"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.
Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." -- Alex Haley
I don’t remember much about my grandparents. Two died long before I was on heaven’s radar. One barely got the chance to know me. Sometimes I wonder what they would’ve thought about me. Would they have spoiled me with designer clothes and chocolate candies? Would they love me? Guess I’ll never know.
One grandmother, however, survived to experience my little girl antics. She made up for all the love I might have missed with the others. Finances wouldn’t permit her to spoil me with tinker toys or Barbie dolls, but she did keep Moon Pies hidden in a lower drawer in her kitchen. They were always within easy reach. Even when she was busy at the sink, I could catch her eye, as I eased open the drawer. The corner of her mouth would turn up in a smile and her head would nod. It was our secret sign.
Grandma Rosie’s two-story house, with its spacious porch, lounged or rather languished, on the main street of Colby, Arkansas. It sagged and creaked . . . a testimony to its arduous journey through the Bolton family. It sat in a restful place three blocks from most of the main street mayhem. Monster elm and maple trees, that I liked to imagine had seen action in the Civil War, stood as sentinels around the borders of her domain. An oversized magnolia skirted the sidewalk. Its heady fragrance--captivating and mysterious. Sometimes if I stood too long under it, my eyes watered.
The backyard was a tangle of blackberries, raspberries, all matter of flowers, and, of course, rhubarb. When I came for my annual summer visit, it was always my honor (eewwww) to pick the bitter stuff for all matter of pies and salads Grandma concocted. Rhubarb was her specialty. Then again, I think it was the specialty of every tiny Southern town grandma.
I’ll never forget the last summer I spent with Grandma Rosie. Our days were an endless mix of canning, baking, gardening, and walking trips downtown. Grandma didn’t own a car. Instead, her ramshackle detached garage served as a shrine to her garden with pots, tools, fertilizer, hoses, and one ancient, unused lawnmower.
Saturday mornings, we walked downtown to Dave’s Donuts for a breakfast “treat” washed down with creamy chocolate milk.
Steamy afternoons saw me tagging along with the neighborhood kids for a frolic in the city pool. Grandma made sure I got plenty of play time with other kids.
Then at night, after our dinner, Grandma loved to sit on her front porch swing and watch the stars. I remember feeling lost in her lap, listening to her sweet songs and stories about the heavens.
“Grandma, tell me again about the stars.”
“Well, little one, our Lord God made the heavens and the earth with His own hands. He formed the heavens out of love for us. He tossed the lights we call stars into the darkness. You, me, all of us are His stars.”
A metal screech, eeech, swoosh, screech swoosh cut through the stillness along with the chirping of crickets. I cuddled tighter into Grandma’s lap as she stroked my hair. I watched the sparkle lights overhead. It was like a mysterious canopy, far away yet comforting.
The next morning, I found myself in my bed upstairs. Grandma must’ve carried me to bed. It was the perfect summer.
Grandma Rosie died that year just shy of my tenth birthday and a few months from her ninetieth birthday. It was December 14th.
Dad took my hand in his and led me to Grandma’s porch swing that night. We clung together in layers of her crocheted blankets. The scent of Calgon bath beads and the musty sofa tickled my nose. The tears flowed. The swing groaned. And the house sighed.
Peeking out from the blanket, my eyes caught a glimpse of something flash across the sky. “Dad?”
His eyes were closed. I could see something glistening on his cheek. “Dad?”
I pointed to the sky. Trails of light streaked across the canopy. Here. There. Like sparklers on 4th of July.* “Look, Dad. God’s tossing stars into the heavens, just like Grandma used to say.”
Dad’s head and eyes moved skyward. His arms squeezed me tight and we watched Grandma’s show together. I brushed Dad’s cheek with my hand, capturing his tears.
“Grandma said we’re all God’s stars. Do you think Grandma’s up there in heaven now?”
“I know she is.”
*The Geminid meteor showers streak across the mid-December skies every year leaving us with a sense of wonder.
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