I close my eyes and I’m eight years old. It is a warm summer morning and the tar sticks to my bare feet as I skip down the worn country road--the marigolds, roses and old-fashioned petunias perfuming the thick southern air.
Something isn’t right. Am I not grown now with a husband and children? I’ll stay just a while--oh, how I’ve missed this place!
My destination is a modest farmhouse--mere feet from my own. I scamper up the front porch steps and take in the view. There’s Pop’s truck and the old chicken pen. Grandma’s garden is overflowing with the bounty of an almost magical green thumb.
Dare I open the door? Is this a cruel joke?
Music from the old radio greets me as I open the screen door.
“Grandma’s out in the garden waitin’ on ya.”
Familiar eyes deeply set beneath bushy gray brows look up at me. Pop is sitting in his brown recliner donning his red cap, tan work shirt and faded jeans. My 35 year old mind cannot comprehend what my eight year old eyes are seeing. I timidly rest my hand on his arm for a moment, needing affirmation. My fears dissolve as I let mind and body become one--reveling in this gift I have been given.
This is a gift--a gift of one more day.
The top of a floppy garden hat is moving above rows of towering tomato vines. I sneeze as the pungent aroma of the ripe red fruit tickles my nose.
“Is that you sneezin’ over there girl? You ain’t catchin’ a summer cold are ya? I can fix ya up somethin’.”
Speak up! Say something.
“N-No Grandma, it’s the tomatoes,” I squeak out.
“Well, get you a bucket and get to picken’. They’re fallin’ off the vines.”
As I round the edge of the tomato row, I look into another familiar pair of eyes--piercing blue eyes I have not seen in 17 years.
“We better hurry up. Look at them clouds back yonder--thunderstorm’s comin’ in.”
Does she know this can’t be?
We pick the last of the tomatoes and reach the back porch just as the rain starts to fall.
Inside, Grandma and Pop hurry to close the windows as the blowing rain pounds against the little house. I desperately try to help, but my weak little arms are no match for the warped wooden windows. I look at my small hands and remember that I am a child.
The wind picks up ferociously, sending the front porch chairs flying across the yard and causing tin to peel up from the barn roof like the lid of a sardine can.
I remember this storm. Now what did I say next? Oh yes. . .
“Grandma, I’m scared.”
“Don’t be scared. You know Jesus wouldn’t let anything happen to you. Let’s sing Jesus Loves Me.”
As we sing, tears roll down my cheeks. I nestle into her side, breathing in her fresh air scent. I can no longer determine if I’m an adult or a child. The line between past and present is blurry now.
“You know, you’ve done good.”
“What do you mean, Grandma?”
“I’ve seen you all these years--would’ve liked to have to been at your weddin’ and held those babies a time or two.”
I look over and see that Pop’s chair is now empty.
My gift is ending--they are leaving me again.
“Oh Grandma, . . . so you know this isn’t real--that I am grown now.”
“This is very real. This day ain’t your gift. Your gift is that imagination of yours. That’s what brought us to you, and you can have it anytime you want. Give those thoughts and words away to other folks--let it keep on givin’.”
“I hug her tightly, willing my body to capture a lasting imprint of her warm embrace. Thank you, Grandma.”
I open my eyes and I am 35 years old. I smile as I see the little farmhouse--the new owners have fixed it up nicely. I walk slowly down the worn country road, the marigolds, roses and old-fashioned petunias perfuming the thick southern air.
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