Wild Roses Along the Shoreline

I am an ornament upon their pristine lawn.  They gather in my honor.  Dutiful lips offer dry kisses.  They come bearing gifts: large boxes with colorful ribbons which they set at my bunioned feet.
A little boy in a cowboy hat is placed before me.   “Help Great-Grandma,” a woman says.
“I don’t want to.”  The boy frowns.  Perhaps he fears me.
His arm is shaken.  His eyes fill with tears.  He selects a gift from the pile.
“Open it,” the woman says.
The boy unwraps the package and holds something out for everyone to see.
 “Lotion!” The woman says, too enthusiastically.  “Lavender.”  She makes a production over opening it and holds it to her nose.  “Oh, how nice!  Here, Gram.”  She takes my hand and squeezes out a great quantity and rubs it into my weary, protesting skin.
I want to tell her how much I’ve always hated lavender.  It’s roses that I like.  But my mouth cannot find words among dusty memories. 
Another child approaches—a girl with chubby legs and an uncertain gait.  She sits before the presents and bangs upon them.
“Oh, would you look at that?”  Thin devices emerge from pockets.  Lights flash.  The girl’s image is trapped inside a box and I am, for a time, forgotten. 
I am grateful for this break.
I sense they are as well.
One by one, they open the gifts and set them at my feet.  When they are done they gather behind me and smile for another flash; another image trapped.
The gifts unwrapped, they turn to the food.  Hamburgers and hotdogs and bags of potato chips.  Fruit salad and pasta salad and green beans.
Someone sets a plate upon my lap.  “You like hot dogs, Mom.  Eat.”
The sun is high and bright.  There is no shade.  They tore down all the trees to make room for this place.  Here and there, new ornamentals have been planted.  But they’re more toothpicks than anything.  

Among those thin trees, birds whose names I’ve forgotten gather to sing.  I lift my hand, index finger extended.  Age and time have left irreparable gaps in my brain where bits and pieces used to reside.   
 
“Grandma’s pointing.”
“What’s she pointing at?”
“Those birds there.”
“What kind of birds are those, do you think?”
They fall silent and study the birds, scratching their heads. 
“Look it up, Justin.” 
A boy pulls another one of those flashing devices from his pocket. 
“No.” 
They look at me with astonishment.
The knowledge from that box is superficial and dull.  It cannot give me the sensation of tiny feet wrapped around my index finger.  It cannot pick up an injured bird and place it in a shoebox, watching over it until it recovers and flies away.
Facts and figures unmixed with emotion are meaningless indeed.
Someone turns on a hose and begins filling balloons with water.  Children run around the yard squealing and slipping in the wet grass.  A man takes a long drink.  “There’s nothing more refreshing than drinking from a hose.”
How the young forget.
The wind claws at the surface of the water.  The setting sun fills the water with ripples of orange and pink.  Overhead, great oaks and pines sway, arthritic branches crying in protest.  A blue jay flies across the river and lands upon the rocks.  Herons and egrets and Canadian geese gather at the water’s edge to sip and dine.  A dead leaf hitches a ride downriver to its grave.  Wild roses bloom along the shore.  I kneel at water’s edge and drink.
“Grandma?”  Someone passes a hand in front of my face.  I blink.  The moment is gone and I’m brought back to the present.
They begin cleaning up.  The food is put away.  Broken bits of balloons are gathered up and jammed in plastic bags.  They’ll pack me away, too, until Christmas.
They’ll bury themselves in meaningless work and playgroups and activities for the children.
They’ll chop down more trees.
They’ll make more devices.
A young man stands before me.  “Sorry I’m late, Grandma.  The plane…”
I smile.  Tim.
He eyes the pile of gifts on the grass.  “Tell me what you want for your birthday.”
 “Take me to the river tomorrow.” 
“Why?”
I want to remember the names of the birds and the trees.  I want tall trees and dappled shade.  I want broken waves reflecting sunlight.  I want wild roses along the shore.  I want my body—and my memory—to be made whole again.  I want to be a leaf carried upon the current.   
I want to be refreshed.


This post resulted from a challenge issued to me by Greg at Indie Ink: His prompt was: "Nothing is as refreshing as a cold drink of water from a hose on a hot day."

