On my way to check the mail yesterday evening I found two little girls lying in the still-warm grass. The elder of the two, towheaded with a face nearly swallowed by her round, red-framed glasses. The younger, a chubby Latina with a wide, gap-toothed grin.
They were gazing up into the tall palms, giggling, surrounded in a wide arc of white rose petals.
“Your turn!” the eldest shouted and spread her small arms wide. The younger sprang up, scooping fistfuls of freshly plucked blossoms into the folds of her shirt until she had a great mound.
“Ready?” the younger smiled.
And she did, tossing the huge mound into the air, watching as it dissolved into hundreds of fluttering white flakes that drifted slowly to the earth while her friend lay wide-eyed and giggling, reaching for the last of the still-floating petals before they could settle and become almost indistinguishable from the tangled mass of her light hair.
It was hard not to stare. I remember being those girls. I remember the afternoons that seemed to stretch into forever, when all that existed was that very moment of delight with your best friend.
My grandmother recently turned 90, and so I took the 4 hour plane ride from my home in Southern California to Oklahoma City to wish her well. I found her as I always have: gray-haired, active, fussing over her flowers and scaring off wildlife out back.
So many things were just as I remembered from when I was a girl: the air, so hot and thick you seemed to swim through it, the fireflies that winked to life as the sun settled below the horizon, the piles of puzzle books and quilt squares by my grandmother’s favorite chair, the way she wrung her hands with worry, the same way I do now.
But some things are different. She lives with my mother, who is now also completely gray. She no longer bakes, not that she could do much without her fruit trees. My grandfather and his Stetson collection have long since settled into history.
While walking with my grandmother through her new garden, I found myself wanting to be young and in the moment again. Gathering fireflies in a mason jar with my cousins. Eating warm peach cobbler with cold vanilla ice cream on the porch while swatting the mosquitoes from our bare legs. Watching as the vast bowl of the Great Plains night sky came to life.
But it’s gone. Too much history between now and then. The weight of the years and everything that has gone wrong. I found myself spending more time swatting away unwanted thoughts/feelings than mosquitoes, avoiding the looming presence of my mother.
But before I left, my grandmother opened her hall closet and, like she always has, pulled out a new quilt for me to take back to California. The pattern a bright array of sunbursts, in every color of the rainbow. And then she returned to her chair by the window, a pencil and a pad of puzzles in her lap, where she could watch for the wild turkeys out back and scare them off before they got to the almost-blooming hibiscus.
And I returned the nearly 1500 miles back to California, retrieved my mail from the community box, smiled at the girls in the grass, and returned to my bedroom to bury myself in my new quilt. To watch the last of the evening light bleed through the sunbursts and be sad for all the hard ways my life has changed and happy for all the good things that have stayed the same.
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This quilt was hand-stitched by my grandmother, Lois. I like to think that my skill in handcrafts comes directly from her.