Grandma and the Snow Bank

Grandma and the Snow Bank

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Pam Trask

Grandma and the Snow Bank

Grandmothers are a special gift to children.

G. W. Curtis

Brian banged the door behind him and ran into the kitchen holding his new toy. “Grandma! Come outside and try my pogo stick!”

I shook my head. “Grandmas are breakable, Brian. I’d better not.”

Disappointment drowned his hopeful expression, and he slouched out of the room. As I watched him go, my memory rewound to my own childhood.

In 1952, I’d been sent to stay with my grandparents. My little sister was gravely ill with something called “acute hemolytic anemia,” which I could barely pronounce, much less understand. Mother’s hands were full as she juggled nursing chores and chasing after my brother, an active preschooler. At ten years old, I was deemed responsible enough to travel alone the length of the state and not be “too much trouble” to Grandma and Grandpa.

I’d never traveled by myself, never been away from my family and never attended a city school. But there I was on an airplane bound for Portland, where my grandparents were waiting.

Grandma looked the same every time I saw her—round, firm and fully packed into a corset. She wore dresses and “sensible” black lace-up shoes, and she confined her flyaway hair in a bun at the back of her head. Born in Sweden some seventy-odd years before, she never quite conquered her Scandinavian accent.

Once we arrived at my grandparents’ house, I settled my belongings in the familiar upstairs guestroom. The thought of having to make new friends and fit in with a strange fifth-grade class dimmed the joy of being at Grandma’s without having to share her with my brother and sister.

The night before I started school, Grandma rolled my straight brown hair in rag strips so I’d wake up with curls. As I fell asleep, my head felt lumpy and so did my insides.

The next morning, jagged icicle teeth grinned at me from the eaves outside the bedroom window. Rattling and clanking, the radiator hissed in the chilly room. I huddled close to it and reached for warm clothes.

Grandma had laid out a brown plaid skirt and yellow sweater, along with a pair of brown wool kneesocks. I pulled on the skirt and sweater, but left the kneesocks untouched on the bed. Everyone at my old school wore anklets. Grandma’s arguments couldn’t persuade me to change my mind. I was sure I would be branded as weird if I showed up wearing stockings cuffed at the knee.

When it was time to leave, Grandma went along to enroll me in school. We walked to the corner of her block, then headed downhill on an icy sidewalk, following the same route my mother had taken when she was my age. All too soon the building loomed—three terrifying stories of stone, with a fenced playground facing the street. I watched children arriving ahead of us. They were cutting around the end of a wrought-iron fence and scooting down a snow bank onto the playground.

Suddenly I didn’t want to continue on the shoveled walk that bisected the fence and led to the wide front doors. Everyone on the playground would see me and know I was a stranger.

“Please, Grandma, let’s go this way.” I tugged her toward the shortcut. “All the other kids are doing it.”

She didn’t hesitate. “Come on then,” she said, easing around the end of the fence.

We traipsed to the snow bank and together plowed down it full force. Grandma slid on her backside, then sprung to her feet at the bottom, never missing a step. Clutching the strap of her handbag, she kept pace with me as though we were both ten years old. My bare legs were cold and wet; my Buster Browns filled with snow.

Our descent probably lasted just seconds, but those seconds were enough to install me in my new world. I walked proudly across the playground with Grandma and up the steps into the school.

Thanks to Grandma’s courage and sense of adventure, I belonged.

Now, standing in my kitchen, I reconsidered my grandson’s request. I called out the window, “Brian, let’s play on that pogo stick!”

Grandmas aren’t so breakable after all.

Ann Kirk Shorey

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