When I was a little girl I spent a considerable amount of time with my grandparents and I was endlessly fascinated with them.
If I spent the night I woke as soon as my grandfather's foot hit the floor, stood outside of the bathroom door and waited for him to finish what he told me were "the three S's- shower, shave and shampoo"(he omitted the more crass word for my delicate four year old ears that would soon be sullied by his future grandsons).
My grandmother was a smoker. She never did so in the house but the smell of tobacco had penetrated some things, namely this panda figurine she had sitting on the windowsill above the sink. I would ask her to take it down for me and I'd hold it in my hands and smell it, inhaling the danger of nicotine and loving that it came from her.
They lived in Show Low, AZ, for most of my young girlhood and I spent my visits creating adventures in the woods. Running up the road to greet the cows that I loved just as much as any animal that had been drawn in a Disney movie. I'd eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and talk to them, wishing that I could stroke their ears and kiss their eyelashes while resenting the barbed wire that separated us.
I adopted my grandmother's friend's wolf hybrid dog as my faithful companion in pine cone collecting. Lobo and I spent long afternoons under pine trees. He was the first creature I loved with everything I had inside of myself.
That wolfdog would wait for me at the door like clockwork.
"Amanda, Lobo is here!"
And I'd run out of the door as if somebody was waiting for me with sacks of gold.
My fascination with my grandparents still hasn't waned. There is this intense love that runs deeper than the marrow in my bones.
I loved the feeling in their kitchen where the sun glowed around my grandfather reading the paper, drinking his black coffee. Always black coffee. This was a man who had been to war, who had worked in Detroit, and watched his sons be possible casualties in Vietnam. Who had lost friends and had the steely silence of his Swedish blood and yet, when his granddaughters came calling--there were no grandsons until after the '80s-- he was a dollhouse, a storybook; a daisy blooming through the concrete.
My grandmother raised five babies. She lost one son, watched one almost die, watched her daughters get their hearts broken, watched them lose future grandchildren in that bloody silent violence that is a miscarriage. And none of this shows. She nurtures us in a way that doesn't come off as maternal. She just believes, with all her might, that we are really capable of all our dreams, even though she's seen her own come and go.
She wanted to be a writer and when she caught wind of my aspirations she became my biggest cheerleader. Every visit she asks me if I'm "still writing" and when I say "yes" or "meh, here and there" or "I wish," she is still there. She hands me things she's written asking me what I think about them and I adore that she thinks I have any sort of skill in which my opinion really matters.
I love them.
For the days they've seen and lived through.
For setting the stage for a childhood made of wonder and adventure.
For the fact that no matter what, after being a teenager, after having my own child, I always feel like a four year old girl, filled to the brim with fascination, watching them drink that black coffee.