"When we went to visit with you for
the first time, you were wearing a little pink dress. You held out your arms to
Warren and said, Da Da." She raised her arms out and made a face that
looked helpless. "We knew then, we just had to have you." She seemed
to always refer to him as Warren and not my dad.
"Did Randy, Scot and Dan want a
sister?" I asked like it was the first time I heard the story.
"Oh, of course." Marge lit a
cigarette, took a short drag, and then held it near her coffee mug. I hated
when she just held her cigarettes and didn't smoke them or take the time to tap
the ashes into the ashtray, because I couldn't focus on her. I could
only stare at the long cylinder of ash, wondering when and where it would fall.
"We came home after meeting you and told the boys all about you. We were
especially concerned when it came to Danny because he was only five and used to
being the youngest." Marge took a sip of black coffee without the slag of
her smoke even moving slightly, although I could see the slight orange glow
move fast toward her fingers. "I don't want to be the youngest, Mama! I
want a sister, is what he told me." Marge pushed her cheeks out to imitate
her idea of what Dan looked like when he was a kid and she laughed. "He
was so damn cute! All you kids..." She smiled, stamped out her cigarette
and looked far away like it had been some other lifetime and now she was let
down. It felt the same to me because I didn't remember any of it.
My first memory is my third birthday and
that Grandma Beekman made me a cake in the shape of a lamb. The white sugared
icing was thick and billowy, like wool. The lamb's eyes stared back at me with
chocolate glare. It was also the first year of many that Grandma made me a baby
purse. She washed out old dish detergent bottles, cut out the bottom half and
punched holes along the edges. Then she crocheted the holes so that she could
build a purse with drawstrings from the plastic base. She showed me how to pull
the drawstrings and yarn over the plastic sides, to reveal a crib with a tiny
doll baby inside. The crib had a pillow and knitted blanket, too. She
demonstrated over and over. It seemed she rather liked talking about her own
creations and it drove Marge over the edge sometimes. Thankfully, Marge allowed
Grandma to stay on my birthday and the cake didn't end up on the floor.
Grandma didn't come over too often. My dad
would go to her house every week and sometimes take us kids. I especially liked
to go, because Grandma gave us sugary treats and we rarely got sweets. Once, I
spent the whole day with Grandma and we made church window cookies. We melted
butter and chocolate, stirred in mini colored marshmallows, rolled everything
out into a log coated with coconut, and refrigerated it in wax paper. Once the
cookies were chilled, we sliced the log to find all the colors like on a
stained-glass window. Grandma cut a lot of slices for me to take home.
When Marge picked me up and we headed for
the car, she threw the bag of cookies into a snowbank. "How many times do
I have to tell you and that woman, no sugar. You're fat enough!"
I huddled against the passenger door on the
Wherever I wandered, there was Blackie.
Blackie was adopted about a week after I was. She was the runt from a litter of
short-haired mutts. She was a sweet little dog that, right from the start,
tried jumping into my crib. She ate everything I didn't want and protected me
as best she could. At night, she slept under my covers and growled when anyone
entered my room.
AUTHOR BIO AND LINKS:
Beekman is an avid runner, hiker and skier and lives in Boulder, Colorado with
her dog, Francesca.