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Wild Roses Along the Shoreline

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wild Roses Along the Shoreline

I am an ornament upon their pristine lawn.  They gather in my honor.  Dutiful lips offer dry kisses.  They come bearing gifts: large boxes with colorful ribbons which they set at my bunioned feet.
A little boy in a cowboy hat is placed before me.   “Help Great-Grandma,” a woman says.
“I don’t want to.”  The boy frowns.  Perhaps he fears me.
His arm is shaken.  His eyes fill with tears.  He selects a gift from the pile.
“Open it,” the woman says.
The boy unwraps the package and holds something out for everyone to see.
 “Lotion!” The woman says, too enthusiastically.  “Lavender.”  She makes a production over opening it and holds it to her nose.  “Oh, how nice!  Here, Gram.”  She takes my hand and squeezes out a great quantity and rubs it into my weary, protesting skin.
I want to tell her how much I’ve always hated lavender.  It’s roses that I like.  But my mouth cannot find words among dusty memories. 
Another child approaches—a girl with chubby legs and an uncertain gait.  She sits before the presents and bangs upon them.
“Oh, would you look at that?”  Thin devices emerge from pockets.  Lights flash.  The girl’s image is trapped inside a box and I am, for a time, forgotten. 
I am grateful for this break.
I sense they are as well.
One by one, they open the gifts and set them at my feet.  When they are done they gather behind me and smile for another flash; another image trapped.
The gifts unwrapped, they turn to the food.  Hamburgers and hotdogs and bags of potato chips.  Fruit salad and pasta salad and green beans.
Someone sets a plate upon my lap.  “You like hot dogs, Mom.  Eat.”
The sun is high and bright.  There is no shade.  They tore down all the trees to make room for this place.  Here and there, new ornamentals have been planted.  But they’re more toothpicks than anything.  

Among those thin trees, birds whose names I’ve forgotten gather to sing.  I lift my hand, index finger extended.  Age and time have left irreparable gaps in my brain where bits and pieces used to reside.   
 
“Grandma’s pointing.”
“What’s she pointing at?”
“Those birds there.”
“What kind of birds are those, do you think?”
They fall silent and study the birds, scratching their heads. 
“Look it up, Justin.” 
A boy pulls another one of those flashing devices from his pocket. 
“No.” 
They look at me with astonishment.
The knowledge from that box is superficial and dull.  It cannot give me the sensation of tiny feet wrapped around my index finger.  It cannot pick up an injured bird and place it in a shoebox, watching over it until it recovers and flies away.
Facts and figures unmixed with emotion are meaningless indeed.
Someone turns on a hose and begins filling balloons with water.  Children run around the yard squealing and slipping in the wet grass.  A man takes a long drink.  “There’s nothing more refreshing than drinking from a hose.”
How the young forget.
The wind claws at the surface of the water.  The setting sun fills the water with ripples of orange and pink.  Overhead, great oaks and pines sway, arthritic branches crying in protest.  A blue jay flies across the river and lands upon the rocks.  Herons and egrets and Canadian geese gather at the water’s edge to sip and dine.  A dead leaf hitches a ride downriver to its grave.  Wild roses bloom along the shore.  I kneel at water’s edge and drink.
“Grandma?”  Someone passes a hand in front of my face.  I blink.  The moment is gone and I’m brought back to the present.
They begin cleaning up.  The food is put away.  Broken bits of balloons are gathered up and jammed in plastic bags.  They’ll pack me away, too, until Christmas.
They’ll bury themselves in meaningless work and playgroups and activities for the children.
They’ll chop down more trees.
They’ll make more devices.
A young man stands before me.  “Sorry I’m late, Grandma.  The plane…”
I smile.  Tim.
He eyes the pile of gifts on the grass.  “Tell me what you want for your birthday.”
 “Take me to the river tomorrow.” 
“Why?”
I want to remember the names of the birds and the trees.  I want tall trees and dappled shade.  I want broken waves reflecting sunlight.  I want wild roses along the shore.  I want my body—and my memory—to be made whole again.  I want to be a leaf carried upon the current.   
I want to be refreshed.


