I sat at my grandmother’s kitchen table, my short legs swinging back and forth against the chair, picking at the cardboard box with my fingernails. She had ordered me a present. Lifting the flaps, I peeled back the pieces of tissue, layer by layer and reached inside. The smooth texture under my fingertips told me I needed to be careful, it was breakable and a little bit heavy. I pulled out the figurine of the little pigtailed girl sitting on a giant dog and set it gently on the table.
Nannie turned the shiny silver knob on the bottom of the figurine and it click-click-clicked with each rotation. When she set it back on the table, it slowly began to revolve and soft bell tones tinkled out a tune. It was You Light Up My Life.
Nannie gave me a present. I lit up her life.
I loved spending the night at Nannie’s house. We would go to the Food Lion where she let me pick out dinner, then I would snuggle up with her on the couch in my smurf pajamas, watching Hee-Haw, and Golden Girls and Empty Nest. I would eventually fall asleep while she played with my curls.
In the morning we would wake up and she would pour frosted flakes into my Star Trek bowl with the watery milk. Her milk was different; she used skim.
Every child deserves to have one person who loves them most of all. It felt like Nannie loved me most of all.
I lost Nannie right before I graduated from high school. I was so sorry that those last few years I had grown into a terror of a teenager and had failed to remain the child that was so precious to her, who brought her so much joy. I felt I had disappointed her by changing. I hope she could still see in me that little girl curled up against her legs on the sofa, who left her love notes on post-its all over the house where she would find them after I had gone home. So she wouldn’t forget.
That little figurine sat on the desk in my bedroom and watched me grow. She sat on my bookshelf covered with the pink and blue flowered contact paper and listened to the grunge music coming from my stereo. She went with me to college just a few months after Nannie was gone, sat on the shelf in my room at the sorority house while I studied, perched on the ledge of my very first apartment in law school. Somewhere in all that packing and unpacking, she lost an arm.
I lit up her life. She is still a light in mine.
I can turn that silver knob and when the first few tinkling notes emerge, I’m right back in that kitchen sitting at the round table, my feet swinging back and forth, with the person who loved me most.
If only it really worked that way….just for a minute.
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