It was tentative and uneasy, but I slipped my shoes off and slid my toes into the grass. I remember suddenly that no matter how lush and lovely it seems, that it will always surprise you with sharp angles of thick cut stalks and the coolness of it. I'd told someone recently that putting my bare feet in grass always made me remember my grandmother's laugh. That only made me realize how long it had been since I'd done it. I couldn't force myself to stay long. The rush of memories was so strong, so pleasant, so...uncomfortable. I'm not sure why uncomfortable.
The best days of my life were spent in the company of my grandparents. I wanted to say "in the company of my grandmother" but I know in truth, as hard as my relationship with him was, my grandfather contributed a great deal to that bliss. I remember waking in the attic bedroom, crammed full with artifacts of several lives...theirs, their parents', my mother's, even mine. There was never enough room to do much more than walk around the bed, but it was my favorite room in the house. I dug through boxes, imagining my grandmother in this dress, my grandfather smoking that pipe, or marveling at strange things that seemed to have no logical purpose. There were books and fountain pens, hats and dime store jewelery. It was a treasure trove.
But what I remember most of all is waking up, bright light, a fresh breeze and the lilting sounds of a tiny town waking up wafting through the windows, lifting the curtains in a lazy dance. There was the familar smell of eggs frying in my grandmother's cast iron skillet and the unmistakable sounds of dishes clattering and my grandfather coughing himself awake in the bathroom. I would hear my mother and grandmother talking, and Paul Harvey or the local weather on the radio. And bad country music. I'd do the obligatory dance outside the bathroom door as I waited for my grandfather's endless morning preparation to cease and then would sit sleepily down to my glass of Tang and whatever cereal I'd talked my grandmother into that week.
The summer days we spent there were endless chores that seemed like vacation to me...painting the screens, hanging laundry on the line, peeling potatos for dinner. I built sand castles in the street (it was the sandhills after all and the "street" was indeed sand!) and hiked up the road to look at the neighbor's great nasty Thanksgiving turkey, strutting around the yard and scaring the chickens. I snooped through my grandfather's shop and wondered about how many ways there was to put all these things together and the marvelous things I could build. Grandma and I would play Kings on the Corners, and she didn't let me win because I was a kid. In fact, she didn't let me win because she was a kid herself at heart. At night, after the dishes were washed and put away the grown ups would sit in lawn chairs and I would sit in the grass looking for four leaf clovers. While the clover was the bane of my grandfather's gardening experience, for me, it was the best thing his lawn could offer. I would lay there for hours examining each individual clover, excitedly plucking some out, only to realize that I had been deceived. I would pull up a healthy three leaf clover once in a great while and tear a leaf down the middle, trying to convince myself that I'd found one, but it was just a game I played to keep my spirits up.
My grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1982, the summer I was 13. While she lived for another four years, she never came home again and it was never the same without her.
I did eventually find a four leaf clover though. She was gone by then and I was 22 years old. I put it in her jewelery box. It was gone the next time I came home. I suppose my mother might have found it and thrown it out. But I like to think Grandma found it and knew it was something I wanted to share with her.
I had a friend recently ask me to think about what home feels like. Home feels like bare feet in the grass. Home feels like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Home feels like people you know and you trust waiting for you with a glass of Tang while the wind blows the curtains beside your bed.
Happy Mother's Day, Grandma, wherever you are.
Happy Mother's Day to you too.