This post resulted from a challenge issued to me by Greg at Indie Ink: His prompt was: "Nothing is as refreshing as a cold drink of water from a hose on a hot day."

Labels: , , , , ,

34 Comments:

At July 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM , Anonymous Amy L. said...

Quite beautiful!

 
At July 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM , Anonymous Tara R. said...

This was elegantly poignant.

 
At July 17, 2011 at 4:50 PM , Anonymous jaum said...

I would imagine that one of most the difficult things for a writer would be stepping into anothers shoes, a different generation, and portrait the charecter so well. I agree with Tara "elegantly poignant".

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM , Anonymous Carol Apple said...

Very beautiful, sad, and real. I have been at many family gatherings like this one. I will remember this next time I speak with a very old person, or maybe when I am a very old person.

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:46 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading.

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:46 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you!

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:47 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks! Not an easy prompt to respond to.

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:49 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Carol.

 
At July 17, 2011 at 6:55 PM , Anonymous elizabeth young said...

A poignant write. An old woman is really just a little girl in an old body...

 
At July 17, 2011 at 7:04 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! I was reluctant to post this. Not exactly cheery.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 1:00 AM , Anonymous Greg Perry said...

You took my prompt and crafted a masterpiece. Job well done.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 3:58 AM , Anonymous Cedar Spitz said...

Very beautiful. Reminds me strongly of my Great-Grandmother, who was 102 when I last was able to visit with her. She told me that she always felt 18 in her heart. We lost her at 107.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 5:49 AM , Anonymous Coming East said...

Amazing post! How beautifully you captured the mind of an old woman. I know, being much closer to the age of your character than you are! LOL! Very touching, too. Well done!

 
At July 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Wow! 107 is impressive. Thanks so much for reading. I wanted to do something unusual with this prompt and was afraid it was too depressing.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading, Greg. Nice prompt!

 
At July 18, 2011 at 7:06 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you! I wasn't sure I'd gotten this quite right...

 
At July 18, 2011 at 8:33 AM , Anonymous Karla said...

This was lovely, truly lovely. :)

 
At July 18, 2011 at 12:00 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you! I was really nervous about posting this.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM , Anonymous K. Syrah said...

A lively mind in an old body. Deeply tragic, but also a little sweet.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 1:36 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading! Yes, it is sad.

 
At July 18, 2011 at 7:58 PM , Anonymous Wendryn said...

Reminded me of my grandma. Thank you for that. :)

 
At July 19, 2011 at 8:53 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At July 20, 2011 at 8:06 AM , Anonymous Dilina Amaruwan said...

Wow... really well done.

 
At July 20, 2011 at 3:18 PM , Anonymous Steffani Packard said...

Aww I loved the ending. =] Great writing.

 
At July 21, 2011 at 12:09 PM , Anonymous Kat said...

This was so touching and beautifully written. You evoked the images so vividly that I truly felt that I was the character and seeing through her eyes.

 
At July 21, 2011 at 4:01 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading - Looking forward to reading your sub tonight.

 
At July 21, 2011 at 4:01 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At July 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks - looking forward to reading all the responses to the prompt tonight.

 
At July 21, 2011 at 8:20 PM , Anonymous Carrie said...

A little bit of magic wrapped up in the most unassuming package: a leaf drifting down stream :)

This was very well done. I felt her confusion, her frustration. Poor woman. I'm glad she has Tim

 
At July 22, 2011 at 11:16 AM , Anonymous bruna myers said...

A beautiful story. I loved how your wrote the story through Grandma's eyes. I miss my Grandmas. Bless their souls.

 
At July 22, 2011 at 1:48 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I miss mine, too. Thanks for reading.

 
At July 22, 2011 at 1:50 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Carrie,
I saw that leaf about six weeks ago and had to write about it in my journal. It reappeared here unexpectedly. Thanks for reading!

 
At July 23, 2011 at 6:14 AM , Anonymous Jason Hughes said...

I'm glad someone asked grandma what she wanted for her birthday! An excellent post, very thought-provoking!

 
At July 25, 2011 at 7:59 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Jason!

 

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