Today, January 5th, is my Grandmother’s birthday. She would have been 86. Unfortunately, she left this earth a few months ago on September 22, 2012. I loved her dearly and miss her very much. I know I am who I am today largely because of who she was to me. To honor her today on her birthday, I wrote a short story about one of my fondest memories with her.
“Class! Class! Settle down! In your seats! I have an exciting announcement for you all,” said Mrs. Landis to her class of 16 kindergarteners. The wide-eyed little students wandered around the room for just a few moments longer, making their way from the plastic kitchen set in one corner of the large classroom, the aquarium of small turtles by the pint-sized sink in the back of the room, and the pinto bean plants growing in wet, brown paper towels by the window sill to each of their names printed on brightly colored construction paper in their own handwriting taped around low, laminated tables.
As each little face looked up at her with anticipation, Mrs. Landis smiled warmly back through chocolate-colored eyes that matched her chocolate-colored hair perfectly, and began to speak. “There is a special day next week–Grandparent’s Day! Can anyone tell me what Grandparent’s Day is?” She glanced around the room waiting for tiny hands to shoot up in the air signaling the imminent release of five-year old wisdom.
Two small bodies bolted out of their child-sized wooden chairs as their right hands cut vertically through the air in perfectly straight lines. They stared each other down as they did this and immediately began to argue whose hand was raised first.
“Well mine is higher than yours so I’m first,” snaps one of the hand-raisers. He’s a chubby little boy with a round face, red hair, and missing one of his front teeth.
“No, it’s not! See look!” says the other. He has dark afro cut into a short box. He stands on his tiptoes and stretches his body as far as it will go.
“Boys, please sit down. You’ll both get to answer,” said Mrs. Landis, interrupting the stretching match that has taken place between the two students. She is a small, slightly pudgy woman with a soft round face and smooth lines around her eyes and mouth. “You first, Bradley.”
Bradley was the one with the box haircut. He looked over at his opponent with a triumphant grin as he took his seat. The other boy plopped down in his chair with his arms crossed tightly across his He-Man sweatshirt adorned chest and stuck out his tongue at Bradley.
“Go ahead, Bradley,” said Ms. Landis as she gave the other boy a look of disapproval.
“Umm…what was the question again?” Bradley asked. The class began to giggle and Bradley sunk back into his seat in embarrassment.
“I asked if anyone could tell me what Grandparent’s Day is,” Mrs. Landis replied. Evidently Bradley thought the question was more about who could raise his hand first than anything else.
“I know! I know!” shrieked a little girl at the table across from Bradley and He-Man shirt. She had one little light brown hand raised and used the other to twirl one of her two long, dark, twisted pigtails.
“Yes, Courtney?” Mrs. Landis responded.
“It’s when your Grandparents come to school and eat lunch with you,” Courtney answered.
“That’s right,” Mrs. Landis said and gave Courtney an approving look.
Courtney smiled, proud of herself for knowing the answer. She smoothed the folds of her navy corduroy dress and straightened the neck of the white turtle neck underneath. Of course she knew what Grandparent’s Day was. She had been waiting anxiously for its arrival since school started a few weeks ago. She had been excited to finally start Kindergarten, but was a bit sad that she wouldn’t be able to spend every day with her grandmother anymore. During the day her grandmother would watch after her while her parents were at work. Grandparents Day meant she could spend a little extra time with her grandmother, and show her how great her classroom was and all introduce her to all her new friends.
“So, next Monday all of your grandparents are welcome to come and see the classroom and have lunch in the cafeteria with you,” Mrs. Landis explained.
“I can’t wait to tell Grannie!” Courtney said to the little girl next to her. She excitedly twirled her pigtail and scratched at the itchy, white tights her mother had made her wear.
“What do you mean you can’t come?” Courtney exclaimed with tears in her light brown eyes. She was sitting at the dining room table having her afternoon snack with Grannie.
“Baby, Grannie has a doctor’s appointment Monday. I would come if I could, but I can’t do it on Monday,” said Grannie as she wiped the mixture of tears and milk from Courtney’s upper lip with a napkin. Though Grannie was in her early 60’s, she could easily pass for 45 with her light, smooth skin, petite figure, and long, black hair with only a handful of gray strands.
“But Grannie,” Courtney whined as she played with her plate of baby carrots and peanut butter covered celery sticks. “Everybody’s grandparents are going to be there and I’ll be the only one whose aren’t. It’s not fair!” She kicked off her little brown shoes under the table and aired out her freed toes that were still clad in the itchy, white tights.
“Hush up and finish your snack before your mama gets here. I’ll come next time, sweetie,” Grannie said in an apologetic tone.
“But there won’t be a next time!” Courtney cried. It’s just one day. Just Monday. You have to come Grannie! Pleeeease?” She jumped up from the table, grabbed her grandmother around the waist and buried her little head into Grannie’s red housecoat-covered waist.
