35 comments

Submitted on 07/06/2020

Categories: General

“When I die I’m going to come back as a Cardinal,” my Grandmother told me one Saturday afternoon as we sat at her kitchen table watching the birds and squirrels frolic on her patio. The Cardinal was her favorite, she named him ‘Peep.” He would stare at us through the screen door, his plump little chest heaving as he sang his melodious mating song, waiting for us to feed him stale peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Every Saturday I walked down the street to Grandma’s house, picking my neighbors’ Black-eyed Susans along the way to give to her when I got there. She’d make me a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on toast, together we’d watch as the birds hopped about and the squirrels chattered.

           The walls vibrated from the crescendo of music coming from the den where my Grandfather played maestro. The sweet melodies of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, LeRoy Holmes, and Benny Goodman curled through the rooms making my foot tap beneath the table. The music wrapped around us like a hug, keeping us safe in its cocoon.

            Her cigarette smoldered in the amber ashtray in the center of the table. Tendrils of grey smoke reached up to the ceiling, like ghosts hovering overhead. She picked up the cigarette and took a shallow drag, leaving a ring of pink lipstick circling the filter. She blew an eloquent whisper of smoke into the air above us while balancing the cigarette between her long tapered fingers, invisible toxins polluting her lungs. The smell of tobacco and burnt toast hung heavy in the air, ready to greet whoever walked in.

           As she stubbed the stick out she warned me to never pick up such a nasty habit. (I stole one once and smoked it on my walk home. I immediately began throwing up in my neighbor’s front yard. I promised myself I would never smoke again, and I didn’t.) She put a silver lighter into her white leather cigarette case and snapped the pearl closure shut. She reminded me of Audrey Hepburn or Natalie Wood, her chestnut hair resting on her shoulders framing her pale face.

           The washing machine rumbled on one side of the kitchen as it finished its spin cycle, while the refrigerator hummed on the other side. I would arrange all the magnets we had gotten together into their own section on the refrigerator door. East Matunuck State Beach, Mount Washington, Plymouth Village, Mystic Seaport, etc., My favorite magnet was the Cardinal, with his bright red plumage and red mohawk. She bought it for me from the Marble House gift shop. We went every Christmas to listen to carolers on the front lawn as we sipped apple cider. She told me the Cardinal represented love and devotion.

           The refrigerator door also proudly displayed all the letters I sent her. Grandma was my pen-pal, even though she only lived down the street. I would type her letters on the old Underwood typewriter she gave me. It was missing the ‘a’ key so I used a ‘0’ in its place. I would write to her about the weather (as if it was any different from her house to mine), and what we were having for dinner. And sometimes a combination of the two, like “It’s r0ining out tod0y. We’re h0ving sp0ghetti for dinner. Mom s0id she’s gonn0 serve us the worms in the drivew0y th0t the r0in brought up inste0d of sp0ghetti.”

           One Saturday afternoon Grandma had tubing in her nose and an oxygen tank sitting next to her at the kitchen table. Over the next few months our visits became fewer as she became sicker, so I wrote her more letters and delivered them in her mailbox. Then one visit Mom told me it might be the last time I saw Grandma. I walked through the kitchen where we used to sit, to a hospital bed that was set up in the living room. She couldn’t get up so I sat down next to her on the side of the bed, nervously playing with the buttons, making the head go up and down as she lie there. She didn’t talk much as she twirled my hair around her stained fingertips. So I did all the talking, I told her how the neighbor said I wasn’t allowed to climb his trees anymore because when I jumped down I crushed his begonias. When it was time for me to leave she held out her frail hand to give me something, inside was the Cardinal magnet from her refrigerator. She told me “remember, whenever you see a Cardinal, it’s me looking after you.” I asked if I could have another banana pop before I left. She died that afternoon.

           The week after her funeral I woke up to ‘peeping’ outside my bedroom window, it was a Cardinal. “Grandma is here! Grandma is here!” I announced as I ran through the house. My sisters casually said hello. I don’t know if they actually believed it was Grandma, or if they were just humoring me, but I knew it was her. There was no question in my young mind. From then on whenever I saw a Cardinal I’d say “Grandma’s here,” as if she just walked in the front door.

           Grandma didn’t arrive on random days, she only attended special occasions, holidays, graduations, weddings, etc., Then one random Tuesday afternoon Grandma showed up. How odd, I thought, she must have her days mixed up. That afternoon my sister went into labor and had a baby, my mother’s first grandchild.

           That was the last time I saw Grandma. I got a bird feeder and attached it with suction cups to my window, Finches, Sparrows, Blue Jays, Pine Warblers all showed up, but no Cardinals. No Grandma. I tried different types of seed to attract her, cracked corn, berries, suet, even stale peanuts like we used to give them when we sat in her kitchen. No Grandma.

           It wasn’t for the absence of special occasions. Countless holidays came and went. Eventually I had gotten married and had a child of my own. No Grandma. So I wait, hopeful she will come visit me again someday. I wonder sometimes if it’s because as I got older I became less willing to see her, less willing to believe in ghosts. Or maybe now I’m the ghost.

