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The sweat from the heat and humidity made our skin stick to the vinyl seats of the 1965 Skylark, and with windows rolled down to keep us cool, gnats blew in and collided with our eyes or tongues if our mouths were open. On the 30-minute drive to our grandmother’s clapboard house off the ground and resting on old brick pylons every Sunday after church, we often napped, being lullabied to sleep by the rhythmic ticking of the Skylark like a sewing machine, and then, waking up with seat creases on our cheeks that grandmother kissed when she hugged us and offered us pound cake and sweet tea.
We swung in the wooden swing, creaking back and forth, or rocked in paint-pealing chairs while she and my parents talked of weather, war, politics, or relatives. Sometimes, we shelled peas, snapped green beans for her in metal bowls, or shucked corn, and she canned or froze our labors for reunions or funerals, where people would bless and compliment her.
We hated going every week and whined, but our mother said, “We come for her because she’d come for you.” We would much prefer our friends’ trampoline across the street, the coolness of the community pool, or riding bicycles on the railroad tracks until the whistle blasted and warned us off, but at our grandmother’s, we explored the shed out back with antique green glass bottles and jars or searched for treasure while crawling under the house on the cold dirt avoiding elaborate spider webs, big cockroaches, or even an occasional rat snake.
When it was time to leave before dark, our mother’s hands would dust us off, tell us we were filthy, and that she might not be able to get the stains out of our clothes. When we were home, she directed us to take a bath in the claw feet tub with soap our grandmother had made and gifted us at Christmas, a gift that disappointed us even though our parents had told us in advance to be appreciative, say thank you, because we didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She didn’t have money for dolls, trains, or sports equipment.
When her heart sputtered and stopped in her chest, she simply left us one hot and humid summer day, like that Skylark that stopped running after 15 years. Now over 50 years later, I long for those sticky seats on Sunday and visits at my grandmother’s house. With her genetic make-up and my own heart skipping beats, I’m hopeful that she’ll come for me, and we can rock on a porch and talk about weather, war, politics, and relatives.