“Oh, honey,” Grannie said softly and rubbed the back of her granddaughter’s neck and shoulders. “I promise I will come another day.” She gently lifted Courtney’s from her waist, looked down into her crying eyes, fixed her crooked red ribbons around her pigtails, and kissed her on the forehead.
The rest of the week dragged on for Courtney. She was so sad and disappointed that Grannie couldn’t come for Grandparent’s Day. She tried to forget about it, but every now and then one of her classmates would bring it up and she would be at the brink of tears as she listened to them talk excitedly about how great their grandparents were. At the end of the week, Mrs. Landis taped a reminder to everyone’s notebooks about Grandparent’s Day. Courtney pulled hers off and ripped it up.
“I don’t feel good. I’m not going to school today,” Courtney told her mother in the most pitiful voice she could muster up. She gave a little fake cough and closed her eyes. It was Monday morning–Grandparent’s Day.
“Don’t try that with me,” her mother said as she pulled back the covers and then walked over to the windows to open up the curtains. “You were just fine last night and you’re just fine today. I know you’re still upset that Grannie can’t come have lunch with you today, but you will be fine. You’ll see Grannie when you get off the bus today like you always do.” She was scooping up Courtney’s three year old sister Loni from the other side of the bed.
Courtney groaned, crawled reluctantly out of bed and got ready for school.
It was horrible, just like she thought it would be. A little while before lunchtime, the grandparents started arriving. One by one an excited kid would jump up out of their seat screaming, “Grandpa!” or “Nana!” and run to the classroom doorway when they saw their loved one poke his or her head in. Courtney kept hoping she would look up and the head that poked through the doorway would be Grannie’s. It never was.
At lunchtime while everyone ate with their grandparents talking and laughing, Courtney sat quietly at the table and tried to tune out everyone else. “I just wish this day would be over,” she whispered to herself as she picked at the grayish colored hot dog and flimsy French fries on her pea green, plastic lunch tray.
When the big yellow school bus stopped at the end of her grandmother’s driveway and Courtney saw Grannie standing there in her burgundy polyester pants suit and her hair done in a long black braid that hung down the front of her shoulder she rolled her eyes.
“Hi sweetie,” her grandmother said as Courtney descended the three steps off the bus and stepped onto the black asphalted driveway.
“Hi,” Courtney said curtly without making eye contact. Instead of hugging her grandmother like she usually did when she got off the bus, she tucked her thumbs under the straps of her Rainbow Brite backpack and brushed past her.
As the week went on, the excitement of Grandparent’s Day quickly died down in Courtney’s classroom. By Friday, everything was back to normal.
Just before lunchtime, the class was sitting quietly at their tables coloring pictures of flowers and animals. Courtney was concentrating hard on staying inside the lines as she colored the face of a cow green when she heard Mrs. Landis call her name. A little irritated that the teacher had broken her concentration, Courtney looked up towards the teacher’s desk. Mrs. Landis was smiling sweetly and pointing at the doorway.
Courtney dropped her green crayon and her jaw. “Grannie!” she exclaimed and jumped out of her seat. Her grandmother was standing there in the doorway wearing a pretty light blue cotton dress, white hose, and shiny white dress shoes. Her long hair was done up in a loose bun atop her head and she carried a shiny, leather purse. With a big smile on her face and her arms outstretched for a hug she said, “Hi, sweetie!” Courtney ran to her and again grabbed her around the waist and buried her head into her stomach.
“What are you doing here?” Courtney asked after several seconds of squeezing her grandmother’s waist.
“I came to have lunch with you,” she answered. “I told you I would come another day. So here I am.” She kissed Courtney on the forehead and straightened the bright yellow ribbons holding her two twisted pigtails in place.
Courtney grabbed her grandmother’s hand and pulled her to the middle of the classroom.
“Everybody, this is my Grannie!“ she said as she held tight to her grandmother’s hand. She twisted from side to side with excitement making the skirt of her yellow flowered dress sway back and forth. “She couldn’t come on your Grandparent’s Day so we are making today our own.” She looked up at her Grannie’s bright smile and gave an even brighter one back in return.
Courtney and Grannie sat at one of the low lunch tables eating watery spaghetti and sipping cold milk from red and white half-pint cartons.
“I’m glad you came today instead of Monday, Grannie,” Courtney said as she attempted to wind the yellowish noodles around her fork prongs. “We had hotdogs Monday. I hate hotdogs. Spaghetti is my favorite,” she said as she slurped up a noodle, splashing red sauce around her mouth.
“Mine, too,” Grannie said and she smiled as she wiped a mixture of spaghetti sauce and milk from Courtney’s upper lip.
Happy Birthday Grannie!
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