Grandma’s River

Grandma’s River

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Grandma’s River

Happiness consists in being perfectly satisfied with what we have got and with what we haven’t got. It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Throughout my youth I treasured the hot summer days spent with my grandma. Every summer she transformed her front yard into a summer utopia. She accomplished this by utilizing only what she had on hand: her eroded, sunken front yard, cardboard boxes, old lawn chairs, blankets and a water hose.

Grandma, despite her poverty—or maybe because of it—knew what the real blessing of summer was . . . water.

Before lounging in the old, white wooden lawn chairs, Grandma and I would begin the yard transformation. First came the draping of the old, hard lawn chairs with soft, colorful blankets. Then we hauled out our daily supplies of favorite items—ice-cold Orange Nesbit pop; thick, salted slices of watermelon; chilled, hard green apples and frozen candy bars. The treats varied daily, depending on how much of Grandma’s Social Security check was left. The two constants, however, were Grandma’s beloved Reader’s Digest and her large blue washcloth dunked in a pan of cold water filled with ice cubes.

Once the transformation was complete, we each took our places under the weeping willow tree with everything we needed close at hand in cardboard boxes. The day included hours of visiting, laughing, eating and pans of icy water. Later in the day, Grandma read stories to me from her Reader’s Digest. I loved those stories and was mesmerized listening to her warm colorful voice as she read.

As the temperature increased, Grandma would douse herself with a wet cloth, press it up against her forehead and exclaim, “Oh, honey, this feels so good! You know, Melodie, nothing cools you off like a cold compress, unless you go to the river.”

When the heat lingered on and became more intense, Grandma would say, “If it doesn’t cool down soon, we will have to go to the river.”

My heart started to race at the mention of the river. I had waited all day to hear those words. Yesterday the river was so wonderful; to return would be grand.

It was always midday when Grandma made the big decision to go. Finally, she would give in and say, “Honey, let’s go to the river. I can’t stand this heat anymore.”

I would leap from my chair and squeal with excitement, “Grandma! Grandma! Can we make the river deep today?”

Walking around to the side of her house in her worn-out rubber thongs, making a flapping sound as she went, Grandma answered me loudly, “Let’s see how the water pressure is, honey. Maybe we can have a waterfall too!”

I ran alongside my grandmother as she pulled and tugged her long, tangled hose to the front yard. She looked at me lovingly and said, “You first, honey. Go get in your chair. Hurry now, get your shoes off, I’ll go turn on the water.”

Each time I’d jump into my chair and fumble at my shoelaces to beat the water. I always succumbed to pulling too hard on my tennis shoes until they surrendered and came off. I anxiously pulled on the toe of my white socks, stretching the cotton material beyond size. Finally, victory . . . I saw bare feet!

I could hear the surge of water in the pipes making its way to the faucet; soon it would be flowing in the hose. Oh, the joy of anticipation! My excitement grew as my naked toes waited in the green grass for the arrival of water.

Grandma always held the hose high, water spewing and splashing about. Standing above me, she laughed and sprayed my tiny feet. The cold water was exhilarating. I giggled and bounced in my chair with delight as the water touched my skin. Laughing and looking up at my grandma, I would shout, “Grandma, I love you and your river so much!”

My grandma’s expression softened, as if realizing the depth of joy she was giving me.

After a few minutes I announced, “Okay, Grandma, it’s your turn now. Sit down!”

Then, taking the thick green hose in hand, I would spray Grandma’s large swollen feet and legs. Grandma laughed loudly and rubbed her chubby feet together in the cold surging water. After awhile she sighed with relief, exclaiming, “Melodie, what a difference this water makes. I can finally breathe, honey. Thank the good Lord for water!”

As the water rolled down Grandma’s legs, I chimed in too, mimicking her tone perfectly. “Thank the good Lord for water!”

Grandma would let the water run until the sunken side of her lawn was completely flooded. Her concrete sidewalk held the water in place until it evaporated later.

After the lawn was flooded, we sat there dangling our feet in about three inches of water, enjoying our created surroundings of old lawn chairs draped with blankets and our trusted cardboard boxes holding all our daily treasures.

It never even occurred to me how ridiculous we might have looked to some. The only picture I recall in my head when remembering those glorious summer days spent at Grandma’s are images of blissfulness and joy.

Yes, it was there in my grandma’s run-down, flooded yard that I had my first taste of summer bliss. Many, many years have passed since, but I still long for those hot summer days shared with her. Some children had swimming pools; others had trips to lakes or the ocean; thankfully, I had “Grandma’s River.”

Melodie Lynn Tilander

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