We were together on the concrete patio, she and I. Over our heads was a simple clothesline, a rope upon which she was hanging clean dish towels to dry in the desert heat. I noticed her silver-white hair as it caught beams of sun that were sneaking into our space from under the eaves.
“Look around you,” she said. “What do you see?”
“Nothing,” I replied. My voice, at age six, was soft and small
She finished pinning the last cloth to the rope and looked down. Our eyes met. “Come. Sit here. And wait a minute.” She pushed the empty cart towards the laundry room’s open door.
I was holding a bag made of coarse fabric that contained the wooden clothespins, and I laid it on the chaise. I sat down and picked out a pin to hold. Its texture was smooth from years of use. As I clipped and unclipped it around my pinkie finger, I was careful to control its pressure while I waited for Grandma to put the cart away.
When she came back out through the door I asked, “Why did you ask me what I saw?”
“Because I didn’t want you to be afraid.”
As a child, I had a lot of fears. Dogs. Spiders. Throwing up (after the experience of tonsillitis). Knives. Ghosts. And…everything about Easter.
“But I didn’t see anything. And I wasn’t afraid.”
Grandma smiled. Then, she laughed. I saw the gap between her two front teeth, and the pink lipstick that contrasted with the whiteness of her teeth. I loved the sound of her laughter, but I was puzzled. Was she laughing at me for saying that I didn’t see anything? Did she think I’d seen something that wasn’t there?
As if reading my thoughts she said, “You saw nothing, and you have nothing to be afraid of.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
I let the wooden clip fall into the folds of my yellow cotton summer dress and reached up to touch her lower lip with what I’d then called my ‘pointer finger.’ She opened her eyes. I pulled my finger away and looked at the colored film that covered its tip. “Why do you wear pink lipstick, Grandma?”
“I wear it every day,” she said. “It’s magic.”
“Yes! When I put it on, it makes me feel good. It makes me look good. No one can see what’s in your stomach, but they can see what you’re wearing and that is why you should always look good. Lipstick reminds me that beauty begins with the words you choose to speak.”
She leaned down and gave me a gentle a kiss on my cheek. I placed my pointer finger — the one with the lipstick on it — on my own lower lip and swiped it as if it were an actual tube of lipstick.
“I love you, Grandma.”
NOTE: A less-than-500 word story written for a writing class taught by Amy Silverman in Phoenix on September 14, 2019. And yes, it is true that I hated everything about Easter —that story about the nailing hands and feet to a wooden cross, the taste of jelly beans, even chewing the ears off the chocolate bunnies, oh and especially the hard boiled eggs that were hidden in the dirt of our back yard.