It figures! So it’s the weekend before Memorial Day but do I get to sleep in? No! I get to wake my butt up at 8:00 a.m. and it is Saturday for goodness sakes! What teenager in the world wakes up before noon on a Saturday? I mean seriously, 8:00 a.m., that’s like being grounded or something, isn’t it?
So why am I feeling the dread of waking up so early this morning? It’s not like it’s gonna kill me or anything. I’ll get to sleep in soon enough once school is out for the summer. I can’t wait. Not only is it the end of my junior year at high school but my birthday is right around the corner. I’m anxious too. I’m positive 17 years of age will finally bring me the excitement I have been waiting for my entire life. I just know it.
My early morning awakening happens to be my duty as a child of helping my family with their silly little tradition of going to cemeteries and primping deceased family member’s gravestones with a rainbow of color. The only two I ever seem to remember is that Great Grandmother Martha had loved her Marigolds and Great-Great Grandmother Doris had loved her Calendulas.
I know my lack of enthusiasm this morning is due from staying up late last night instant messaging my cyber pal on Facebook. Of course my warm, and cozy handcrafted quilt that my grandmother made me for my 9th birthday, is also making me linger way too long in bed this Saturday morning.
Reba, my grandmother, is a remarkable woman for someone of her age. Though she does show some signs of aging with her short, white hair and her big rimmed bifocals, she still wouldn’t be considered grandmother material especially by any of my friends. That’s for sure.
She’s also a great story teller. I try and pay close attention each time she visits, hoping that she will remember a new one to tell. I guess it’s because of her old age that she tends to repeat a few over and over.
Today, I’m prepared to listen intuitively, when she tells me again how famous my Great-Great Grandmother Doris had been due to her cabbage and green pea casserole. My grandmother brags about my great-great grandmother every chance she gets. I admit it, I do love every tale.
My grandmother also tells me that she has some old journals that date back several hundred years, all with information about the Wilkinson Family Legacy. Well, Wilkinson is my mother’s side. I’m a Wilkinson-Randolph. Randolph belongs to my father’s side, which my mother rarely talks about and so I’m kind of unfamiliar with them. My father left us when I was really young and I honestly don’t remember much about him. I know how much it hurts my mom so I really don’t bring the subject up. That’s how it has been all these years. I’m fine with that.
Someday my grandmother promises to entrust these old journals to me in order to carry on throughout the on-coming years since she is indeed ‘ready to hang it up once and for all’. Of course, she is exaggerating. I can’t get over how she seems to be so tired and exhausted from life itself. For goodness sake, she is retired. It’s not like she has to go to school, work at the Wilton's Nature Shop three days a week, and then try to find time for homework to get done. My goodness, what if she walked in my shoes for a day? I’m sure she would be exhausted and realize how rough I have it.
Realizing my mother is calling for me from downstairs, I decide to make it the rest of the way out of bed and run over to the closet to whip the first thing I see off the hanger. I step aside to escape the ricocheting hanger that jumps off the bar and lands on the floor next to my feet. I slip on a shimmering emerald sundress with an empire waistline. I finger comb my long, auburn hair, throw it in a circle pattern on top of my head, knot it and secure it in place with pony tail holders.
I glide over to my desk chair to seek out my cream colored crocheted cardigan that my grandmother had given to me for my 16th birthday last year. Not necessarily the Nissan that I secretly wished for before blowing out my candles my mother strategically placed on the homemade carrot cake she made.
I’m just about ready for the early morning outing, although I need to give myself a once over in the floor length mirror. I just know I am going to find a boyfriend this summer. I mean, I’m going to turn seventeen. I’m way overdue.
As my eyes linger for a moment with a hint of satisfaction at my reflection, I murmur aloud “Oh, Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall” I sigh, “Why, oh, why, is my life so dull?” I do a little twirl with my dress, only to abruptly stop to appear over my shoulder to get a good view of my backside. As my hands slide down the sides of my hips, I exclaim “yeah, I’ll work on that too” and grab my butt, roll my eyes in disgust, turn full frontal to the mirror again, smile and blow a kiss to the image in front of me.
A knock at the door causes me to cry out “I’m coming”. My mother is Tabitha. Tabby, as my friends call her and so do I, more often when my friend Jules is around. I can’t help it she just isn’t the type to call Mom.
Tabby appears through a small crack at the doorway and reminds me that Grandma is helping out today at the Church Social Dinner at 4:00 pm.
“Oh what a wonderful day, this is going to be. Yippee!” I sarcastically remark.
“Oh, stop” Tabby sings from the bottom of the stairs. “You love going places with your grandmother and me. You know you do.” Tabby chuckles under her breath, but I still make it out.
I know it is really my mother and grandmother that ideally love hanging with me. I mean who wouldn’t. I’m just such a wonderful kid in their eyes. I can’t help but chuckle to myself knowing how arrogant that sounds and I’m far from being that.
I somberly creep down the stairs to the kitchen, singing softly “Oh How I Hate My Life”. I head over to the kitchen table where Tabby has a bowl and spoon waiting. I am all but two seconds from sitting down when the door bell rings.
Tabby looks at me and ticks her head to the side as if to say - can you get that? So I yell, “Come on in, Grandma” but not budging from my now seated position. Like my grandmother needs me to open the door for her.
