Friday, October 29, 2010

What Your Grandma Did

I would. Wouldn't you?
I mean, why wouldn't you?
What? Are you- what?
Afraid? Embarrassed?
Please. Your grandmother did it.
I saw her.
Don't act like you didn't, too.
It was after school.
The day we made the face masks
out of paper plates and paint stir sticks.
I was FDR and you were-
who were you?
Go figure.
My mask ripped. Yours was intact. But uglier than mine.
Let's go to my grandma's, you said.
She lives down the street, you explained.
She loves to have company, you lied.
We saw her through the window
silhouetted by light cotton floral drapes.
At first, we weren't sure about what we were seeing.
Is she?
I think so-
But, could it be?
I don't think so-
Right. Wow.
One of us was impressed.
One of us was mortified.
Neither of us could believe it.
(Although all along I suspected it.)

I dared you to ring the bell.
She was your grandma, after all.
Your finger approached the buzzer, then withdrew, then approached again.
Go on, I said.
You pressed it.
The curtains were drawn just enough that if I held my head at an angle
and pressed my nose to the glass
I could see a sliver of your real grandma,
not the silhouetted one.
And I could see the buzzing of the doorbell had startled her.
She wasn't angry. Just surprised.
Not caught, really.  Just interrupted.
For a moment I thought she would continue on
and leave us to fend for ourselves on the porch.
But she stopped.
I saw her stop.

When she opened the door,
I tried hard to act like I hadn't seen her.
We both did.
Nice to see you.
And how have you been?
I see your azaleas are doing really well.
Thanks for noticing.
I was a little afraid to enter the house.
I made you go first.

Inside, we ate stale pinwheel cookies
from the opened package
your grandma dug out of the pantry.
We sat in silence,
listening to the sounds of our chewing
and the ticking of the cat-faced clock on the wall down the hall
and the air conditioner kicking on.
And off. And on. And off.
I chewed and smiled and allowed my eyes
to timidly roam the room.
National Geographic magazines fanned out on top of a marble-topped coffee table,
an orange and brown afghan draped over a scratchy brown recliner,
coasters made of cork and framed in wood, a metal tv stand,
a blue braided rug, a brass floor lamp topped with a shade still wrapped in plastic,
a pair of pink terrycloth slippers near the front door,
a paper napkin folded neatly under a nearly-empty coffee cup.
And your grandma.

At her funeral
the stories sprang from mouth to ear to mouth to ear
Did you know that one time she?
In her kitchen?
At the supermarket once!
Well, that I had heard.
On the way home from giving birth.
Every Thanksgiving.
You don't say.
Doesn't surprise me a bit.
That's the kind of old gal she was.
And your grandma,
visible only from the waist up
in her nicest navy dress with the pink embroidered flowers,
bible clutched in her hands which were resting on her unmoving chest
lay flat on her back in a shiny black coffin.
And when I turned to look at her
I could have sworn she was smiling.

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