We sat out on the strikingly red deck furniture, the color of terracotta pots; she in her Adirondack chair, I on the chaise lounge, staring at the dingy boards that needed a power washing below us. My mother had graced me with a fashion faux paus: yellow socks with white snap on sandals, and I begged to take them off in the summer heat, but she reprimanded me, reminding me of splinters. In spite, I lay on my back and threw my legs into the air, then back down, then back up, each time grabbing at my feet and the clasps of those shoes. She laughed, but carefully watched to make sure my footwear didn’t suddenly disappear.
After a while of sitting in the sun, she placed a purple tray down on the picnic table, a puddle of liquid inside, rainbows streaking at the corners. She handed me a wand comprised of various sized circles, and I dipped it, swished it around inside, then looked back at her carefully, waiting for the okay. She only nodded. Waving it through the air, a cascade of bubbles streaked in front of my face, and the shriek of glee that followed was too much for her to take. As she smiled and clapped her hands, I did too, and the wand went tumbling to the deck floor. I think I first felt astonishment when she swiftly retrieved it and showed me I could repeat the process all over again.
Eventually, she went back to her chair and left me to my own devices, watching the wonder in my tiny blue eyes from afar. Bubble after bubble. Laugh after laugh.
I don’t know if she knew it then, that it was ending, if she realized that she would eventually miss so many moments. I wonder if she had crafted this afternoon on purpose, to simply take it all in and remember each laugh for its beauty, for its sheer and simple happiness. I sometimes wonder if she worried about me remembering her.
I asked her about the flowers in the yard, and we stopped to stare every time an airplane zoomed overhead or a train blew its whistle from the tracks a block away. I always covered my ears then, but she wouldn’t even flinch. When the neighbors let their dogs outside, they called over to say hello; I gripped the wood railing, pushing my face against the openings and stared at the canines prancing around the yard. She told me their names: “That’s Bear and Bandit.” I shook my head: “But, that’s a dog, not a bear.” I didn’t understand why she laughed so hard at that.
She read me a story outside that once. That I certainly remember. She climbed onto the chaise lounge and I sat next to her, my arm of the chair rubbing at my side, but I didn’t care. I had chosen a Sesame Street book, and she was careful to skip over the page with the Count, as I was afraid of him and this wasn’t a time for tears. She never wanted there to ever be moments of crying.
When she finished, and the back cover was laid to rest over all the other pages in her lap, she laid her head back, the sun soaking her face. I pulled at the pages; her hands went limp to allow me free access and I turned back to the beginning, staring into the smiling face of Big Bird.
I tugged at the buttons on her shirt, one by one. The most beautiful smile inched across her face before she looked down at me.
“Grandma, will you read it again?”