don’t mind it, though. By this time, I have become accustomed to the heat in her house. I continue to run my eyes over images of my grandma wearing a short black bob during the 1930s, distant family members dressed in kilts at her wedding, and the cramped Bronx apartment she grew up in, among other things. When I finally reach the last page, I shut the photo album and set it on her coffee table. “Grandma,” I say as I stretch my arms high above my head. “Tell me a story.” She takes a break from the news and angles her body towards me.

“Which one?” she asks, her eyes peering over the tops of her glasses.
“Hmmmm…” I drum my fingers on Gracie’s round, bulging belly. “How about one from when you were my age?” I ask her.

“Okay. I have something in mind for you,” she says with a slight smile. I position myself comfortably with Gracie lackadaisically snuggling into my lap, and Grandma then proceeds to share a story with me from her childhood. Even though I have heard it in the past at one time or another, I still listen just as intently as ever.

Standing on the porch, I idly looked out at the dogs prancing around in the freshly-mowed grass. I contemplated all of the memories that had come back to me in the last two days. I thought about how my grandma had been such a big part of my life and how much she had influenced me over the years. And I tried to imagine what she would say to me to try and comfort me. Suddenly, a cool breeze swept through the stagnant, muggy air and made the trees sway as if they were dancing in the wind. I looked up, and it was as if she was saying that everything was going to be okay.




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Summer said...
Dec. 25, 2009 at 1:44 pm:
i really like your writing.
 
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