August 2008 arrived once again and so did Peyton. I couldn't believe a year had passed since her last summer's visit and now that she was ten, I expected a lot of changes and I wasn't disappointed either. Since her mother was attending conferences in Arizona for her final preparation for her Doctoral dissertation, we had arranged to drive from Minot, Maine down to Newington, New Hampshire to pick her up for her two week stay.
I could hardly contain myself as we paced back and forth, anxiously awaiting her arrival. Every time the double doors swung open, my husband and I excitedly searched every newcomer's face for the one that we were looking for. Finally, the doors swung open and there she was, sunshine and light, all rolled into one!
I grabbed my camera and we took picture after picture of her lovely blue eyes that were framed by light, golden brown hair. She seemed to have grown up over night and her conversation was much more adult too. We spent a short time transferring her suitcases and other items that she need for her visit, into our vehicle, thanked her aunt and uncle for having driven her up to meet us and we were on our way back to Maine.
We spend the next three hours on the return trip home getting reacquainted and telling stories about what had happened since we'd last seen each other. I was amazed at her ability to verbalize her thoughts and the way she was able to assimilate information. Thinking back to myself at the same age, I marveled at how intelligent and knowledgeable she seemed to be. "Guess it must be the computer and the different teaching methods that make the difference," I thought to myself.
We finally arrived home and after traipsing up and down stairs to get all of her stuff up to our second floor bedroom, she took herself outside to investigate all the changes that we had made to our landscaping since she was here the year before.
I had to laugh to myself as I saw that old habits are quickly revived when I saw her climb up the large boulder that we have on the corner of our lawn and sit there cross legged just like she'd done the year before.
I had planned for weeks how I was going to entertain her when I'd learned that she was again coming for an extended visit. We were going to go shopping at all my favorite "junk" stores as she called them and we were going to take walks along our deserted country road, have long discussions about all the things she'd learned in the past school year. Oh, we had so much to do and to learn about each other, this old Grammy from southern Maine and this little girl from Flemington, New Jersey.
I was constantly amazed by her ability to think things through and her reasoning. She had a keen sense of humor as well and I prided myself that surely she had inherited that from me. We talked about art, cooking and writing and it gave me such pride when I saw that she too had that love of writing just as I'd had at her age. She loved to have me tell her stories about my childhood days and it made me happy to be able to make her laugh. Oh, we had such happy sun-filled days and I hated to think that her visit would be ending all too soon.
As the days slid by one into another, we filled our time with all kinds of things as she skipped happily around our lawn, picking dandelions, wild flowers along my rock walls and just getting the feel of being free in the Maine woods again. I cooked all the things she liked, especially my home made cinnamon bread and my garlic shrimp dish. I taught her how to use my sewing machine and serger and she sewed pillows to take home for herself and her stuffed animals.
Our days were filled with sunshine, butterflies and mysteries of nature that unfolded right before our eyes. We sat many hours in my wicker porch swing and discussed many facts of life and pondered what the future would bring. We quietly swung back and forth and watched the rabbit that had wandered away from his home over the Brighton Hill Road in the early spring onto our property and taken up residence under my huge spruce tree. Peyton would help as I cut up vegetables and we'd take them out to put under the tree for him to eat. I'd named the rabbit "Bun Bun" and every night Leo and I worried that the coyotes or foxes would get him.
At about the middle of her visit, my sister called and said that her granddaughter Arian was very interested in spending some time with Peyton and we quickly set about setting the plan in motion so that these two little relatives could get to know each other. Peyton was Arian's senior by about two and a half year but as soon as Arian bounced into our yard, they liked and bonded with each other.
That first day, they made blanket tents, told stories about their lives, played tricks on each other and generally had a good time throughout the day. The only problem that I encountered was when I reminded them not to bother the rabbit because he was still quite afraid of people and if they went near him, he'd make a run for the woods and the hiding places it provided and I was afraid that he wouldn't come back.
Thinking that they would acquies to my wishes, I smiled to myself and returned to my house that was desperately calling my name. After spending an hour or so doing housework, I noticed that it was unusually quiet outside so I took myself to my bedroom window and was surprised at what I saw. The two girls had hatched a plan and were just putting it into motion. Peyton had taken herself around to the backside of the large spruce tree and was waiting for Arian to shoo Bun Bun out of his normal eating place so that he would run around to where Peyton stood impatiently waiting for him.
"Girls!" I called out to them. "Didn't I warn you not to bother the rabbit?" Both of them jumped at hearing my voice and the stern rebuke it carried. "I'm surprised at you both and I'm not very happy!" There quickly came a response from Arien, who, upon hearing my words, cast a look in my direction, swung her little hips ever so slightly in defiance and said, "My Yam's always happy!" With that utterance, they both took off across to the far end of the lawn to escape further scolding.
Hearing her reply, I had to sit down until I stopped laughing. Since she had been old enough to talk, she had named my sister "Yammy" and it had stuck and my sister was rather proud of the fact that she had a name different from all the other commonly named grandmothers. I couldn't wait to call my sister to tell her what Arian had said.
Nighttime finally came and after having eaten, gazed at the constellation and the other night things; they finally wandered up to bed. I let them fool around a bit and then I went upstairs to tuck them in.
