October 20, 2016

Those Days

You're six years old and lived next to your grandparents. Time was a smudged glass in a summer haze. You spent your days without shoes and watched your feet, praying callouses form on your heels. Your mother had a hard brush to rub hers away but you waited for the day when you'll be able to boast, "look how far I've walked. Look how many layers I carry."

Six was a small age. Six was sweet potato and tea in the evening. Six was cold ice cream tube from a rusty freezer. Six was polka-dot pants and pink cotton t-shirts. Six was leaning against your grandma's knees as she braided your long, wet hair. Six was a singing time.

The evening smelled like grill smoke and wet dew, burned wood chips and yards of flowers. People stood outside in their yards. Fine day. It was. The tree branches formed shade over the yards like a suburban rain forest, and sunlight slipped in rings onto the tall grass through the green leaves. You sat in your backyard, on the edge of the sandbox. If you're not careful, you'll get a splinter on the back of your thigh. You're always careful. You made a path in the grass from your house to your grandparents. Home was communal, a haven. You watched for smoke to rise over the brown roof of your grandparent's home. Tuesday, there was nothing. Wednesday, you waited. On Thursday, a puff of white settled into the air, a balloon rising with a halfheartedness like smoke from the hookah's the caterpillars in Alice in Wonderland smoke with a lazy ease.

Hookahs. Alice in Wonderland. You went to town with your grandma and picked out a coloring book with Alice in it. You carried it to grandma and presented it with a proud smile. "This is what I want." Later, you struggled through the pages, confused and unhappy by the incomplete color pencils in your stationery box.

That Thursday evening, you climbed the stone steps to the small backyard patio where your grandpa stood in front of the grill. He had on a white thin shirt and his hands were on his back as he watched the chicken on the grill. "Hi", you said. He gave you a look that means, I know what you're up to, and with the tongs, snipped a bit of the skin from one of the wings. "Be careful, it's hot," he said, and your fingers burnt when he handed you the piece of skin. It melted on your tongue, the fat sizzled and formed a fire in your belly.

He turned a chicken wing over and one drops into the embers. You knew what comes next. He picked the wing up with the tong, brushed the charcoal from the edge, and winked. "That's your grandma's." It came every time and you still laughed. It's tradition, in the smallest sense. He gave you another piece of skin before you walked on the cool stones making up the steps down from the deck. You ran barefoot back to your house.

Those good old days..

My grandparents died so many years ago, when I was in high school. And I dreamed about them recently. How I wish they were there on my wedding day. Well..I'm sure they're watching over me. I miss them so much. 

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