The tiny, chubby hand brushed Millie’s ancient skin, exploring wrinkles, titillating the old woman’s cheek.
Memories flood Millie’s mind, creating a tidal rush of past and present, washing together, crashing, combining until she isn’t sure what was then and what is now.
Memories flood Millie’s mind…
Her grandmother, a thick German woman, smiles. Her face is lined with years of prairie sun and wind, but her eyes dance with joy. Millie grabs her grandmother’s finger, her own minute hand struggling to grasp as she pulls Oma’s finger to her cheek. Oma strokes the baby softness and sings to her in a foreign tongue that only she and the baby understand.
…creating a tidal rush…
“Millie? Millie! Are you alright?” The words are shouted, the man’s voice hoarse with fear. Millie nods mutely, looking into the terrified face of her father.
“Oh, child,” her daddy cries, tears streaking his suddenly filthy face. In
her eleven years she has never seen him cry. He rubs her cheek with a calloused hand. “I thought we lost you.”
Millie looks at the spot where her house stood a minute before, aware that the angry sound of the twister is gone, wondering what part of her life it stole when it left.
…of past and present…
Samuel touches her cheek outside the church house. She closes her eyes, bites her lower lip. At sixteen it is the most overtly sexual act she’s ever experienced. “I’ll make a good life for you, Millie,” Samuel stares into her eyes, sincere, solemn, completely captivated. “And I’ll guarantee you, woman, that nobody else will ever love you the way I will.”
“My baby,” Millie whispers. The tiny, infant in her arms quiets as she holds him to breast. He nuzzles, nursing for the first time, grunting in pleasure. Millie feels the heat of tears on her face. “Sam,” she looks up as her love enters, “look—our son!”
Samuel falls to his knees beside her, his face flushed and unbelieving. He touches their boy and, with his other hand, rubs the tenderness of her cheek. “A boy,” he breathes.
“Grandmamma, you’re crying!” Sarah brushes the tear form Millie’s cheek, smiling at her. Her hair is still wet from her river-baptism.
Millie looks into the most amazing blue eyes since Sam. Pangs of sorrow touch this happy moment. “Your grandfather would be so very proud of you, Sarah. The decision to receive Christ was his dream for you.”
Tears slid down Sarah’s face, now, too. “I’ll see him again, Grandmama. I’ll see him in heaven someday.”
“Mama,” her oldest daughter giggles over the phone. Millie holds the large receiver to her ear, knots the phone cord in her hand. “Mama, I’m a grandmother!”
Millie laughs aloud and turns to her housemate. “She’s a grandmother!” she announces. Her long-time friend cups Millie’s face and laughs with her, two retirees sharing joys reserved for the old.
…until she isn’t sure…
Her son, an old man himself now, holds her face in his hands.
He’s scared, she realizes, and tries to comfort him. Why is she laying down if Daniel is scared? “Mama, lie still,” he instructs. He strokes her face gently. Man-hands now, Millie thinks, remembering dirty little boy hands of long ago.
“It’s okay, Mama. Can you tell me when you fell? Do you know how long you’ve been on the floor?”
…what was then…
Miillie smiles, the picture of a tiny baby held close to her face as the nurse reads aloud the birth announcement.
“My granddaughter has a granddaughter!” Millie exclaims.
The nurse smiles broadly. She is one of Millie’s favorites. She touches Millie’s cheek, her big hand warm. “I know, Mrs. Law! Olivia—what a pretty name! Five generations now! Time to get another one ‘a those pictures taken!”
…and what is now…
Someone touches her cheek. She wakes and looks up—her granddaughter, Sarah.
“Can you hear me? I’ve brought Olivia and her baby. Do you remember Olivia? She’s Stuart’s daughter. She brought her baby for a picture. You, me, Stuart will be here in a minute, Olivia and her baby, Claire. Six generations, with only Mama missing.”
Millie hears her grandson enter the room, feels his pecked kiss on her forehead. “Hi, Gigi,” Stuart greets Millie. “Mom, I just have lunch hour…”
And then a baby is on her lap and a tiny, chubby hand brushes her face.
“I don’t think Gigi knows Claire is even on her lap, Grandma,” Olivia says to Sarah.
“Oh, she does.” Sarah wipes tears form her grandmother’s cheek, touching ancient skin, exploring wrinkles, titillating Millie’s cheek.