After kissing them goodnight and turning to go downstairs, Arien called for me to come back. "Aunt Toot, "she said, "I can't sleep with a night light on." I looked at the desk where Peyton had placed a small lamp that she liked to leave on at night. Then came a voice from the other side of the bed, "Well, I can't sleep without a night light. I might get up and fall down the stairs." I waited for this to resolve itself and when nothing was forthcoming, I told them that I would plug in a night light at the top of the stairs. They both agreed that that was fine and I smiled to myself thinking that I had won.
After plugging in the night light, I said goodnight again and started down the stairs and then I heard the familiar name in the air behind me. "Grammaw." Sighing to myself, I turned, went back up the steps and waited for Peyton to continue. "Yes Peyton." "I can't sleep with the fan on." Apparently Arian couldn't sleep without the sound of a fan in her room and she'd left the overhead ceiling fan on. I scrambled in my mind like a rodent in a cage, trying to think of a way to appease both of them. Finally I remembered that I had a small fan in the basement and I ran down the stairs like an anxious husband on his honeymoon, grabbed the fan, raced back up the stairs and plugged it in. I placed it on the floor next to Arian's side of the bed and the problem was solved. I said another final goodnight and as I walked slowly down the stairs to my bed, I understood why some mothers have only one child. More than one makes you want to hang yourself!
Remembering the trauma of "The Bath" of the year before, this year, I'd decided to time my bath for later in the evening when I was fairly certain that she'd be upstairs in her own bed or even asleep. Then, I'd fill my large bathtub nearly to the brim with nice, warm water and lie there, soaking and planning the next day's activities. My husband would be in the living room, watching his favorite show, oblivious to anything else. It was a winding down time that I especially looked forward to at the end of a busy, hot day.
On this particular day, I'd baked a chocolate cake, made a chicken stew and gone shopping with Peyton to all the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, to Mardens, Big Lots and Wal-Mart. Peyton had found herself a new backpack, some books, a dart gun and some clothes. We'd had a very busy, fun-filled day.
As I threw off my clothes and slid into the warm, clean water, I heard a timid knock on my bathroom door. Knowing full-well who the knocker was, I told her to come in and waited with baited breath to see what she wanted. She opened the door and said, "Grammaw, can I come in?" "Yes, Peyton, come in. Is something the matter?" "No Grammaw, I just wanted to see you, I couldn't sleep." Upon hearing this, my old heart lurched into my throat and I quickly repositioned my body in the non-concealing water.
"Well, here I am," I joked and waited to see what she had to say. Her blue eyes slid around the room and then onto my unadorned body. She looked at me for a long moment and then she quietly sat down on my toilet seat. Feeling that she had something else to say, I held my breath and waited and I didn't have to wait too long either.
"Grammaw," she said. "We've been learning all about the human body this year in our health class and I've learned a lot about breasts!" Hearing this reference to the human anatomy, my breath caught in my throat and I crossed my arms to try and hide my ample, drooping bosom. Her blue eyes once again made their furtive slid across my body and I waited for her to continue.
She sat back against the toilet tank and thrust her small, just beginning to mature bosom out a little, took a satisfied look at them and said, "The health nurse told me that I am a category two or a two and a half." Not knowing just what to say, I smiled and said, "That's good to know, Peyton. We didn't have all those health classes when I was in school. We used to hide our breasts so the boys wouldn't see them and tease us"
She nodded her head and I was so relieved that this intimate talk was over that I wasn't prepared for the next announcement that came sailing my way. "I hate to 5. tell you this Grammaw but you are a category five!" I sat up in the now growing cold water and gaped at her, forgetting my modesty altogether. "Does that mean that I'm terminal?" I joked as I waited for the next onslaught. Her blue eyes looked me over once again and then she said, "I don't know what that word means. But a category five means your breasts are hanging down to your belly button!" I slid down into the deeper part of the tub and let that proclamation roil through my addled brain. If I was a category five, I didn't dare to ask if there was a category six!
I decided then and there to get the hell out of that cold water before she had time to analyze the rest of my decrepit body and I quickly washed and rinsed myself off. Just as I was about to grab for the towel, she turned her blue eyes on me again and I quivered in fear, knowing that I was doomed.
"Grammaw," she began. "Yes Peyton," I answered and waited. "Grammaw, do you have hair down there?" I grabbed the washcloth and tried to stretch the meager scrap of cotton into five yards of material. "God yes! I do have hair," I replied in a joking manner. "Why do you ask?" "I have hair too; do you want to see it?" As the yellow stripe down my aging, whizzled spine grew wider, I desperately scrabbled for the towel. "No honey, Grammy really doesn't need to see it. I believe you." I swore to myself as I dropped the towel and it fell into the cold bath water. Then another question came floating across the great divide, "Well, where is it?" "Where's what Peyton? The towel? Well, it just fell into my bath water." "No, Grammaw, I mean your hair?"
I flung the wet towel over myself and scrambled for an answer. Then I replied, "Well Peyton, my belly fell down over it a long time ago and I haven't seen it since!" She looked at me and I got the hell out of that tub. As I stood on the bathroom floor with the wet towel draped around me and water running down my legs, she stood, yawned and walked to the door. She kissed me on the cheek and said goodnight and just before she closed the door, she turned, looked me up and down once again and said, "Grammaw, can I have a bowl of cereal?" Relieved that the inquisition was finally over, I replied, "Help yourself Peyton, you know where everything is."elp yourself Peyton, HHHH
I threw the wet towel into the now draining tub, grabbed another 7. off the rack and wiped myself off, wondering what the hell the next year's questions would bring.
Autobiography of a Simple Soul
Memories, Another Place - Another Time
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