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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: A Bowl Full of Cherry Tomatos
By Samantha Arroyo


I sat awkwardly in the cushioned deck chair, my feet swinging boldly beneath the chrome finished bars of the seat, my toes hardly touching the porch’s wooden slats. An Indian summer breeze tickled my delicate skin and danced through the tendrils surrounding my face. On the glass table beside me, my grandmother had placed a large bowl full of ripened red cherry tomatoes; the product of a hard afternoon laboring in the vegetable garden. She reached her elderly hand forward and snatched a tomato from the bunch. I watched intently as she proceeded to lick its sides and sprinkle salt around its edges. I stared, noticing the tiny crystals adhere to the plump red skin before she gingerly popped it into her mouth.

She turned to me with a knowing smile. “Go ahead,” she said, “Pick it, lick it and dip it.”

I paused. “Go on,” she said. My eyes traveled towards the bowl, overflowing with plump, red produce. I slowly reached my hand out and plucked one from the top of the heap. My grandmother watched me carefully as I licked its sides and salted its skin. I popped it in my mouth without hesitation, the salty juices filling up my little mouth.

“Mmm!” I said enthusiastically. My grandmother nodded, slipped her hand back into the bucket and continued her routine. We sat there for quite some time just licking tomatoes and passing the salt shaker back and forth without saying much of anything. The late afternoon sun hung boldly in the sky and the leaves clapped gently in the breeze.

I studied her weathered hands as they moved rhythmically from the bowl to her mouth. I watched her spindly white hair, a mess of tight curls atop her head, move ever so slightly as the breeze passed over the deck. I took in the soft skin of her fragile features and the way she toyed and fingered each tomato before wrapping her thin lips around its frame. She was so gentle with every move she made. And although she did not utter a word in my direction, I sensed her mind traveling to and fro against the currents of yesterdays’ past.

I hardly knew this woman. She was not the grandmother that visited on every holiday. She didn’t attend my school plays or sporting events. She didn’t come to hear me sing in the choir. And she wasn’t the one to present me with a gleeful embrace on every birthday. She was the grandmother that kept her distance. She sent the card and made sure to sign Papa’s name too. She didn’t bake cookies and I don’t remember her ever reading me stories. But she was my grandmother. And I knew in that moment that she loved me.

It’s one of the few memories I have of us. And one of the few that I cherish. With my hands wrapped around the salt shaker and my little legs swinging beneath the iron deck chair, I said a little prayer to God. And I thanked Him for that moment on the porch–with a bowl full of cherry tomatoes. The day I knew that yes, she loved me.

In the only way she knew how.

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This article has been read 467 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 04/10/08
I like the way that you captured this unsentimental grandmother in a tender, sentimenal way.

Be careful of adverb-overuse: it's frequently preferable to use a stronger verb. You don't have to get rid of all of them by any means.

You did a great job with the sensory aspects of this story.
Debbie Wistrom04/10/08
I love cherry tomatoes so you got me with the title. You tale was endearing and you wrapped it up very well. I would have like more.
Dee Yoder 04/10/08
You painted quite a picture of this grandmother who loved you from a distance. Beautiful little memory that shows the importance even a singular event can have on a child.
Gregory Kane04/11/08
Very evocative writing for all that there was little in the way of actual conversation or action. I particularly liked the way you gave the final line a paragraph of its own. Conveyed to me a deep sense of sadness
Tessy Fuller04/11/08
You also lured me in by the title. I thought this was really good and painted a very profound memory. I did think there was some things that were redunant in your descriptions. Once you paint the picture once - avoid using the same color - such as elderly hand, weathered hand. My favorite part was the first couple of sentences that described the essence of childhood in dangling, swinging feet.
Koula Amling04/11/08
Your writing really had me identifying with both the child and the grandma. 'Liked it a lot!
Joshua Janoski04/11/08
A superbly written entry. I love all the details that you included in this piece. I felt as though I was sitting their with your grandma eating tomatoes with you both.

With writing like this, I don't think that you will be in beginners for long.

Thank you for sharing this. I really liked it a lot. :)
Kristen Hester04/12/08
You do a very good job describing a tender "a ha" moment with your grandmother. Interesting choice to write on "the other" grandmother. I had one like that, also. I couldn't quite picture the MC in the chair at first from your early description, but the rest was very vivid. Nice job.
Donna Emery04/12/08
This is excellent! I saw your grandmother vividly in this lovely story. A very good way to illustrate her unique personality, and a great interaction between the MC and the child. Keep writing; you have a way with words
Joanne Sher 04/18/08
Congratulations, Samantha, on placing 7th in your level. Great work!