“Well, I could’ve done that, Nessa” Tabby corrects me as she starts towards the door to greet our guest.
“Come on Mom, I have told you I don’t like to be called that! The name is Vanessa, you know, the one you decided to bestow upon me on my birth day.” My voice elevating higher in a tone to make sure Tabby can hear me on her way to the door.
“Ma!” Tabby rejoices. “Come in. We are just eating breakfast. Just give us a few.”
“Sure, sure, take your time” Grandma insists. Grandma walks over to me with outstretched arms. I begin to brace myself for her great big bear hug that I am about to be overtaken with, all the while slurping my milk from my bowl without skipping a beat or missing a drop. I’m just good that way. I smirk with amusement.
“Oh, I see you’re wearing the cardigan I made you. You take such good care of your things, sweetheart. So tell me, how’s school going?” Grandma inquisitively remarks. As she waits for my reply and sits down next to me as she pats my knee a couple of times as if I’m not paying attention to her.
“How about boys?”
“You know, boys? The ones with the Y chromosome; the ones that make us weak in the knees and…”
“Ok, Ok!” I shriek in disgust. “Mom, I’m ready” I bark as I get up to put my dishes in the sink.
“Ahh, excuse me, the dishwasher is empty” Tabby alerts me with a sarcastic tone only a mother can have.
I roll my eyes without a witness and turn to put my dishes in the dishwasher. “Yeah, Oh How I Hate My Life” I sing softly.
Everyone heads towards the door.
“So which one are we going to take?” I ask into the air as I look at my mom’s Titanic or Grandma’s rocking piece of heap.
“Grandma’s. I just have to get the water.” Tabby answers as she starts grabbing the jugs she filled earlier and kept on the edge of the porch.
I make my way to the backseat of the rocking piece of heap, while Grandma walks towards the trunk. I’m secretly thankful we are taking Grandma’s car. It is a slightly smaller than ours. Hers is green in color, with a light tan interior consisting of a cold, hard and cheap looking vinyl. It’s clean in regards to no clutter, but dusty in every nook and cranny the eye can see. The smell is that of a dusty, medicinal, old person’s car. Whether the odor is Ben-gay or eucalyptus, I am not in the mood to decipher. I should still be in bed right about now. I’m just grateful I can stow away in the back without possible recognition today.
Our first stop is the cemetery on the hill. It is quite large and overpopulated, and I am so amazed that even though we come and visit only once a year, my mother and grandmother always remember the way.
As our car comes to a stop, and they both pile out and migrate towards the rear, I slowly adjust my dress and crawl out the back door.
It is a cool day but by no means too cool for the article of clothing I am wearing. I do my part by carrying a flat of marigolds over to Martha’s site. After dropping off, I head for a stroll. I love to explore the stones and dates. Overflowing with curiosity, I begin to imagine and deduce what kind of life these people led and how they passed away. As I make my way up and down the rows of the old and new, I always end at the old maple tree towards the back end of the cemetery. Grandma is always within view but never in vocal range, which is definitely a good thing.
“Hi Max. So what have you been up to lately? It’s our yearly visit. Whoohoo!” I secretly whisper to the stone I now stand in front of and graciously begin to kneel as if he had been a member of the family. Max Harper. Born 1934, Died 1953. That’s it. Not beloved son, not an American flag, not a single flower, just all alone here by a tree. A few yards over towards the road is another neighbor. Zachory Riff, born 1903, died 1957. At least he was in his fifties, I scuff to myself.
I have often wondered the cause for Max’s early death. Nineteen isn’t that old.
“Note to self, research the story”. I stand and turn towards the sound of the humming vehicle approaching just a few rows away when I feel a tug on my leg. In fact, it is more of an almighty jerk which awakens my senses and begins to bring chills up and down my spine.
One moment I am in lala land and now with a bone chilling paralysis, I am completely frozen with fear, unable to even move forward. I try to get a grip on reality and pull my left leg in place but can’t budge. I am even too afraid to look down but know I can’t stay like this forever.
All that my eyes allow me to see is purple air, like someone just spun around in a circle and dusted the air with one of those huge purple pixie stixs. My vertigo wants to kick in as well as the eerie feeling like I’m not alone, as if someone is watching me.
My heart begins to beat out of rhythm from all the adrenaline that is rushing thru my veins. I’m unable to think clearly. My head begins to throb as a piercing pain penetrates my lower calf. All of a sudden, a rush of coolness blankets my body while the wind picks up and begins to loosen strands of hair from my ponytail holder. Memories of time ago begin banging softly at the back door of my mind but these are memories that don’t belong to me, so I refuse to let them in.
Again I try to regain control of my body and try to focus my willpower into moving my leg but to no avail. I persistently feel an even stronger force holding me in place. I almost make out a creepy feeling of fingers walking themselves up the back of my leg and resting in place behind my knee as I continue to struggle.
I hear a honk, instantaneously, my leg releases from this invisible force that I’m unable to explain.
“What the freak?” I gasp in pure fright, but I waste no time. I sprint to the car without a second glance back even after I reach for the door.
“Looks like the clock stroke midnight my dear” Grandma chuckles, “or did you see a ghost?”
I don’t even register an acknowledgement to her remark. I search my leg for any signs from its previous restraint, but I see nothing. I cautiously try to compose myself as best as I can and gain control of my sanity, well at least what is left of it.