Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Snap( 09/04/08)
By Betsy Markman
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Snap, pitter-patter-pit. Breaking open pods, dropping peas into her old yellow bowl, tossing the empty pods into the compost bucket. Snap, pitter-patter-pit.
Her gnarled hands know their task well. They have worked on this same porch every Spring, making snap, pitter-patter-pit with that same yellow bowl since Grampa first carried her over the threshold. Before that, her hands had perfected their skills on the old homestead, starting even before they knew the right way to hold a pencil.
A rose-scented breeze whispers past thousands of aspen and cottonwood leaves, giving them a voice of their own and enticing the daisies to bow and curtsy to one another.
"Your roses are beautiful, Grandma." I try to match her rhythm with my own bucket of pods, but my hands know how to extract peas from a can far more easily.
"Thank you, dear. Are you feeling any better now?"
"Yes, thanks. Did you have morning sickness when you were expecting?"
"I had some, but it wasn't too bad. Of course that was a long time ago. The years have a way of taking the edge off of such things."
A jay perches right on the porch railing, cocking its head as it watches me work. Grandma and I fall silent, not wanting to scare the bright-eyed beauty away. It hops a bit, never taking its eyes off of me, until finally flitting away with a loud cry.
When Grandma was my age, she had already birthed two children and buried one of them. Her sturdy hands had boiled and wrung and hung up hundreds of cloth diapers. I'm planning to use the modern throw-away kind.
At my age she and Grampa had already tilled and hoed and harvested life out of this land for three years, in the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression. And she had done all of that work around a belly swollen huge by her third child, my mother.
"Did you ever worry that you wouldn't be a good mother?" I feel a little shy asking that question. I probably sound much more insecure than she would have at twenty.
"I <I>did</i> worry about not having enough food to feed them, and about keeping them clothed. I sewed everything we wore back then, you know."
"I know. I can't imagine how you did it all."
"Love finds a way."
The breeze picks up, and Grandma pauses to enjoy it. She sets her bowl down on the floor and loosens her apron.
Another question burns in my heart, but I'm not sure I should ask it. I don't want to pry. But life doesn't often bring me to this place where family roots dig deeper than tree roots. And I'm beginning to realize that the woman beside me is like the water table under the earth. My mother drew up a lot by tapping into that well, and I want to do the same.
While I still can.
"Did you and Grampa ever argue?" Asking this as a wife to a wife makes me feel less a grandchild, and more a peer.
"Of course we did. Still do. We argued this morning. Didn't you notice how quiet we were at the breakfast table?"
"Yes, but I had no idea you had been arguing. I never heard a thing!"
"No point getting loud about it. Just upsets others. Besides, it was nothing important. It seems silly now. It usually does, when you've had time to cool off." She nods toward the barn. "Here he comes now."
Grampa's long strides have shortened a bit with the years, and his back curves forward a little now, but his bearing still reflects his earlier youth and strength. He brings with him a few daisies that he picked along the way, and tucks them behind Grandma's ear with a flourish.
She smiles into his eyes, and the look which passes between them needs no words. <I>All is forgiven. All is forgotten.</i>
He kisses her forehead, then goes inside whistling, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."
Grandma, still smiling, picks up her bowl. Soon the familiar rhythm begins again, but this time she also hums in harmony to Grampa's whistling.
<i>Let me call you sweetheart...</i>
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