Over the River and Through the Woods Short Story

May 2018

     “I'm nervous," I said, fidgeting in my seat.

     "Don't be. It's just your grandmother. There's nothing to be nervous about," my mom said without taking her eyes off the road. 

     "Yeah," said my sister, twisting in her seat to look at me, "she's super sweet and she's gonna love you. I promise."

     I nodded to her and she smiled before turning back around. But the second she wasn't looking, my forehead creased and a frown appeared as I shivered. All the talk and excited energy was really making me anxious. 

     "I bet she's got white hair like Timmy's grandma does. She's super old and covered with wrinkles!" My little brother said from next to me. 

     Mom laughed. "Most grandparents are, and Grandma is no exception."

     "Well, I'm not nervous about meeting her. I want to tell her about first grade and my teacher and show her my missing tooth!" He looked at me with a grin and stuck his tongue in the hole to illustrate. 

     "I'm sure she'll love to hear all about it."

     I looked out the window and watched as the trees grew taller and taller until we finally passed through the huge cast-iron gates that protected the place where Grandma lived. I pressed my face against the glass to get a better glimpse at the homes of all of the residents. 

     They were huge, soaring structures, intricately decorated with immaculate landscaping. Flowers were everywhere, wreaths hanging on the doors and windmills and figurines on the lawns. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. 

     Mom pulled up to the clubhouse where we were to meet Grandma, and I felt the little butterflies return. 

     We got out of the car and my older sister grabbed my hand excitedly and squeezed hard with the biggest smile I had ever seen on her face. 

     We walked hand in hand into the building, where we were ushered to a table in the back. 

     Once seated, we waited both patiently and impatiently for the lady to get Grandma for us. 

     After a few moments, she returned with a smile, someone trailing behind her with eyes sparkling with excitement and mischief set into her perfectly wrinkled face.

     "I told you she would have white hair!" My brother said.

     “Shhh,” my sister chastised him as we watched our mother stand and walk to the woman. 

     “Mom?” She whispered. 

     The woman nodded. “It's me.”

     Tears filled both of their eyes as they hugged and started speaking, one over the other. 

     “It's been so long-“

     “I've missed you-“

     “Going on eight years now, right?”

     “I can't believe you never brought the younger two to visit me. I've been wanting to meet them ever since they were born-“

     “We only just moved back-“

     “I wish-“

     “I know.”

     I watched the back and forth intensely before standing and hesitantly walking over to them. 

     “Grandma?” I said quietly.

     She turned to look at me for a moment before immediately swooping me up into a hug. “Darling, I've been waiting to meet you for years. I was so unhappy the last time your mother visited and I learned you weren't with her. You're so big now! Practically grown!”

     She rubbed her tears away as I blinked back some of my own. 

     I squeezed her back. “I wish I could have met you sooner. You wouldn't believe all the stories I've heard about you. Is it true you went skydiving for your sixtieth birthday? That's so awesome!”

     Grandma just laughed and moved so that she held me at shoulders length.

     “Yes, it’s true. But that was a long time ago. This old bag of bones won't be doing anything of that sort ever again.”

     “I want to be just like you when I-“

     My brother cut me off when he came bounding up to us, shouting “Grandma, Grandma! I have a hole in my mouth!”

     She turned to him and smiled. “You must be Cory! I'm so glad I finally get to meet you! Look at you! Basically the man of the house!” Cory puffed out his little chest proudly at the compliment. 

     “I'm in first grade now! I didn't like reading at first, but now I do! And Mrs. Carp- that's my teacher- she says that I'm one of the best readers in the whole first grade!”

     Grandma laughed. “That's wonderful!”

     My sister slid in to join the conversation. “Hi, Grandma!”

     Grandma turned and embraced her. “Sara! My, you've grown! How old are you now?”

     “Nineteen,” Sara said. 

     Grandma clasped her hands together in delight. “And I'm sure you're going to a wonderful college!”

     “I got accepted into a bunch, but for now I'm taking some time off to travel.”

     Grandma waved her hand. “Never mind that! I'm just happy that you're happy!”

     Sara nodded. “I am. I really am.”

     I backed out of the way with a soft smile as my mom moved back in, a flurry of hands and hair as she excitedly started talking to her mom. 

     I watched them for a few more minutes before the lady came back out and tapped on her watch to let us know our time was almost up. 

     The others said tearful “goodbyes” and “see you soons” and “I promise it won't be another eight years” before I finally walked up. 

     I embraced Grandma again. “Bye. I'll miss you.”

     She hugged me back, tighter than before. “I'll miss you, too.”

     The lady held out her arm, and Grandma latched on. 

     We started walking together out the door. 

     “Love you!” Grandma called to us. 

     “We love you, too,” we chorused back, as we had grown up doing. 

     I walked back to the car with my family, already quietly crying. We climbed in and my mom turned on the car in preparation to drive away. 

     “See,” Sara said, “I told you there was nothing to be nervous about.”

     I just nodded thoughtfully, watching the lady help grandma to her home as we began to drive away. 

     I caught a brief glimpse of the polished white engraving on the door. ‘Juliette Peterson, beloved wife, mother, and grandmother. Forever in our hearts. R.I.P.’

    “Happy Death Day, Grandma,” I whispered under my breath as she was sealed back into her tomb, “I'll see you next year."