We arrive at grandma’s late on a Friday night and she starts the bustling preparations needed to have the four of us in the house for the weekend. It’s a small house but wonderful, everything in crisp white, corporate-housing enamel, yet I can still smell the fine wood of the little house. I smell cedar in the closets (for moths). Grandma shakes sheets and plumps pillows and makes us kids beds on the raised wood floor—how exciting! I can hear the creek only 50 steps away at the edge of the road and know the weekend will be different than other weekends.
My grandma stays up most of the night talking and laughing with my mother (her daughter) and my dad. It’s chilly up here in the shadow of Mt. Tom but I feel safe and warm. Next morning, grandma lays out a spread that only those who have gone without food like she has could appreciate. Bacon and sausage, a ham and leftover beans, loads of biscuits and eggs and juice, milk. “Anything else anyone wants?” she says as we pile around the tiny table in the kitchen. Grandma can imagine having missed something we might have longed for and wouldn’t dream of disappointing us. I’m so hungry I could eat it all. “What a perfect mother,” I think.
Later that morning I step on a bee on the front lawn and grandma takes me inside, I’m screaming in pain and fear and she knows exactly what to do to make it feel better. I’m in heaven here. Her sons, the five of them, all come round that day to visit—all stay for beer and canasta that night. The sons, my uncles, love my sister and I and treat us warmly. They also tease us unmercifully. We eat it up. I’m in heaven again.
The next day grandma is on edge. I watch her look out the window at the neighborhood. “Varma must have got new towels,” she says to no one in particular, remarking on the day’s laundry out on her friend’s clothesline. She fusses about the house, cleaning up the mess the whole lot has left. Everyone has gone out to shoot or fish since there’s no baseball game today. Grandma doesn’t shoot or fish. Grandma stays in the house. She yells at me for letting the screen door slam. I am stung by the meanness, feel slapped and ashamed. She yells at Randy later that day. Her youngest hasn’t done something as expected. She comes close and examines his face, squeezing a pimple. Randy pulls back, “Darn it mom, stop that. Leave me alone.” Grandma says it’ll only get worse if you don’t pop them. The weekend grows old and I miss my friends at home. We’re leaving now. Grandma will stay in this little house. I don’t think she’s happy. I wouldn’t want to trade her for my mother.