“Tell us a story, Grandma! Tell us about when you were a girl?”
The question throws me. First, because childhood is so far away, but secondly, because my stories are tainted with pain and hurt. Looking into this pair of eager eyes though, I know they want a story filled with good will and hope.
“Well,” I begin, and they snuggle in closer to listen. Outside the winds have picked up and the sleet of earlier has given way to soft thuds – snow. Stories at bedtime are a ritual with these two, if not a book, then a story about their parents’ youth, usually.
“When I was a little girl, about your age, every winter my father built a skating rink in the back yard.”
“I know how to skate!”
“Me too, and I’m fast.”
“I bet you are. Imagine every day that you come home from school being able to strap on your skates and go into the backyard to your very own rink.”
“Wow. That must have been awesome! Did you fall very often?”
“Sometimes, but there were usually snowbanks around the side and that softened the blow. I remember how we used to shovel paths in the snow and pretend they were streets and act as if we were driving our cars.”
“Who skated with you?”
“My sisters. My dad put a flood light on the rink, so we could skate past dark, and he hooked up a speaker to play music and my sisters and I would give performances, pretending we were figure skaters.”
“Were you figure skaters?”
“No. The lessons were too far away. I went for awhile, but the walk too long and I gave up.”
“Your Mom didn’t drive you?”
“Not in those days. She was too busy.”
“Was that the best part of winter, Grandma. Your own rink?”
“I certainly enjoyed it. The best part I remember though, is coming in at the end of the night, with my cheeks and fingers frozen from the cold, and having a mug of hot chocolate. My mom would always have a pot of hot milk on the stove waiting for us.”
“Marshmallows are the best!”
“Yes, they are.”
“Can we have hot chocolate tomorrow, Grandma?”
“I don’t see why not. Now, I want you both to go off to sleep. It’s snowing outside and if this keeps up, we may be able to make a snowman in the morning.”
They’ll whisper and giggle after I turn out the light, and I leave the door open a crack, bringing with me the warmth of their little hearts snuggled up to mine, and the glow of remembering something good from my childhood.
(My challenge this week is story. There are so many stories that weave together to make up our lives – some of them real, some of them imagined. Telling our stories, one at a time, opens us to the possibility of healing. The above story is true in the sense that it describes an aspect of my childhood that was good. The framework around it – a sleepover with the granddaughters – is only imagined, although they do like me to tell them stories. At this stage in my life, ready to let go of the anguish and pain, I am ready to retell my life story. This is a good place to start.)