Finding my way home
“Finding my way home” is an abridgement of the first story in Amy George’s Six Going on Seven: Short Stories from a Short Midwest Girl.
I ride the school bus to a stop sign on a small street. I walk to the small white house. I knock on the door, and my great-grandma opens it wearing an apron over her dress. I walk into the warm kitchen and put my school bag on the table.
Grandma goes back to the counter where she prepares a snack. I open my bag and take out my folder. I don’t actually have any homework in grade 1, but I want to write like the big kids I see.
Last fall, I wrote all the letters on their own pieces of paper to teach phonics. During recess, I sat on the bench, and the other students sat on the ground. I would show them the letters, and then the kids repeated. I wanted to be a teacher and have a desk and stapler.
I kept all my teaching papers in my folder and wrote my name with a “T” behind it. A boy helped sometimes. He didn’t have a teaching folder, so I wrote his name after mine followed by “TA.” Some older girls teased me. They thought it said “me + him.” I showed them “T” meant teacher, and “TA” meant teaching assistant. They didn’t listen. They just sang about us sitting in trees. I quit teaching and started playing on the monkey bars during recess.
Grandma places two saucers holding cups of coffee on the table. The coffee in my cup is light brown, more milk than coffee. It makes me feel like a grown-up to have my own spoon and stir. Grandma gives me a slice of bread and opens the butter dish. I spread butter on my bread and smooth it out until it touches the edges of the crust. I lift the lid off the glass jar of marmalade. I use the plastic spoon to put a dollop in the center of my bread. At home we only have grape jelly, so the marmalade feels special.
She lets me make my own sandwich and talks to me like I’m an adult. I tell her about my day as I eat my sandwich and sip my coffee. She never asks me silly questions about boys. She just listens to me and tells me stories about when she was in school. I think this is how grown-ups talk to each other.
Grandma needs to make dinner before Grandpa gets home. Grandma lets me make the Waldorf salad. Grandma already cut the apples and grapes and celery. I mix it all together with mayonnaise and raisins.
Grandpa comes home and gives me a hug. He laughs and thinks it’s funny that his whiskers scratch me. He goes to the bathroom to wash up while I set the table. When he comes back, dinner is ready. Grandma made pot roast and potatoes and carrots.
Grandpa says I’m a good cook when he tastes the salad, and I feel proud of myself. When it’s time to eat the pot roast, my piece has fat that I try to cut off with my knife. Grandpa says the fat is the best part and will put hair on my chest. I think he’s teasing me. I hope he is, because I don’t think I want hair on my chest.
Grandma made cheesecake for dessert. When I take a bite, I feel the creamy part dissolving leaving the pineapple on my tongue. This is my favorite dessert ever. My mom has the recipe, but she says something always goes wrong when she tries to make it. Only Grandma can make Grandma’s cheesecake.
When we finish dinner, Grandma does the dishes. I move a chair to the sink to dry them. I stack the dishes that Grandma will put into the cupboard. Then I hang the wet cloth on the handle of the stove. I like to line up the corners until they touch to know the front and back are even.
The Wizard of Oz is on television tonight, and I get to sit in the big chair to watch it. Grandma covers me with a crocheted afghan.
I hear Grandpa say my mom will arrive soon, so I decide to pretend to be asleep with the hope I can stay instead of going home. While pretending to fall asleep, I really fall asleep. I wake up in the night alone in the chair.
I pull the blanket up around me snuggling down deeper to sleep. I’m happy to know I’ll wake up and have another day with my grandparents. I fall back asleep thinking about eating eggs over easy in the morning and dipping the corners of the toast into the golden yolk.
“Finding my way home” is an abridgement of the first story in Amy George’s Six Going on Seven: Short Stories from a Short Midwest Girl, available from Amazon. The print edition contains a guided mindfulness journal for elementary school children.