I shimmied up the cherry tree with practiced expertise. I loved being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the summertime. With my legs wrapped around a branch, I proceeded to pick the juicy, ripe cherries and ‘plunk’ them into the pail. I could almost smell the pie Grandma would make tonight.
From my perch in the crook of the branches, I saw Grandma haul her wicker basket of wet laundry to the wagon and drag it out to the clothesline a cherry-pit-spit away. I munched lazily and tied cherry-stem knots with my tongue while I watched her.
“Got a pail full yet, Abigail?” Grandma called up to me after she finished hanging clothes.
I tied a rope to the handle and lowered the bountiful batch to Grandma. My long French-braids dangled while I waited for her to dump them in the wagon.
“Wow. One more batch should be enough, Abbie-baby.”
In the distance I could hear the whir of the lawnmower combine with the whipity-whip rhythm of the sheets in the breeze and the chirping song of birds above me; ahh…a beautiful summer symphony.
I watched Grandpa work his way closer to the big cherry tree. He slowed down and carefully mowed around Grandma’s clean wet clothes. Then the unthinkable happened. That basically means that Grandpa wasn’t thinking. He mowed right over a huge molehill and the wind blew dust all over Grandma’s wet laundry.
I about choked on a cherry pit. Grandpa said some words I’m not supposed to ever say, but I didn’t tell Grandma. He was in enough trouble without my help.
He rubbed his bald head, looked up at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Oops.”
“No kidding, Grandpa.”
Later, Grandma took her frustrations out on the pie crust and mumbled something about other uses for her rolling pin. Grandpa went out of his way to stay out of her way after he helped re-hang the re-washed laundry.
That evening, I took two slices of warm cherry pie out to the big porch swing. “That’s a big piece of pie, Grandpa. I think Grandma forgives you.”
“Well, that’s not the first oops she has forgiven me of.”
I could hear a story comin’ so I turned sideways in the swing and sat with my legs criss-crossed while we gently rocked.
“When I went off to college I had been sort of sweet on two girls back home.” He licked his fork. “Ruth, and your grandmother Betsy. I was still sort of testing the waters with both gals.”
Grandpa gave me a side-ways look. His smile could be so mischievous sometimes. “I wrote letters to both and included a picture of me in front of the school sign.”
“Did they find out you were two-timing?”
“Well, that’s where the oops came in,” Grandpa shook his head as if he still didn’t believe what happened. “I put the wrong letter in the wrong envelope. Ruth got Betsy’s ‘love letter’ and Betsy got Ruth’s.”
“Oh no you did not!” I sat up straight in total amazement over this tidbit of Grandpa’s youthful folly.
“Oh yes I did. Ruth ripped the picture and letter to shreds and mailed it back to me.”
“What did Grandma do?” My cherry pie sat forgotten in my lap with a big juicy mouthful poised mid-air.
“She took a red pen to my letter and corrected all my spelling and grammar errors. She also wrote me back.” Grandpa shifted and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He carefully unfolded a very yellowed, fragile, piece of flowered stationary with perfect fountain-pen handwriting. He adjusted his gaze through his tri-focals and began to read:
My Dearest Darryl,
Thank you for the picture. I crossed out the name and corrected the spelling from R-u-t-h to properly read B-e-t-s-y. I also took the liberty to assist you with the spelling errors in the letter as you will see enclosed. Perhaps you should drive home this weekend so I can help you edit your English papers for college. I think a drive to the popular lookout point might be nice, too.
In Loving Forgiveness,
I laughed so hard my sides hurt. We finished our pie and giggled while Grandpa shared many other oops moments in his life.
Grandma collected our plates and winked at me before she kissed Grandpa’s bald head.
“But this,” Grandpa carefully folded the letter and put it back in his wallet. “Is the best oops I ever made.”
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