Okay, tonight’s update, we’re backtracking a little. I thought it over last night and decided that I introduced my brother’s cancer a little suddenly and without enough back story. About two or three updates from now, we’ll be back at where we were, but for now, here we are: back at Grammy’s house.
There were, of course, lots of other fun things to do at Grammy’s house besides swimming in the kiddy pool. Bobby and I received some of our first cooking lessons working in the kitchen with Gram.
“Alright Bobcat, we’ll let sister babe pour the milk in and you can stir it up when she’s finished! Does that sound fair?” Bobby nodded and I bounced in my seat, eager to do my job. We were all sitting at the kitchen table making home-made biscuits.. one of our favorite past times. There was about as much flour on the table itself as there was in the mixing bowl, but Grammy didn’t seem to mind. A dish rag was already sitting beside the sink, damp, and eager to clean up our mess. Grammy walked over to the fridge to measure some butter out into a cup and heat it in the microwave while I poured the milk in. Bobby hopped off of his seat to find the salt shaker while Grammy walked back over the with melted butter. “You want to pour this in Rosebud?” I nodded and took the cup from her, carefully spilling every drop into the middle of the mixing bowl. I tilted my head and surveyed cautiously to make sure that the cup had emptied itself entirely.
“That looks pretty good,” Grammy approved, taking the cup from me and setting it to the side. “Alright Bubba, your turn! How about you stir it again.” She handed Bob the big, wooden spoon and he set to work. After a few minutes Grammy helped Bobby finish mixing the batter and we reached our hands (no gloves, and I’m not certain that we remembered to wash first, but we still lived) into the bowl and rolled the batter into small balls of dough and plopped them on to a greased, metal pan.
The biscuits that resulted from our fun effort were the most delicious I’ve ever tasted: soft, warm, and so very buttery. Made with love. It’s memories like this one that you hold on to for the rest of your life.. you miss the smell, you wonder at the taste, and you wish you’d paid more attention to faces and laughs and smiles.
I vividly remember those early summers that I spent in Florida with my brother and grandparents. The strange, musty, homey, food-like smell that permeated the little cottage house they lived in follows me sometimes. I’ll stand behind an elderly woman in the express lane at Publix and for just a second, I’m taken back to the cottage: its wooden walls and matching floors. The den with red shag carpet in it. The black screen door that spanned the entire back porch; the tears in the netting where cats would sneak into and out of the house, no matter how cautious Grammy was to always close the door. The living room with long couches and the recliner I fell back in once and killed a kitten. There was a weird bedroom in the house that had been painted red and black by my Uncle Micah when he had lived there as a teenager. I remember sitting outside by the kiddie pool one day and listening to Grammy tell the story of the most interesting occurrence that had ever taken place in that room. That she was aware of, anyways.
“One day,” she began with a shaky voice, “Micah had gone to work at the video game store. I was cooking in the kitchen, getting supper ready for that night when Micah and Grampy would get home, and I heard this strange noise.” Here she paused and tried to imitate what the noise had sounded like. She acted afraid. “I thought it was coming from the living room,” she said in a sober voice, “so I tiptoed from the kitchen into the living room and GUESS WHAT!” she screamed. We gasped. “Nothing was there,” she whispered, feigning surprise. “So I kept following the noise, this scratching, breathing noise, all the way to Micah’s old bedroom. I opened the door and you couldn’t GUESS what I saw!” She opened her eyes in horror and made us wait for it. “ALL of Micah’s ‘pets’ – iguanas and snakes and rats – had escaped from their cages and were EATING EACHOTHER!” Bobby laughed and I cried. She told that story hundreds of times, and we were fascinated, each and every time.
I miss the trees that crowded the yard and threw shadows onto the tool shed, fence and house. I miss the mulberry bushes, the most truly organic, free fruit I’ve ever eaten. I miss coloring eggs on Easter. Our eggs were the coolest.
Grammy would buy the kits that had all of your essential colors: purple, orange, green, red, pretty blue and sunshine yellow. We boiled our eggs in the house and then transferred the process to outside on the porch (where messes were easier to clean up). After dunking the eggs in bowls of colored water and drying them softly with a towel, we used paint brushes to design our eggs into beautiful works of art. They might sit for a day or two before we remembered they existed and starting peeling and eating them.
One Easter, while Grammy and Grampy visited us in South Carolina, Bobby and I were searching the house frantically for our hidden Easter baskets when I stumbled upon one in the bottom of our washer. Just as I was about to squeal with delight and announce my victory, my mom ran up behind me and whispered that it was Bobby’s and I needed to continue looking for mine.
Back in Florida, Grammy was shouting so loud the neighbors could hear.
“JUMP!!! JUMP! OH SHOOT dog gone it JUMP!”
Bobby and I laughed while Grammy struggled to make her way across the fiery castle on level one of Super Mario 64. Grammy was our wise, energetic, lively and frustrated video game instructor, teaching us how to press A to jump, B to spit fire balls (when we had the ability to do so) and the triangle button for “start” when we needed to pause and ask for help.
“SHOOT FIRE!” Grammy shrieked again, raising her controller practically above her head while furiously making her way across a screen of dropping, motion-censored stone heads that would crush Mario flat to the ground if he was caught underneath them.
Bobby and I loved playing video games together. Sega, Nintendo and Playstation were all systems we owned at some point or another. Bobby loved having someone drive him to a pawn shop so that he could sell an old system and buy something different. The process was continual: he would soon tire of the “new” system and return to the pawn shop, to sell it and buy something completely new or, perhaps, to buy back the same system he had sold months prior. As much fun as it was to play videos game with Bob, it was equally as stressful. Once he became sick, it wasn’t uncommon for Bobby to scream, throw his controller against the wall or pull someone’s hair out if he either lost or someone else was doing better than him during the game. Playing video games naturally came with its possible negative side effects. Spyro, Crash and Sonic were close favorites behind the eternally famous Mario, and to this day, the music that went along with the Lion King game still makes me cry.