Furniture: you remember it because of the way it looked, felt, and mostly (for me anyways), smelled. In particular, I remember the red chair in the den of Grammy and Grampy’s cottage home. It wasn’t a bland, uncomfortable chair — it was big, padded, roomy.. but it wasn’t quite a recliner, and it definitely wasn’t a swivel chair. It was just a fat, red chair, and I loved it. It was comfortable; I watched TV in it, I napped in it, and I learned how to read in it.
During the summer before I started kindergarten, Grammy would sit in the chair with me on her lap and we would read Dr. Seuss together. “One fish, two fish,” she read the words slowly, “red fish, blue fish.” We were staring at the yellow, hard cover of the book. She turned to the first page and we continued “reading,” with Grammy pronouncing the words slowly out loud and me following along with my eyes and finger. That was the first book that I ever learned to read, and my Grammy taught me how to do it.
Reading wasn’t the only thing I learned how to do at Grammy’s house. I also learned how to phone the police.
I knew the numbers 911 possessed some kind of power, and I wanted to find out what dialing those numbers on the phone (as I had seen done in so many movies) would do. Was it magic? Would it cause something wonderful to happen? It seemed forbidden. Dangerous. Exciting.
So one evening, I took Grammy’s phone from the kitchen and stole into the back bedroom. I closed the door behind me, and to get even further away from being caught, I walked into the closet and shut the door behind me. I sat down on the floor with the phone in my hand, staring at it in the dark. I hit the “on” button and an orange light shined itself in my face; a dial tone bellowed from the earpiece. I smiled and dialed the three numbers: 9.. 1…. 1. Then I put the phone to my head and waited – listened.
“Clearwater Police Department, what is your emergency?”
Uh oh. “Um.. I.. I’m just a kid and I DONT KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” I turned the phone off, flung it onto the floor, bolted from the closet, tugged open the bedroom door and ran into the living room, frantic and crying vehemently. “GRAMMY GRAMPY I JUST CALLED THE POLICE DEPAR’MEN! AM I GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE?”
Sure enough, the police officer showed up at the house less than ten minutes after I had ended the phone call. Grampy, who was extremely embarrassed, walked to the front door and opened it. He apologized, explaining that his five-year old grand-daughter was visiting for the summer and must have “gotten a hold of the phone some how.” The police officer seemed to understand but still wanted to see me (with all of my appendages still on and face in order), so I walked to the door, crying, assuring him that I was “just a kid” and didn’t know what I was doing.
I remember mom and dad coming to pick Bobby and I up soon after that. I know we made them sad, and I feel bad about it now, but we dreaded their arrival. We would moan and cry and stomp our feet; wear our frowns and grumble out our sentences. We loved staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house more than anything in the world, even more than Disney World. I realize that it has sounded more like it was just Grammy’s house and Grammy’s company that made us so happy, but Grampy was a big, important part of our lives, too; he was the quiet, loving presence there in the evenings and on the weekends, driving us to the store, waving to us as he used the lawn mower and we cheered from the driveway, taking pictures of us while we swam and baked and colored and played. We loved our grandparents.. both of them. They were our sunshine, and we were theirs.
Mom and Dad arrived in the middle of the afternoon one day and Grammy already had all of our bags packed. She had left one outfit for each of us sitting out on the bed, the ones that we would change into in the morning, as mom and dad wanted to get a good night’s rest before making the long, 15 hour drive back up to South Carolina.
“You’ll be getting up eaaaarly, early in the morning tomorrow morning,” Grammy briefed Bobby and I in the bedroom just before our parents arrived, neatly folding a few stray shirts and placing them into a duffle bag. “So you need to go to sleep early tonight.” She emphasized the world “early,” sniffling a little. We stood in the doorway, quiet, twiddling our thumbs and staring at the floor.
“It’s going to be exciting!” She turned toward us suddenly and clapped several times. “Bobby and Rosie are going on a road trip, woohoo, yippee!” She sang out. “You’ll get to stop and eat at nice restaurants on the way, buy any kind of snacks you want at the gas stations dad stops at, and you’ll have your own rooms again when you arrive back at home! Mom and dad are going to be so excited to see their precious little girl and boy!” She smiled and walked over to us, bending her head down to ours and pulling us into an embrace.
We couldn’t stop crying.
We sulked all afternoon. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was playing on TV around lunchtime, but Bobby and I weren’t excited about it. Power Rangers came on afterwards and we didn’t bounce in our seats and hum along to the theme song as usual. “Oh come on you guys,” Grammy fussed. She had finished cleaning dishes in the kitchen and came to sit with us on the couch. “Isn’t this show one of your favorites? The Power Rangers? Isn’t that what you two are dressing up as this Halloween?”
Bobby was silent and I shook my head, annoyed. Grammy sighed and we all sat down on the couch together, absent-mindedly watching an episode of Power Rangers that none of us remembers or cares about.
“Rosie, Bobby!” My mom ran from the car to meet us. Grammy had us standing outside by the front door. “Go hug your mom, Rosebud! Go see your dad, Bubba!” She pushed us forward and smiled. We hugged our parents and smiled; we were happy to see them after all, even though they were about to rudely take us away from our delightful home away from home.
Grammy hugged her daughter and said hi to my dad. “Well come on in you guys! Are you hungry, have you eaten yet? How was the ride down? The kids have already eaten but I can whip something up for you two.”
We spent the evening sitting on the couch, listening to mom and Gram chat. Dad decided he wanted to drive to a grocery store down the road for some chips and granola bars for in the morning, and he asked Bob and I if we’d like to go with him. We both agreed, eager to get out of the house that now looked gloomy and only depressed us. Bobby ran over to the door and strapped on his shoes: they were black and white Velcro shoes, so he was able to do it himself. I bent down to grab mine: pink and white, offbrand Sketchers.
“Here Grammy,” I ran over to where she was sitting and handed her the shoes. Just as I started to squat down on the floor in front of her, dad asked what I was doing.
”Oh, I’m tying her shoes for her,” Grammy smiled.
“She doesn’t know how to tie her own shoes yet, Lucy?” he looked over at my mom, seeming surprised. “Nope,” mom replied, shaking her head. I noticed she was chewing gum.
“Come on over here, Rosie,” and dad gestured towards the couch. “I’ll teach you how right now.”
And he did. I still remember sitting on the floor with my dad that afternoon, him showing me, over and over, how to make a knot, and then a l0op, and then another loop, and then how to cross those two loops together and make one, final, pretty bow-like knot.
So my dad taught me how to tie my shoes.
Then we went to the store, and soon after we ate dinner, and later on that evening, we all fell asleep.
We woke up early, cried groggy, early morning tears, and piled into the car to drive home with mom and dad, leaving Grammy waving from the door, and then closing the door . She watched Power Rangers on the television by herself that morning, crying while delicious, buttery biscuits baked themselves in the kitchen.