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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Grandma and Gardens
By Loren T. Lowery


Strange, what yellowed, waxed shades can do to a room. Coloring memories like a faded parchment; muting them in the filtered light to play a silent ballet. A dance, delicate as dust particles floating in the air.

Strange, too, how the mood of a room can change when the one who occupied it has passed on. Loss would be a good word for such a mood. First, a subtle turning of the head and then a sudden gasp at the stillness.

Such was the way I found my grandmother’s bedroom when asked to settle her estate. Somber, quiet, weighted with memories. Faded roses on wallpaper, oak floors, chenille bedcover and the smell of lavender perfume.

Her vanity against a far wall stood as if wary – a round mirror somehow disturbed with loneliness. No longer called to reflect the grace or share the friendship of its owner as she sat to brush her hair.

Taped on the mirror was a letter, aged and yellow, like the fragile cellophane that secures it. Gently, I pulled it off to read. It was from me, over fifty years ago. A thank-you note written in grade school for some paints she had given me for Christmas. I cried, remembering.

Alta was my father’s mother; tall, thin, beautiful, opinionated. To all her grandchildren, but me, she was called bossy. Except by me, visits to her home were met with groans. I cherished them. And, over the years, I was able to spend entire summers with her and Grandpa.

I couldn’t tell you which moment or event set Grandma apart for me. It would be like asking which raindrop grew a garden or which leaf of a tree makes it full. Instead, they all combine to make it complete and whole. That is what she did for me, help to make my life whole.

For instance, Grandma kept a yellow canary in her kitchen and it was my pleasure to uncover its cage in the morning. Billy, as he was called, would flutter, hop, and instantly break into song. He made me smile.

“You know why he sings so beautifully?” Grandma would ask. I would shake my head and she would answer. “Because he is caged and his song brings beauty into his world.”

Holding my ancient letter, I moved to sit on the vanity bench and catch a glimpse out the window into her garden. It is here so many fond memories parade not across my mind, but through my heart.

My thoughts follow the memories to find wind stirring the scent of sweet peas, tomatoes, corn and sunflowers. The sun is merciless; and my shadow falls across Grandma as she kneels in the dirt.

In a large brimmed hat with yellow ribbon, she breaks a clod of dirt in her hands, the dust spins in the air. “Secret of life can be found here.” She glances at me. “You know that?”

“It’s hot,” I reply, wiping sweat from my brow.

“It is,” she responds. “Why don’t you go in with your grandpa and watch TV?” Instead, I remained in the garden to learn of buzzing bees and budding blooms; of sowing and reaping; secrets buried in the seasons and the soil.

Smoothing the crinkles from the letter, I now move from the vanity into the joining bathroom with the claw foot tub. Once my own private pool; filled deep by grandma with clean, cool water.

Through this room and down the hall, I walk to find the summer porch. This room with a deep feathered bed was my bedroom back then. Here through the screened windows I would play sentinel over the moon-drenched garden.

Here, I would fall asleep to nature’s chorus of katydids, frogs and yelping dogs. Here, cradled in a cloud I would watch the stars and feel safe knowing in the morning I would have a purpose: to uncover Billy’s cage and let him sing.

And it is here, today where I made one final discovery. There on the wall above my old bed, was the watercolor I had made for Grandma with the paints she had sent me. It was framed, behind glass.

My heart pounds as I touched the glass, remembering. A child’s rendering of a garden with just the two of us; and Billy, flying free through the towering corn.

