***Part I of Simply Love: Welcome to Maplewood is available HERE***
“Oh dear, Tyrion doesn’t like to have his belly scratched,” Gram says, pulling her floral robe a little tighter in the cool morning air that is filling the house.
My hand is already bleeding from the crazy cat’s wild scratching and biting, his growls only punctuating his frustration. “I’m getting the idea he might not like to be pet at all,” I say, finally wrangling my hand back and standing up, my black leggings covered in white cat hair just from rubbing against him. So much for my favorite color to wear being black.
“How did you sleep, dear?” Gram is shuffling her feet in her hot pink slippers, her walker grinding into the carpet as she moves toward the kitchen.
“Great,” I lie as I head over to the coffee machine. I struggle to remember how to even make coffee in this ancient coffeemaker, making a mental note to put a Keurig on my list of things to buy as I attempt to open the foreign contraption.
In truth, I barely slept a minute, or at least that’s what the bags under my eyes seem to suggest. The mattress in the guestroom is probably circa 1950, and the yellow floral wallpaper just sort of gives me the creeps, even in the darkness. Perhaps its Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or an overactive imagination, but I just feel like it’s watching me.
Still, I know things are hard enough on Gram. Going to bed alone, missing Grandpa—I can’t even dream of complaining. She’s done all she can in her condition to make my move comfortable, opening her home to me as best as she can.
I struggle with the measuring and pouring of the coffee for a while, hoping the liquid that comes out of the appliance won't be too tar-like. Here's to hoping.
Despite the peeling wallpaper, the bed, and the lack of modern appliances, I sit at the wooden table in the kitchen thinking about how warm I feel inside. To be in this cozy kitchen, gram trudging to the table with her cane in her right hand—it feels right.
This is where I need to be.
“So, what do you have planned today?”
“Well, I don’t have a Skype call until Thursday with Whitney,” I say.
I smile, shaking my head as I sloppily put my hair into a ponytail. “A call with work. I don’t have to call them until Thursday.”
“I do worry about your career with this move. I’m so glad to have you here. But I hate to see your dreams on hold.”
“Gram, I can design anywhere. Nothing is on hold.”
She smiles, taking a seat beside me as she pats my hand. “I don’t ever want to come between you and your dreams.”
The look in her eyes says she means it. It makes my heart swell even more to know she cares about me. I didn’t realize in New York how much I missed that, the connection of family.
“Thanks, Gram. Love you.”
“So you still didn’t answer me. What are you doing today?”
“Well, I need to run a few errands maybe. Pick up a few things to settle in. Do you want to get lunch?”
“No, honey. You take some time to explore on your own. Look around, see what Maplewood has to offer. You need to check out the young crowd.”
I laugh at the way the last words fly off her tongue like a foreign phrase. “Well, then maybe I’ll get us some takeout for lunch? I wouldn’t mind catching up on some soap operas you know.”
Grandma is a sucker for soap operas, or the “stories” as she calls them. She’s got a thing for quite a few of the actors.
“Oh, yes. Lovely! Your grandpa always made fun of me for watching them. It’ll be so great to have someone to share them with. You know, there’s a new Ricky on the stories and let me tell you, he’s something to look at.” She winks, and I shake my head.
“Always scoping out the men, huh Gram?”
“Hey, I might be old, but I’m not blind. A girl’s gotta get her looks in while she still can. Speaking of which, don’t you worry, Cadence. There are plenty of lookers in town here.”
I sigh. “Gram, don’t get any ideas. I don’t need you trying to set me up with anyone.”
She puts her hands in the air. “I’m just saying. My beautician Belinda has a grandson, and he’s not bad on the eyes.”
“Well, I’ll keep that in mind as I explore the town today,” I say, mostly just to appease her. She smiles as if pleased with herself.
“It’s about time you find yourself a nice young man, Cadence. Someone to share life with.”
“We’ll see, Gram.” I don’t have the heart to tell her that at my age, a nice young man isn’t exactly on my list. Give me some hot one night stands, give me a few fun nights out, and I’m happy. I don’t need a ring to make me happy. In fact, on the contrary. I’m doing just fine on my own, my career keeping me busy.
I know Gram’s from a different generation, though. A generation of commitment and settling down, of love being the answer. I don’t have the heart to tell her that’s not what I have in mind. Plus, I don't exactly want to explain the concept of a one-night stand to dear old Gram. She watches enough soap operas to know, but still--there are some things grandmas just don't need to hear from their granddaugthers.
Not that I’m against love or marriage. Someday maybe I’ll take that step. It’s just right now, I’m not ready to settle down, to let love take over.
I break out of my introspection, heading over to grab a cup of coffee for each of us. We spend the next hour talking about everything from the storyline of the soap operas to the weather to my job. Gram, although still in mourning, seems happy. It makes me feel good.
After I change out of my leggings and touch-up my makeup, I decide to head out. Gram lets me borrow her car, an ancient station wagon. I make a mental note that procuring a car is also going to be on my ever growing list of to-dos.
Uprooting your life isn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be. Once I finally get the thing to clink to a start, I back down the driveway, carefully watching the rearview mirror. It’s been so long since I’ve driven, the taxis in New York City and the subway substituting for driving most days. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve actually been behind the wheel.
It’s not as if I’m driving in New York City traffic, though. There’s not a single car in sight for miles. I guess if I need to get reacquainted with driving, this is the place to do it.
I ease my way back down the driveway, momentarily getting hung-up in the mirror on my wonky eyebrow. When was the last time I had those things waxed? I think to myself.
And then crash, crunch, boom. I’m no longer looking at my eyebrow but slamming on the break, hoping to stop the crunching metal feeling before it’s too late.
But it’s way too late. The damage has been done. I exhale loudly, wondering if this whole moving thing was such a good idea after all. Because right now, looking at the crunched mailbox underneath the tire of the equally crunched up station wagon, I wonder what the hell kind of message the universe could possibly be sending me.
***To be continued***