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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It's a Colorful World (12/03/09)

TITLE: Then there came a day...
By Rachel Phelps


For as long as I can remember, my grandma dressed elegantly - in pastels and embroidered sweaters. I know from her stories that this was not always the case. As a child, her mother sewed all her clothes, often out of whatever fabric was available. When she was a teenager, she ran away from home and for months would go to work in a red bandanna and overalls – a real life Rosie the Riveter in the shipyards. It was only later in life that money allowed her to indulge her taste for pretty things. Her wardrobe had a few pieces of deep or bright color, but it was mostly those pastels – lilac and mint green and powder blue – that characterized her.

Then there came a day when those pretty colors troubled her because she could not remember what colors were meant to go together, and when she wore the same plain white shirt and cardigan for days on end because she didn’t remember wearing it the day before.

My grandma taught the children’s Sunday School class at the little church she attended with my grandpa. All through my childhood, she never failed to have some brightly colored activity – construction paper art and flannelgraph stories that made Bible stories come to life with bright green flannel backgrounds and characters that all looked alike but came to life when Grandma talked about them. She loved children. At Christmas, nothing gave her more joy than seeing the children onstage in their red and green and gold and silver and purple – the sweaters and the little ties and the girls’ fancy dresses. She would find and congratulate every single one afterwards – from the shy boy with big blue eyes who froze for his one line of narration to the bold girl who decided in the middle of the song to put her red satin skirt over her head, exposing the frilly pink underwear beneath.

Then there came a day when she could no longer remember the children’s names and their youthful slurring voices were too muffled for her to understand the words. Her arthritic fingers could no longer grasp scissors or flannel characters, and her place at the head of the little table in the Sunday School room was too low for her to sit in.

My grandma had a beautiful silvery soprano voice and a laugh that sounded like Christmas bells. I grew up to the sounds of my grandparents and dad singing any time we were together. When my sister and I were old enough, we joined in, leaving my mom to work the camera and clap. Grandma never tired of singing – especially the old hymns she loved. Nothing made her happier than the sound of her grandchildren singing.

Then there came a day when the silvery voice grew rusty and the laugh more and more often became a cough. She could no longer remember the words to those hymns, and her voice cracked on almost every note. The black notes on the page grew blurry and her hazel eyes could not stand the strain of trying to read it. More and more, she joined my mom on the couch, still humming along, but relinquishing her place by the piano for the next generation.

And then there came a day when she and Grandpa could not live alone any longer. At first my parents opened their home, offering to take care of them and the white poodle they could no longer manage. As time passed, it became clear that the gray, cloudy state of their minds was casting a pall on the whole house. Nine months ago, they moved into a nursing home. Grandma gave up worrying about her pretty colors altogether and simply wore what was handiest, even if the magenta cardigan clashed with the blue dress.

Last week there came a day when I put on my black choir dress and sat onstage with tears in my eyes as the opening strains of Handel’s Messiah filled the air, for on that day, Grandma heard me from heaven. For the first few songs, the sound clogged in my throat and the effort of keeping the tears at bay turned my face a blotchy, unsightly red. Then I remembered my grandma’s smile as she stood by the piano and sang her old hymns, hazel eyes gleaming. As I began the triumphant strains of the Hallelujah Chorus, I couldn’t help but smile through the tears. Grandma has her beautiful, silvery soprano voice back.

In loving memory of Mildred Maxine P., Dec. 12, 1925 to Dec. 4, 2009.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/10/09
Lovely tribute.
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/14/09
What a beautiful tribute, excellently written. It made me hope that my own precious grandchildren will have lovely memories to cherish when I go to heaven.
Beth LaBuff 12/14/09
A tender-loving tribute. You were blessed to have a Grandma like this. I'm so glad for the hope we have. Thank you for writing this and sharing your beautiful memories.
Kate Oliver Webb 12/14/09
Oh yes, such a wonderful tribute! Grandma's smiling every time one of us reads this, I'm sure. Bless you for sharing this beautiful (and well-written) story.
Scarlett Farr12/15/09
A lovely story about a loving and well-loved lady. How lucky you are to have had such a grandmother. She would have enjoyed your colorful story no doubt!
Colin Nielsen12/15/09
Excellent writing. So vivid. I think everyone can , at least in part, relate to what you're trying to say. My wife's grandma had to be moved into a place where they could care for her, and it looks like soon her grandfather will have to go also.It was soul destroying to split them up from so many good years of loving marriage. Sorry for the digress, just brought things up. Well done on the story. You truly belong in Masters.
Aaron Morrow12/16/09
Beautiful tribute Rachel, well done! I am sorry for your loss, but even in the scope of a long full life, it remains just the tuning of the instruments for the symphony of eternity to come. Thanks for blessing us with your writing.
larry troxell 12/16/09
yes! they are singing in heaven. your beautiful story serves as a reminder of what a beautiful eternity we are facing, to be with jesus and loved ones, especially grandmas!
Joy Faire Stewart12/16/09
Excellent writing and a beautiful tribute to a precious lady. Thanks for sharing her.
Marita Thelander 12/16/09
WHat an awesome way to step into Masters. A colorful tribute to a wonderful woman. Very nicely written. I hope you tuck a copy away in a special place with other memorabilia.
Catrina Bradley 12/16/09
A wonderful tribute - I absolutely love the ending. Great work. :)
Mariane Holbrook 12/17/09
What an absolutely beautiful tribute! I followed the link from your Challenge brick-throwing and was delighted to see a video of your grandparents singing "Jesus Loves Me." How precious that was and how it made the tears flow. This is such a lovely entry that I very much hope it wins big! It deserves it. Kudos!
Marita Thelander 12/17/09
Nice welcome into Masters. : ) Congratulations.
Chely Roach12/17/09
Gorgeous tribute, wonderful work. Congratulations!
Sarah Elisabeth 12/19/09
Oh Rachel, that was beautiful! I couldn't imagine a more honoring tribute.
Charla Diehl 12/21/09
This was lovely. My favorite line was: My grandma had a beautiful silvery soprano voice and a laugh that sounded like Christmas bells. Excellent writing.
I, too, am sorry for your loss but am happy for you that you are blessed with such lovely memories of gramma's younger years.