This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote eons ago when I was in college. While it is just a story it is based on the first time I met and went to live my grandma in this house on May Street.
I was six-years-old when I met her. My brother, Ronnie, and I had somehow found ourselves standing in her living room on December 8, 1976. I only remember the date because it was my birthday.
Our mom had brought us there that early winter morning, leaving us with a hug and kiss and a promise to return as soon as she could. I didn’t believe her. Adults always seemed to be leaving us places, promising to come back, but they never did. Our dad had left us with our mom only a few months earlier saying he’d be back the next day. I had sat on the curb until midnight waiting for him and went in only when my mom threatened to beat me within an inch of my life. I believed she would. I had seen her do it to the dog once and since I was pretty sure she loved the dog more than me, I took her word for it. Dad…never did come back.
Now, here we were standing inside the front door where our mother had left us, staring at a woman we had never seen, or at least I couldn’t remember ever seeing her before and she’s really not the kind of person you would forget.
We were in her living room. A large space with more furniture than we had in our entire apartment. To my right was the funniest looking piano I had ever seen. It had two keyboards, one on top of the other and a long row of red and blue switches with letters on them. To our left, just on the other side of the door was a large pink birdcage with several small blue and yellow birds in constant motion and making such a fuss of twittering that I wished I had my ear muffs to block out the noise. In front of us was a long, ugly green rug with large red and orange flowers. She stood at the other end of the rug staring back at us, arms wrapped across her chest. She was so tall and she had red curly hair piled up like a bird nest accentuating her height and giving her an almost cartoonish look. She wore a bright red dress that matched her lipstick and high heals, and it all seemed a little much for so early in the morning.
“Do you think she’s pretty?” I whispered in my brothers ear. He was a year older than me so I figured he knew what pretty was.
“Be quiet!” he hissed back and elbowed me in the ribs, nearly pushing me back out the door. Suddenly the woman began to move closer, stopping when I slid behind my brother.
“Well, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am your grandmother. Your mother brought you here because she can’t handle you two and thought maybe I could straighten you out.” She stopped and folded her arms across her stomach. She wore a ring on each finger and had long, painted nails that matched her lipstick.
“You don’t look like no grandma I’ve ever seen,” said Ronnie. The only other grandma we knew was plump, short and wore large housecoats and slippers most of the time. I looked at this grandmas hair. It looked like plastic and I wondered if it would crack if I touched it?
“What I look like doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am your grandma and you will be staying with me so you might as well get use to it.” She stepped closer. “You should also get use to the rules around here.” Kneeling down in front of us she began listing off several things: no running, no bouncing on the furniture and stay away from the birds. I slowly moved out from behind my brother and was reaching up to touch her hair when she grabbed my hand and began to squeeze. “And do not touch what is not yours.” She pushed my hand away and stood up.
“Breakfast is at 7:00am and supper is at 6:00pm. If you are not in your seats at those times, you will not eat. You will eat what I cook with no complaints. No snacking between meals and bedtime is at 7:30pm. Is that understood?” I decided that she wasn’t pretty at all and wanted to tell her so but she was standing straight up now with her hands on her hips glaring down at me, so I just shook my head yes…
Believe it or not the story goes on to share about how she was able to keep my brother and I, and our sister together. When we first moved into this home with our grandma she really did seem scary but it turned out she would be the one who stayed with us and never left.