Strange what yellowed shades can do to a room; but stranger and more wonderful still is what gardens and Grandmas can do to your life. I miss you.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/10/08
In my opinion, this line is brilliant: "It would be like asking which raindrop grew a garden or which leaf of a tree makes it full." Lovely tribute.
Betsy Markman04/10/08
Just wonderful. I agree with the above comment...that sentence about "which raindrop grew a garden" was a touch of genius. Thanks for the beautiful entry.
Joanne Sher 04/10/08
Stunningly beautiful and magically atmospheric. Masterful .
Emily Gibson04/13/08
This is masterfully done! One of my favorites this week and one I will save as it brings to focus how grandparents are not the same to every grandchild-some bonds are more precious. Your descriptions are dreamlike and vivid.
Joy Faire Stewart04/14/08
This is one of my favorite entries this week. The 7th paragraph is masterful. And the imagery of "...and Billy, flying free through the towering corn" is my favorite. Fantastic!
Jan Ackerson 04/14/08
This is gorgeous through and through, but your first four paragraphs and the last one stand out far above any entry this week.
Betty Castleberry04/14/08
Lovely imagery, beautifully written. This is wonderful.
jodie banner04/15/08
This is such a beautiful piece. Your descriptions brought me right into that house and your memories.
Sheri Gordon04/16/08
This is a beautiful tribute--and written in such a captivating voice.

My grandma had a yellow canary, too--Buddy. :)
Sara Harricharan 04/16/08
Gave me goosebumps as I read this. Yellow is my favorite color, but I felt that I saw the personality of it in this special piece. Grandmas are definitely to be cherished-along with the lessons that come in the garden. This was great-excellent writing! ^_^
Karen Wilber04/16/08
This is magnificent, full of atmosphere and memories. I agree, the line about "which raindrop grew a garden...." is brilliant.
Lyn Churchyard04/17/08
This would have to be one of the best entries I have read this week. The descriptions and memories of your MC are just so wonderfully warm and full of nostalgia. A true masterpiece.
Peter Stone04/17/08
So much beautiful imagery and memories here. I especially loved the line about the raindrop in the garden, and the ending was perfect. Well done.
Laurie Walker04/17/08
Oh Loren, once again you have captured my heart, transported me through time, and reminded me of the most precious things in life. You make me want to be the mother/grandmother (one day) that a child looks back on just like this. Congratulations on your wins. They are well deserved.
Sara Harricharan 04/17/08
***Congratulations!*** ^_^
Sheri Gordon04/17/08
Congratulations on your EC, Loren. This is a very special piece.
Debbie Wistrom04/17/08
So sorry that I missed this earlier. You rendered your past with great skill. I have no more words, I'm in awe of the feeling and the glimpses into two lives. THANKS!
Mariane Holbrook 04/17/08
I cannot find any words that haven't already been said. This entry is so masterfully done as to leave me breathless. I didn't want the poem to end. I wanted to linger in that room just a little longer and inhale its quiet, muted beauty.
Debbie Roome 04/17/08
Congrats. This is a beautiful story and I love the yellow theme woven through it.
Myrna Noyes04/22/08
Oh, Loren, no wonder you won! This is a lovely piece that allowed me to "see" your grandma, her room, her garden, her wisdom!

I am going through my parent's home right now as the administrator of their estate, and so many things are speaking to me of them, too. Your piece brought me a kind of comfort in reminding me of the precious memories I hold of my own grandma and now of my mom and dad.

Your writing is so moving, so rich, so wise. Thank you!
Catrina Bradley 04/23/08
Stunningly beautiful words. This has a haunting feel to it. I wanted to pick a favorite line but there are just too many. Congrats on your EC - as always, you blew me away with your writing. I'm so glad to see you on the list!! Cat
Judy Wilson04/29/08
Most grandmothers are just where you want to be. Beautiful rememberance!
Jan Ackerson 08/24/08
Loren, I'm going to feature this lyrical story on the Front Page showcase for the week of September 22. Look for it on the FW Home page, and congratulations!
Marijo Phelps09/22/08
If you were teaching a class on writing I would sign up yesterday! Incredible use of words painting pictures in the reader's mind. It surely takes me back to houses, gardens and grandmas I have known. Thank you.
Marilyn Klunder09/28/08
Beautiful! Like all the others your words painted the beautiful memory of a special relationship. It held my attention until the end. Wonderful piece.