Yesterday I walked into Target behind a young girl, about 8 years old, and her grandmother.
They were holding hands and talking about school supplies.
Crossing the pavement onto the sidewalk and into the air conditioning, I was somewhere else entirely:
Revlon’s “Love that Red!” polish, wedge sandals with shorts, and the smell of fertilizer and cigarette smoke at Southern States.
Gold necklaces and swishy, sequined tops.
A hearty, almost cackling laugh.
The small, feminine ankles and mega-watt smile of Ruth Phyllis Thurston.
Years later, so many of the memories I have of her seem to combine into one long, perfect day.
The long cord of the kitchen telephone. The waxy, wooden round table where I would find her at any hour of the day: playing solitaire, eating cubes of sharp cheddar and Baked Lays, smoking Marlboro 100s (the ones in the gold package). Watching basketball, baseball, or racing horses, depending on the season. Depending on the score, the sound is off.
Sugar shakers rest in a case on the wall.
Around 11 a.m., the piano laughs in the living room, peddling Ragtime or crooning “April Showers.” Her fingernails click on the black and white keys.
In a sky-blue Mercury Grand Marquis, we drive down Adams’ Lane in the afternoon. The rocks and gravel crunch under the tires, and my pupils widen in the shadowy cover of the tree tunnels. I blink at the sunspots through the windows. The velvet seat feels warm and comforting under my bare legs. We sing.
Some days we pick up Phyllis Waslyck, a New Yorker at heart with a raspy voice and a yappy lapdog named Christopher. Mrs. Waslyck wears Jones New York jumpsuits. I move to the backseat and stare at her perfectly coiffed grey bob.
After a trip to the post office, the produce stand at Pole Green Road, or the library, we go through the Hardees drive-thru. I eat a Frisco burger. Grandma orders a peach shake.
We feed my Uncle’s dogs Ball Park franks when they come running around the bend and across the lawn. I watch their tails wag, brushing the brick walk as they lick their lips. Even Mad Dog likes Grandma, though he doesn’t like many others. Both he and Grandma are small, yet sassy.
We fall asleep in the family room–Grandma on the hunter green and burgundy plaid sofa, I on the berber carpet–reading books and watching TV.
This was summer with my Great-Grandma, the growing season of my life.
On warm, sunny days, driving by green fields of tall grass or walking into Target, how I long for those summers to come back.
How I would have soaked up every minute like sunscreen into my skin, a protective, waterproof shield to the world, the scent lingering in my nose.
But I know you are still with me, laughing in a warm, flickering sunspot deep inside my heart.
I hope that little girl squeezed her grandma’s hand tight and told her she loved her yesterday.
In my own way, I did.