Caught in the tangles of last year’s castoff wreaths in our local cemetery, I found the following words. They were scrawled in a frenzied adult handwriting in fading purple ink on a curled yellowing slip of lined paper with one jagged edge, as though it had been ripped from a journal:
Behind the door of my dream, I heard a knocking. I walked down a tree-lined corridor to the door at the end. As I drew nearer, the knocking grew louder and more frenzied. I struggled with the bolt, which would not open, but as I finally drew it back, there was an explosion of sound—organ music playing a dirge in such a joyful manner that it sounded like a celebration instead of the reflection of death.
As the door creaked open, I heard the crash of glass breaking and then the tinkle and scrape of this glass being ground down to shards and powder as the door opened over it. There was such a bright light shining from behind the figure standing on the other side of the door that I could make out only her silhouette—a woman with an elderly stance wearing a long skirt. She was large of bosom and had thin wisps of hair piled untidily on top of her head. In one hand, held down to her side, was a basket. In the other hand was a jar.
I drew closer to the woman, to try to get her body between my eyes and the source of the bright glare—to try to see who she was. When I was but six inches from her, I finally recognized her as my grandmother. She was wearing the same navy dress with pearl buttons and gravy stains down the front that she had been wearing the last time I remember seeing her. In the basket was a mother cat with three kittens nursing. In the jar was chokecherry jelly, if its handwritten label was to be believed.
As I drew up to hug her and kiss her cheek, she started humming a song—some church hymn, perhaps “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” It was hard to recognize because she hummed it under her breath—with little inward gasps at times that made it sound like she was eating the song and then regurgitating it.
Her eyes were vacant as she looked over my shoulder. “Grandma, it’s me!” I said, but she still didn’t look at or acknowledge me.
“Do you want to play Chinese Checkers?” I asked. It was the one activity I could remember that both my grandma and I enjoyed.
She expressed a long intake of breath, shook her head no and held out the basket to me.
“Is this a gift?” I asked.
“No, it is an obligation,” she hissed, and as the basket passed from her hand to mine, she seemed to deflate—whooshing backwards out of sight—until only the basket of cat and kittens and the jar of chokecherry jelly lying sideways on the trail she had vanished down gave testimony to her presence.
“Bye, Grandma,” I called wistfully down the trail she had vanished down. “I love you.”
But I didn’t love her. I had this memory of sleeping with her in her feather bed and almost smothering trapped between the thick feather pillow and comforter. I have an explicit memory of holding the pillow over her face and her struggling to get free. It was a joke and I hadn’t meant to smother her, really, but there was such power in the fact that she could not fight off an 8-year-old girl that it made me hold the pillow over her face for a few seconds longer than I wanted to or should have. She was all right. Just frightened as I had been frightened so often by her stories of poor little Ella and all the wrongs done to her in her lifetime. It was as though I had to choose sides—her side or the side of the people who had done mean things to her. And like the little devil she always made me out to be—I chose the other side.
The Prompt: Everything Changes––You encounter a folded slip of paper. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/everything-changes/