Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Fragrance (10/24/05)
- TITLE: Finding Gram
By Jeffrey Snell
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"Let's just pay somebody to haul the junk away, Keith," my parents had advised.Ê "The manager can arrange it."Ê My grandmother collected odds and ends for so many years that no one really knew what she had.Ê
My new wife grimaced.Ê To her, I was driving a hundred-and-sixty miles to sort through knickknacks.Ê "It shouldn't take more than a weekend," I assured her, hopeful I was right and avoiding discussion of what I'd bring home.
"What am I doing?"Ê I wondered to the windshield, waiting for the shower's end.Ê My emotions churned with doubt, irritation and a little apprehension.Ê A decade-old memory sparked of Gram's apartment, so vividly I could almost smell her perfume.Ê Lavender.Ê You know how certain smells just take you right back?Ê That's the way it is for me and lavender.Ê And in that moment, I understood:Ê I desperately needed to know my grandmother and my heritage.
Elizabeth Rose Hatfield was born in Devonshire, England in 1905.Ê After marrying my grandfather, Roderick MacDonald, she'd moved from Britain to New England with Gramps in 1934, and they built the first home on what later became MacDonald Street.Ê A dark-green Victorian, that cavernous house had so many exciting rooms and mysterious passageways! ÊGrowing up, I often told my parents I would live there someday.Ê But time did not wait for me.Ê Gramps went to the Lord in 1993, and my parents insisted she sell the house to ease her burdens.
Back then, when I stood in her apartment for the first time, I scowled at its cramped size. ÊBut Gram sat charmingly in a scratched wooden chair in the middle of the living room/dining room/kitchen. ÊHer bony wrinkled hands rested in her lap, and her smile glowed, brightening even the dingy brown wallpaper.Ê Mom gripped my hand, but the minute Gram held out her arms, the apartment vanished and I bolted to her for the best hug imaginable.Ê I expect Jesus' arms will feel much the same one day, like being submerged in love.Ê Finally stepping back, I noticed her lavender blouse and earrings, matching the sweet, soapy perfume that clung to her.Ê She was so beautiful, but at ten years old, I wasn't sure how to tell her.Ê
Living hours north, we didn't visit Gram often since she moved.Ê But we made the most of the time, though Mom always seemed uncomfortable, in a hurry.Ê While she groused about the food in the skinny, dented refrigerator, Gram and I shared the thrilling experiences of fourth grade.Ê She was the only older person I knew who honestly wanted to listen, asking questions in her delightful accent.Ê How I loved making her laugh!
Her laughter echoed now in my heart as I again opened the apartment door, but to cold emptiness.Ê The hinges screeched.Ê A sudden lump in my throat surprised me as my gaze immediately settled on the chair, resting in the center just as it had before.Ê The comforting scent of lavender was gone, erased by that of acrid cleaning fluid and dust, a harsh combination that darkened my heart.Ê I let my fingers brush the chair, moving to the bedroom door. It hung from one hinge and quivered open.
Stripped of all but springs, her twin bed lay without a nightstand or lamp.Ê Cardboard boxes to the right reached almost to the popcorn ceiling.Ê The daunting task hit home, and I groaned.Ê
A bent rod topped a solitary curtainless window, two-feet square, that faced another exterior wall of the building.Ê Beige plaster walls cracked like webs.Ê I cringed inside.Ê What the last years must have been like for Gram, living in this...tomb, alone.Ê
Tears rose, but I blinked them away and, refocused, stretched my six-foot frame to the top box in the column nearest me, sliding it off.Ê It was quite heavy.Ê A cloud of mustiness swirled to life and I coughed, lowering the box to the worn grey carpet.ÊÊ After a few sneezes, I sat cross-legged on the floor, renewed anticipation making my eyes sparkle.Ê Catching a hint of lavender, I smiled and opened the door to Gram's lifetime of treasures.
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