A memory from a yesterday, long ago, is fresh on my mind today. I can close my eyes and ride my faithful Schwinn back to a big brown duplex on Elizabeth Avenue. 2610.
I remember the clean but musty scent, the feel of the rough, worn carpet under my knees, and the hook-and-eye lock on the basement door—just out of reach.
Creaky steps led upstairs to a couple of bedrooms and a non-functioning bathroom.
I remember the plastic doilies and the cold oversized vinyl rocking chair that sat just outside the “sunroom.”
Many, many summers were spent here. These days, long ago, were a time of freedom for me. Summer days were filled with bike trips that often led here. It wasn’t the musty scent, the rough, worn carpet, the mysterious basement, or the creaky steps that drew me. It wasn’t the store-bought windmill cookies or the cottage cheese and canned peaches that called me. It wasn’t the freshly mixed orange juice concentrate, served over ice, in a recycled yogurt cup. It wasn’t Radio Bible Hour that always drifted from the airways of the ugly brown radio with shiny, silver knobs. It was a gray haired woman, that only went as far as she could walk, and who’s words were seeped in wisdom; a woman who prayed for her wayward husband and her entire family, for years, without ceasing. She is why I came.
I called her Grandma. My precious, beautiful Grandma. I can honestly say that there was never a time that I knocked on the wooden door that she didn’t open it. Sometimes, just for fun, I would walk around the front and twist the old time doorbell. She always opened the door. She always let me in.
Each visit began with her gourmet O.J. — on the rocks; in a cup that she “saved just for me.” After the recycled cup was washed, in the dish pan lined farmhouse sink, I usually wandered into the living room where I brought out the tiddlywinks or the game “cootie”. On this day, my game of choice hung in a purple velvet, Crown Royal bag on the other side of the locked basement door. On this day, she opened the door without me asking. She handed me the loved purple bag and I dumped the contents onto the floor. Red, blue, yellow and green marbles scattered on the worn carpet. Shooters, Aggies, Micas and Cat Eyes became the center of my attention.
As I shot the glass balls across the uneven carpet, she watched from the squeaky vinyl rocker. Her words shattered my concentration. “God made each person as different as those marbles. Large, small, shiny or dull, each has a purpose and can do the job they were meant to do. Which is your favorite?” She asked. I thought a few moments then answered…”I don’t have a favorite. It would be too hard to pick. I love them all.” The moments passed as I shot the marbles into an imaginary circle drawn on the carpet. Soon the game was won and the marbles were settled in the purple bag; hung on the other side of the door.
Our conversation moved to the small kitchen table– home of her precious Bible and radio. We sat for a while; neither one of us saying anything. Radio Bible Hour played in the background. Our earlier conversation must have broken the ice, because there was more on her mind. “Tammy,” she said, “You were made to love your husband. Always remember that this is what you were born to do. Love him…even more than your children. Give him first place before and after the babies that come. Love him first, and then together you will be called to care for others.”
There was so much hidden in her short but profound statement. There was so much this preteen couldn’t understand but I trusted her words anyway. Her words left me with questions that only time could answer.
My faithful Schwinn called my name and the visit was over. I rode the familiar path backwards. 2610. Elizabeth to 27th street. 27th across Sheridan Road and then Lewis. Lydia Avenue. 2514.
That night, after supper, I unloaded my pockets and found 3 worn but loved Cat Eyes. I guess I did have a few favorites.
The next few days I wandered about the house trying to figure out how I was going to get those marbles back into their purple bag a few miles away. Rain set in and my bike was parked next to the snowmobiles and spare car parts. Eventually the sun shone and my Schwinn and I set out for a big brown duplex.
Two short knocks and the door opened…the scent of forgiveness welcomed me as I placed the 3 loved marbles in her hand. “I’m sorry. These are not mine,” I said. A memory of marbles and a deep conversation lit her eyes. “How about you keep these?” she said. “You could borrow them for a while. After all, I bet they are your favorites.”
Fast forward 10+ years and a few days… October 14, 1995. Today is my wedding day. The one I was born to love waits in a room not too far away. Quietly I gather the 3 favored Cat Eyes and one brand new milky, blue shooter and press them deep into the foam of a purple rose bouquet. Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue. Today my journey to love begins…
20 years later…October 14, 2015. A green and yellow treasure chest is home to 3 borrowed glass balls, 1 milky blue shooter and a couple of plastic doilies. On any given day, I can lift the priceless box and hear those 4 marbles roll around in the bottom. The movement of those borrowed balls remind me of the prophetic conversation with the wisest women I’ve ever known. Born to love and called to care. That’s why I’m here.