The earliest memory I have is of my grandmother potty training me. I don't remember how old I was, but I do remember that in order to get me to sit still she'd sing me lullabies in foreign languages. I thought it was great. Go to the bathroom, sing a song, life is good. Life was always good when my granny was around. I attribute everything that is good in me, to her.
I remember when I was little, before I could go to school, I'd spend the mornings and afternoons with my grandparents. My granny would take me to antique stores and the Salvation Army. It smelled like mothballs, dust, and wood cleaner. I always had a knack for picking out the most expensive, most breakable, item that my little hands could hold on to. I would get "that look". "That look" meant that you hadn't done anything wrong, but there was definite potential for it. She would take the aforementioned expensive item and replace it with something soft and cheap. However, breaking cheap things has never been as fun as breaking the really important, expensive things.
On the weekends I'd spend the night at her house. Right before bedtime, we'd go outside in our nightgowns and catch fireflies in mason jars with holes in the top. They served as my night-light for a few hours; but she would sneak back in and release then sometime during the twilight. She would read me fairytales about princesses and far-off kingdoms until I fell asleep. If she ran out of fairytales, she'd read me poetry. I loved her voice, it had a rough yet tender quality to it. It made me feel comfortable, and always I'd fall asleep.
When I started going to school, my visits were increasingly shortened. I visited her with my brothers and my sister. My oldest brother, George, would go to the backyard and play with Schatzsy. Schatzsy was a 140lb. female doberman. There was a sign on the gate that said, "Beware of Dog," but in reality, if you entered the gate she'd probably lick you to death. Anyway, I'd go to swing. The swing was a wooden board with two holes cut in the side, and a rope through the holes that tied around a tree branch. Cicada shells would stick to the rope so that the first person who used it had to brush them off. In case you don't know what Cicada's are, they're little bugs that make a noise kinda like a rattlesnake that shed their skin every now and then.
My other brother, Mike, would go to the toy room. This was my paradise. It had plastic army men, huge rubber dinosaurs ($.50 at most dollar stores) that squeaked when you squeezed them, painted wooden horses, and all sorts of dolls. Some dolls had fallen victim to GI Joe and T-Rex's takeover of the universe, and had to have their heads chopped off for being the traitors that they were. Other dolls had that stubby hair that results from trying to shave them bald, but it never worked. I don't remember being as innocent or as happy as this.
By the time I hit middle school and into high school, everything was changing. Life was getting complicated and hard, and I wasn't taking it well. I was outcasted, shy, and diagnosed manic depressive (currently better since then). I remember the rare times I did get to see my granny, it was serene. Schatszy was getting older and it was really sad. I'd usually go into the bedroom and sleep. I'd fall asleep to the sound of the old grandfather clock ticking away on the wall, and the low hum of CNN being watched in the main room. The sheets were soft and smelled like sunshine, and the pillows were big and plush. I wouldn't wake until the next morning. I would slowly drift back into consciousness, and with my eyes closed would listen to the sound of the world waking up. Birds were starting to sing, the grandfather clock ticking, and the sun just barely shining through the translucent green curtains over the window. I'd stretch out on the sheets and then lay there for a few minutes, then slowly put my feet on the hardwood floor, stretch once more, and then the smell of some really awesome pancakes would make its way into my room. I knew I was home.
I fell seriously ill my sophomore year. I remember waking up to the sound of the heart monitor beeping rhythmically next to me, and I felt sharp pains in my arm. There was one IV in my hand, and another in my arm (the place above your elbow). I had severe anemia and traces of mono. My granny would call me and we'd talk for hours every day. The last time I saw her I went over to her house and we talked awhile. When I left, tears came to my eyes when I said good-bye to my granny and Schatszy. Two weeks later, Schatszy was put to sleep. I miss the way things used to be, and I'm sorry they have to be the way they are now. I found out that my grandfather used to beat her up on a regular basis, and he still does every now and then. He was put in jail for about a week for domestic abuse, but was let go because she had hit him with a bat. I can't see her anymore because he won't allow it. She has Alzheimer's disease and it's in its final stages. The last time I talked to her, she barely said anything. Nothing, from the person who used to talk for hours and hours. She remembers me as a little girl, but not me now.
I miss her voice, her smile, her warmth, and her home. She taught me how to read, smile, laugh, and I have the most beautiful memories because of her. Now I read fairytales and poetry to my 13 month-old neice, Madisyn. I have boxes and shelves full of things that mean nothing to anybody but me. They're my memories. I still think of her when I wake up on some mornings, with my crystal clock ticking, and the sun just barely shining through the window blinds.