I walked to the spot in front of the fireplace where about a quarter century before, I had taken the cherished eyes off the headlights on my orange toy VW bug with the flower stickers on it. I stuck them carefully on her floor. I forget what made me do this. I must have loved that spot very much to have shared such an important thing. I felt the loss, especially during the spanking my grandmother gave me.
I smiled as I touched the floor. They were no longer there, I'm sure the linoleum was different too. I asked her how long it had taken her to scrape the eyes off. She said " I just kept mopping, I never tried to scrape them off because I loved you so much and they reminded me of you".
I smiled back the years and the tears which now flow freely.
She had me pile the table high in the usual manner. My heavens it had been so long, but being at her table erased the years and the badness, the madness...all I felt was welcome and love. She kept having me sit as she gave me directions, she stood over my shoulder as I peeled the tomatoes. She fed my son his first pickle, of course she'd canned it. She fed him some strawberries from her homemade strawberry pie. He fell asleep on the floor on a pallet of a blanket she'd made. He threw up a bit of strawberry on his outfit. I put it straight in the dryer to set the stain and never washed it. Memories.
We spent the night in the room which shared a wall with her bedroom. Three of us in a double bed. I showed my husband on instinct a thing I'd long forgotten...potatoes under the bed. That night there was a storm. A wonderful loud booming thunder, whip crack lighting storm. I felt new. I stayed awake most of the night listening for her sounds, feeling the years unfold around me.
I snuck up and got dressed about 30 minutes before my son usually cried.I wanted to catch my sneaky Aunt in the process of trying to make us breakfast. I lied (sort of) to my aunt. She asked what I was doing up and I told her I was fixing a bottle that he had cried...(ok it was only a whimper). She said, as she bored into my soul with her eyes, " he's a good baby and I didn't hear that baby cry". I confessed it was only a whimper but I wanted to head him off before he really got hungry. I further confessed (ok a small fib) that I always wanted to cook breakfast with her, to learn how she made her biscuits so good. I caved in under those probing eyes and further confessed that I was worried she would try to do too much for us and I really did want to know how she did it. It was the truth so she let it fly.
I knew the recipe but not her "Aunt Sallie-ness" I now know. I wore her apron. I made biscuits with her, she patted my hip and told me I'd always been a big girl. She taught me to fry her potatoes. She fed my son his first scrambled eggs. My Uncle Bobby and Aunt Pat came down to visit. We hadn't seen each other in 23 years. It was the last time I ever saw him.
It was the last time I ever saw Aunt Sallie, but not the last time I spoke with her.
I now taste her biscuits in my mouth on really bad days. Not the way I make them, but hers from when I was small and life was perfect. I feel loved and comforted then.
Some people and places make you feel like you can always go home.