Dewy cedar mingles with brisk pine as I inhale deeply the fragrant woods. A familiar path stretches before me, yet the mist that hovers near the ground lends a mysterious, unknown quality to the hard-packed dirt track under my feet. Light from the rising sun filters through the treetops, a slight breeze sends the branches overhead into applause and whisks the mist around my ankles like a friendly feline. Turning to the left, the path begins to rise, and ahead I see the outline of a cabin.
Immediately, I sense that no structure was in evidence the last time I walked this way. I quicken my pace, up
the slight incline, breath quickening and calves burning. Aside from the clapping branches, the woods are strangely silent; no birds twitter a greeting to the rising sun and no bugs hum in the pre-dawn coolness.
Cresting the hill, the cabin comes completely into view, a small one-room shack resembling the pump house at my grandmother’s retirement home in Idaho. Painted hunter green, just like that one, the exterior blends with the surrounding foliage. As I pause to catch my breath, it seems as if the trees shrink away from the little building. The sound of running water reaches my ears, but there isn’t a creek nearby and the sound is out-of-place.
While I glance around and puzzle over the sound of rushing water, the door of the house swings open,
creaking on its hinges and scraping against the wooden floorboards in the same manner Gram’s pump house door always did. A woman with a wicker basket over her arm emerges from within. Strangely, a veil covers her face, clashing with the light blue polyester slacks and black rain slicker she’s wearing. Even though she moves confidently, her shoulders are slightly hunched which gives the impression that she’s older. Her
figure is full, soft, and grandmotherly even though she’s several inches shorter than I am.
When she is just a few feet away, she stops and speaks. Holding the basket out toward me, I see lying within it on a scrap of red silk a dusty tome, an antique key and a simple pottery goblet. She invites me to take one, or all, of the items from her basket, promising they will give me special knowledge about myself.
My fingers itch to touch the hardbound book. It appears to be a journal with a faded navy leather cover. Red ribbon peeps from the top indicating a silky bookmark inside. My eyes rest upon the antique key briefly. It’s small, somewhat discolored from age and so old-fashioned I can’t fathom what it would open. The goblet is fired to a pearly sheen; marbled purple, lavender and ivory clay gives the cup shape and appeal.
Reaching with my right hand, I gently lift the book from the basket, which tilts and sways as I remove the small volume. My eyes sweep over the other two items again, but instead of reaching for anything else, I clutch the book with both hands, pulling it protectively toward my chest. The cover feels warm and supple beneath my fingers.
The woman commends my choice. When her hands cover mine, they are rough and calloused but warm in the cool morning air. Her knuckles , wrinkled and spotted with age, are knobby from arthritis. After releasing my hands, she steps closer until we are only inches apart and pulls the veil away from her face.
Tears prick the back of my eyes because the face belongs to my much-loved grandmother. Every wrinkle, every smile line, the silver, wire-framed glasses, the white hair in its short, wind-tousled style belongs to my Gram. Every inch of the face is just as I remember, and then she smiles – angelic. The clearing brightens and I’m sure I hear musical calls of several birds. Even as I return her smile, I feel the hot moisture on my face. I’ve missed her so much!
“Ask me one question about your life so far,” she says. “Any question you want and I’ll answer you the best I know how.”
I’m speechless with joy and sorrow, overwhelmed that I’m getting another opportunity to talk to her. I really just want one of her hugs. I’ve missed them more than anything. Only Gram could hug me in a way that made me feel cherished and accepted. Who knew a hug could say so much?
“Did you write this book?” I finally ask, holding the thin volume up slightly.
“You’re asking me about the book when you could ask me about anything?”
I nod, my eyes memorizing her every feature, knowing she’ll be gone soon. I don’t want to forget anything about this moment.
She shakes her head slightly, “I didn’t write the book,” she says quietly. “You did.”
Author’s Note: I wrote this story as part of an assignment for my nonfiction workshop in February 2011. My grandmother had been gone just over a year and I cried the whole time I wrote it. Gram believed in my dream. I’m pursuing my writing career with gusto now – in honor of her unfailing support and unconditional love.