The Tacky Marigold Summer
A Boy Bonds with his Grandmother During One Unforgettable Summer
My grandmother displayed tacky fake marigolds in a vase on her dining room table. They were brilliant orange, which contrasted with the deep green stoneware container that she purchased in a discount store in town.
The flowers greeted me every morning as I ladled spoonfuls of Grape-Nuts into my mouth. It was the summer I turned nine years old and my sister was diagnosed with a kidney condition. While she spent weeks in a hospital in The Bronx, I went to live with Grandma.
Grandma lived in a white 1950s ranch home on a peaceful street in the suburbs. It was so quiet I never encountered another child during my entire stay. Yet Grandma continuously complained about the endless noise that she believed came from the bar situated a few blocks away.
This was the same house where Dad grew up. Not much had been altered since those days. It still had the sea-foam green tile and matching pedestal sink in the bathroom. The kitchen had the same pine cabinets and fake paint drip pattern linoleum that came with the home in 1955.
There was one feature of the home that I adored - a spacious screened-in porch. It faced the seldom used back yard. The walls and floor painted the same green as the marigold vase .
Grandma and I spent endless hours on the porch that summer. We’d lounge on the lime green paisley vinyl covered patio furniture, reading or just chatting. I learned so much about my family, past and present, on that porch. Grandma was a marvelous cook and in the evening, we ate supper while watching Jeopardy on an ancient portable black and white television.
One of our favorite activities was playing Scrabble. One evening, I noted that a few of the old wooden tiles had faded pencil sketches on them.
“Gram, who drew on the ‘O’ tiles?”
“Your father. When he was young, we gave him the tiles to draw on while we played,” she replied.
My dad developed into a mildly famous artist, and this was most likely his first effort. It was coincidentally the sole time Grandma encouraged his artistic pursuit. The Scrabble set, artwork included, now lives on a bookshelf in my apartment. One memento out of many I acquired when Grandma passed.
On the edge of the property was an enormous lilac bush. In the spring it filled the backyard with its perfume. Growing in the heart of the backyard was a great black walnut tree. In the fall it dropped a bounty of nuts in dark, impossible to open, husks. Grandma painstakingly collected them in large garbage bags, spread them in the driveway, and drove over them to split the husk and extract the meat. Every winter she made Christmas cookies using the nuts she yielded. I appreciate it was a lot of effort but the results were delectable.
Tucked in the rear corner of the garden, tucked away under a dusty blue plastic tarp, was the green MGB that my uncle purchased while in college. After graduation he returned home with the car and a black dog he discovered in a junkyard. Gram loved the dog and detested the automobile. It remained under that cloth until we sold the house after Gram’s death.
My uncle often dropped by for a visit. He owned a small fishing boat, and he drove me to the dock in his orange pickup truck, to give Gram a rest. We’ve never been close, but those few times on the water produced splendid memories.
We spent days when the weather didn’t cooperate, inside. We read on the brown tweed couch in the living room or spent time in the small kitchen. I worked at a child’s sized, aluminum table on a scale model of a World War II battleship while Gram did what she did best, cooking the most appetizing suppers. I can still taste her tender pot roast and flaky pie crust.
After days or weeks, time passes differently when you’re a child in the summertime, my sister returned home and so did I. A few years later, Gram passed away. I don't remember a great many things about her but I’ll never forget that vacation at Grandma’s house.
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About the author
I am a disabled fiction and nonfiction writer currently living in New York. My writing is inspired by my life and the odd people in it. I'm passionate about pop culture, obscure trivia and great writing.