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Posts Tagged ‘endings and beginnings’

This is an entry from my book of beginnings. It’s fiction, but inspired by my grandmother (yes, the whippersnapper).

She was loving and kind and sweet. She also lived through an alcoholic father, abandonment, and the Great Depression, and was a lot tougher than she looked. She and my grandfather were enthusiastic travelers. The family story was that she kept a series of journals about their trips, starting with their honeymoon. In Cuba.

If I’d ever found those journals, it would not have surprised me if she was also a spy.

* * *

Cuba 1937

I was 24 when my grandmother died, the same age she’d been when she got married. My father called to give me the sad news. She’d been sick, but she lived a full life. She was the neighborhood bridge and poker champion in her neighborhood circle for most of the half-century she lived there and she led the women’s golf game every year. The next day I went to the house, to help my father sort through her things.

She was my favorite grandmother, and not just because she was a fantastic baker. My brother and I would sit at her kitchen table, eating pound cake and cookies while she told us stories. That’s what I liked best, the stories. She and Grandpa were travelers, starting when they got married and only stopping months before their deaths. That’s what they lived for, and listening to Grandma talk about souks, the Amazon rainforest, the glaciers of Alaska and the mountains of Italy, I thought I knew why.

“She left you something.”

My father had opened the door in a T-shirt, dressed for what was sure to be a messy task. Sorting through the remnants of eight decades would take us a while. I followed him into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of tea. I stood at the table waiting for the hot liquid to cool, and wondered what minor treasure I might receive.

“You’re lucky. The box they were in was sealed up nice and tight.”

The bundle was solid, and heavy. I set it on the table and unwrapped the musty fabric covering.

“I didn’t know anyone used oilcloth anymore.”

“These go back a long time.”

Inside the oilcloth envelope was a stack of books. They were different sizes and shapes, starting with a school notebook and progressing to leather-bound hardcovers. Each one had a short title written on the cover in my grandmother’s elegant script.

Looking over my shoulder, my father smiled.

“She knew how much you enjoyed her stories, so she wanted you to have her travel journals. This should be every trip she took over more than fifty years.”

Treasure indeed. Realizing that the most recent accounts were on top, I re-stacked the journals to uncover the oldest, her first trip. The black and white cardboard cover was grayed with age and blank except for her name. The pages were stiff, and for a moment I was afraid that the paper had completely fused together. A little work at the edges, though, and I was able to gently open it to the first page. Yellow with age, the corners cracked but the ink was still dark and bold.

She’d put the title inside, as if unwilling to announce it on the book’s cover.

“Cuba,” it read, “1937.”

This was where it all began.

* * *

Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

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