Monday, August 19, 2013


It is a gift to start life backwards.

Growing up in my grandparents' home gave me a perspective not many kids my age get to have:  finite time.  From a very early age, I understood people did not keep indefinitely.  The facts were dictated before me in my grandfather's shaking hands as he dialed Sears' service department on our rotary phone.  In me grew a divine melancholy when I'd watch my grandmother's tiny frame curve as she used both hands to slowly bring a gallon of milk down to the counter.  There was no forever in the black and white pictures of people they stopped to touch with one finger, in the hallway, early in the morning when the house was just beginning to smell like coffee.

I'd listen for the clink tink tink of saucers and the clearing of my grandfather's throat before he started his morning soliloquy to his wife.

"{eh-eh-eh-hem} You know I was thinking we should probably replant those tulips from the backyard to the side yard next to the freesia so they'll get full sun..."  My grandmother would "Mmm-hmm" and "Ohhh, I see" in the right places while tearing small pieces of Kraft cheese into the dog's dish.  Her morning rituals started with others and her day followed suit.  She spent a lifetime caring for everyone and everything around her with the kind of magnetic love that drew wild deer to her back porch and stray kids to her kitchen.  Humming her Fred Astaire songs the whole time.  Old Blue Eyes made weak in the knees.

If I didn't have to get up to shower, I'd stay in my bed and record this soundtrack like my life depended on it.  I knew one day too soon all of this would be gone and I'd desperately need it to be real again.  So I listened with the intensity of passing an exam.  My ears became open tunnels, filtering and memorizing specks of their voices and the rhythm they made together;  every word blazing its own path inside my memory.  I took in smells the same way:  Folger's brewing, toast browning, sweet wet grass trailing through an opened screen door, new sticky asphalt of our driveway.  I stayed perfectly still like this for probably hours.  Storing it all up for later.

"Mommy, put your hair down,"  my kids ask me every morning as they reach for my black hair clip.

"Just a minute, babies, let me get my coffee first," as my sleepy hands grope the counter for one more filter.

They plop their wiry bodies full of hunger and happiness onto our bar stools.  "What's for breakfast?  Can you make it not Paleo, please?"

I go about my business quickly but not before seeing them.  They're watching me as I deftly pour a carton of milk with one hand and close the refrigerator with my opposite ankle.  Their faces radiate all the warmth they've held onto overnight.  In their eyes there is expectation, hope, and a twinge of entitlement.  I stage their little dinosaur cups and clank around the silverware drawer with my free hand, searching for a pink fork for her and a green one for him.

My kids don't know the hourglass like I did.

And for that, a big piece of me rejoices.

1 comment:

Anna See said...

Another beautiful post. Simply beautiful. You took me back to my grandparents' house as I'd listen to their conversations through the grate in the floor.