They are ready for Sunday School and in all the hectic chaos of such mornings, my son asked for cologne.
So, I ran into the room, apologized to the sleeping bear that is the husband and grabbed his cologne, patting it on my fingers and dabbing the smelly stuff on my son’s pale little neck.
My daughter wanted smelly stuff, too.
My mother went and got perfume and it hit me, the second she lifted the cap on the bottle.
Even over the smell of the Polo on my fingers, I could smell the White Shoulders, tears filled my eyes, and for a moment I skipped back.
*This is a piece from my first book, Wake Up a Woman.
Have you ever noticed that there are places in this world that at certain times, and this is only every once in a while, time skips? It’s like life is a record player, and in our little record are a few cracks. Oh they are nothing major, and the music still comes through, but at times, just certain times, the needle catches. It pauses there, and the music stops. Then, within seconds, it jumps over the crack and starts anew. Who knows how long those seconds are? I mean, what does time mean to God? An eternity for us is but a blink of the eye to Him.
Of course by this point my grandmother had stopped my explanation of cracks and records skipping. She had one of the sighs, the kind that let me know she was ready to come out of her silence. We were sitting there on that park bench, the kind with the curved metal back, that looks uncomfortable, but you end up melded right into it like you belong with the scrolls and dips and dives. Leaves floated around us in the colors of flaming ash, all reds, oranges and yellows. My Grandmother’s cape was red. Not the red of the leaves, or a sunset over tired skies. No, her cape was the color of a fire engine. As if she should be putting out all those little flames that fell around us, and she could have too. She’d been putting out fires all of my life.
“Now stop this nonsense, and tell me what’s really going on.”
Her voice was one of soft strength, and as she spoke, one small, wrinkled, beautiful hand slipped out from under that cape and grasped mine. I couldn’t just settle for her hand though, and instead I curled myself into her, like I’d done since I was a child. My grandmother was no twig of a woman. She was the kind of woman you hugged and instead of being afraid you might break her, you knew she was the one holding you together. She was comfortable, and as I hugged her the scent of White Shoulders chased away everything else.
It was easier to talk now, so I told her of school and how well it was going. I talked about my professors and how much support they have given me in my writing. I spoke of work and the fun I have with the girls there in our efforts to make everyone fall as much in love with their writer’s voice, as we are. I told her of my children, and how we made gingerbread cookies, even though it wasn’t nearly Christmas yet, simply because the kids wanted to cut out cookie shapes. She laughed at that, and reminded me of her old recipe for cookies, one my mother and I don’t make nearly enough.
“Remember you have to roll them flat. Real flat. You want them really thin. Your mother and you never quite get them thin enough.”
And she was right, we didn’t. My mother and I didn’t come ingrained with that same ever-flowing font of patience that my grandmother had, and is. We’d get that cookie dough as flat as we felt like, even though we could hear her in our mind saying that they weren’t ready yet, and roll them flatter. I started to laugh then, and she laughed along with me, the sound filling the empty silence around us. It rose and fell over us, slowly twinkling out, stuck on the breeze and drifting away.
I sat there on that bench and turned to the empty place beside me. My fingers brushed the dead, brown leaves from the seat. Music played again, sweeping through the trees and shaking everything up at the roots, and the world spun around. I laughed again, loud enough to drown out the music. It was laughter laced with tears, and they fell and darkened the wood where my grandmother had sat.
“I miss you Mommom, so much.”
Perhaps I’ll stay here for a bit. Perhaps I’ll make this my home for a time. What is time anyway? It may only be another breath, another heartbeat, and the needle will catch again, and silence will fill a world scented by White Shoulders.