I was kicked out of pre-school. For what reasons, I am unsure. According to my parents, I was a holy terror. The exact details, aside from being berated for calling Cruella DeVille an idiot, escape me. I remember my Dad giving me an option: I could either go stay with my grandparents while my siblings were in school, or he could try and talk them into taking me back. At four years old, I chose my grandparents. Being from a family that values education, one might expect a tinge of regret for that decision. I feel none. In fact, it is a choice I would gladly make again.
I remember a few of the events that happened over the course of that time period: a red ant crawling into my armpit and biting me, using the little trenches in the living room carpet as highways for my matchbox cars, things like that. At age four, I was probably more easily amused than I am now. I remember how my older cousin and I used to collect these green rocks. They were just so awesome and they varied in size and shape. Sometimes we would try and make shapes out of them. I remember being extremely ecstatic when my older cousin gave me his collection because he had become to old for them. I kept them in a Skippy peanut butter jar. I wouldn’t realize until fifteen, sixteen years later that those “green rocks” were actually dull pieces of glass that had been eroded until they were no longer sharp. I still have that Skippy jar, full of those little bits of glass.
I also spent a lot of time watching television with my grandmother. Nanny and I would watch Sailor Moon and My Little Pony and Unsolved Mysteries. An odd range, I know. I have Nanny to thank for my love for the paranormal. Every time I catch an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries on and I hear Robert Stack’s voice, I remember that living room and I smile inwardly.
My grandparents had a little vineyard — my grandmother had a glass of wine a day. I remember her allowing me a small sip of red once. I remember crinkling my nose and telling her how nasty it was. Of course, at that age, I didn’t know that someday I’d come to love a good glass of red. Sometimes, we’d go out to it and I’d pick grapes. Other times, my grandfather would take me in his old Chevy down to the fence on the border of his property and we’d pick blackberries. Later, Nanny and I would use them to make cobbler. While I didn’t get to play with the oven, I did get to poke designs into the top of it with a fork.
My grandparents spoiled me. They always took me out, bought me things, etc. The things a grandparent normally does. I have many fond memories of eating at CiCi’s Pizza with them — Nanny always got spinach alfredo pizza. I wouldn’t even touch it until years later.
In first grade, my grandmother put me through ballet and tap. She’d always pick me up after school, slice up some hard salami and swiss cheese and serve it to me with crackers and green olives, then she’d take me to practice. If I stayed the night, she’d always cook my favorite meal: chicken strips and white rice. Then, more often then not, we’d traipse down to the basement and finish it up with a popsicle from the deep freeze. If there was still daylight, we’d sometimes go out side and I’d catch (to the best of my ability, anyways) tadpoles in the big metal bin thing. I’m really not sure what to call it.
Often times, we’d celebrate the forth of July there, too. One year, we accidentally set the grass on fire by the creek. I remember the dogs, Shadow and Napolean, barking at the noise now and then. I also remember the cats — especially Opie. That cat slapped me in the face so many times that I’m glad she was declawed.
Those years will always be some of the best I’ve ever had. Sure, I was kicked out of pre-school. Sure, I passed on going back. But, looking back, it was one of the best decisions I think I’ve ever made. I lost my grandmother when I was eight. She was a stubborn woman. She was sick, and she knew it. She refused to go to the doctor until she couldn’t walk and it was at that point that she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in July of 1999. She passed away November 21st of 1999, just a few days before Thanksgiving. Every now and then, I catch a whiff of her perfume, and it reminds that she is with me still, though there are many times I wish she could see me today. I’m sure she would be proud of me.
Well, for the most part anyway. I remember one day, recently, Mom and I were sitting on the back porch smoking a cigarette. She looked at me sideways and said sharply, “What would your grandmother say if she caught you smoking right now?” I remember looking at my cigarette, a Camel pink, and grinning at her before responding with, “She’d ask why the hell am I not smoking a Marlboro Light.” We both laughed at that because, even after all these years, I would have been right, more than likely.
My grandmother was a great woman. I loved her — I still love her — and I thank her for who I am today. She encouraged my creativity. She provided me with clothes for dress up, pencil and paper to write on, a desk (which I still have and will pass down to my own children), a lamp, etc. The desk itself is amazingly gorgeous. I asked my grandfather about it once. He said it was an antique when she bought it in the sixties. It’s built out of mahogany and every time I sit at it, I think of her. Every time I look at that lamp and where she labeled it with the family name, I think of her. Every time I see where I wrote “I love my grandma” in pencil all those years ago, I think of her.
Thank you, grandma, for helping make me who I am today. I only wish that you could be here now to see me. You’d be proud. I’m in college, I’ve developed an affinity for English, just like you. Mom tells me I’m your granddaughter, definitely.