 *



      

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

35 comments

Niveeidha P
06:48 Jul 07, 2020

A good read, this was so sad and touching that I struggled to pull out the tissues! I love the symbolism of the cardinal magnet too!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
07:12 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks Niceeidha. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! I appreciate it

Reply

Niveeidha P
07:20 Jul 07, 2020

No problem Sarah, looking forward to reading more of your stories! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Juliet Martin
08:48 Jul 13, 2020

I love how you give such a powerful sense of the relationship between the narrator and Grandma almost without any dialogue - it is really effective! The narrative voice is also really compelling- it is clear that it is a child but you still get a sense of the maturity of the relationship they have with their grandparent which is really touching! I felt like the last couple of paragraphs, which really give the sense of waiting, felt slightly glossed over, perhaps they could have been elaborated more to give a stronger ending? Great story!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
08:57 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you Juliet. Yes let me see and I’ll do some editing. Great input thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
E.f. Peterson
20:59 Jul 15, 2020

A very touching story! I was holding back tears. I would appreciate if you would also take a look at some of my works. Blessings-E.F. Peterson

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
22:27 Jul 15, 2020

Thank you E.F! Yes I’ll be over there shortly 👍🏼

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Becky Holland
21:39 Jul 13, 2020

It was a good read for sure, and it was very relatable to life for us all right now. Aren't cardinals beautiful? And so regal. A few things that I saw were some phrasing issues - nothing major - and maybe a couple of capitalizations that didn't need to be there, and some mechanical stuff, but nothing that wouldn't put this story in the running or to worry about. Great read!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
00:04 Jul 14, 2020

Thank you for reading Rebecca and taking the time to reply. I’ll check it over and do some editing. Thanks for your input 👍🏼

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mitra Sushinsky
06:39 Jul 13, 2020

I can tell this came from your heart. The descriptions are so well done. Such a sweet story 💕

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
08:30 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you Mitra! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Syeda Fatima
06:27 Jul 13, 2020

A heart touching story brought me in tears... love it, keep it up! I would love it if you try reading mine too.

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
08:31 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you Syeda! Yes I’ll be there shortly

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
K Jane
03:03 Jul 13, 2020

This was terrific, and so poignant. I can relate to your character in several ways! My grandma loved monarch butterflies, so when she passed, we were always reminded of her and would say she was “here” whenever we saw a monarch. Beautifully written and very descriptive :)

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
03:17 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you so much K Jane. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
P. Jean
03:41 Jul 11, 2020

Very well done....it felt true, it felt real. I feed them all winter, my favorites as well. I share heart shaped stones with my granddaughter. Special bonds! Really excellent writing!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
08:33 Jul 11, 2020

Thank you so much P.Jean!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Anika Goyal
03:30 Jul 09, 2020

Awesome story

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
03:38 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you Anika! Glad you liked it

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Corey Melin
01:01 Jul 09, 2020

Very sweet story that was well done. Good job!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
03:43 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you Corey!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
D. Jaymz
18:01 Jul 08, 2020

A beautiful tender story that brings a tear to the eye. Your attention to detail gave the story an authentic touch that readers can relate to and invest their emotions. Those feelings triggered memories that are universal and yet intimate.

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
03:42 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you D. for taking the time to read and your thoughtful comments

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Arya Preston
07:28 Jul 07, 2020

A fascinating take on the prompt, I really liked the imagery and significance of the magnet :)

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
16:36 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you Arya!

Reply

Arya Preston
17:57 Jul 08, 2020

No problem! If you get the time, could you please check out my story?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Charles Stucker
04:03 Jul 07, 2020

Interesting take on what it means to wait on a question. You never explicitly state her question, rather imply it with the last two lines. And it is never answered, because she is waiting for the cardinal to return. Will it? Nobody knows. Good slice of life story. The hint of unexplained mysticism allows it to transcend the mundane without becoming fantasy. Excellent close.

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
06:47 Jul 07, 2020

Thanks for reading Charles. And thank you for your thoughtful reply. It means so much

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Joseph Varkis
03:11 Jul 07, 2020

Another wonderful tale. Your stories do justice to your name. ;) I wonder what happened to the cardinal magnet that she gave you.

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
06:45 Jul 07, 2020

Hi Joseph and thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It still sits on my refrigerator 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tvisha Yerra
02:34 Jul 07, 2020

The last line was nice, an unexpected turn, but it felt like it belonged either way. Very cute story!

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
02:43 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you Tvisha! Glad you enjoyed it

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Batool Hussain
12:12 Jul 12, 2020

This is so beautiful and heartbreaking both at the same time. You did an amazing job with this story of yours, Sarah! Mind checking out my new story and sharing your views on it? Thanks.

Reply

Sarah Greenwood
12:46 Jul 12, 2020

Thank you Batool! Yes I’ll be there shortly 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Deborah Angevin
11:27 Jul 09, 2020

A sweet and touching story! Loved reading it! Would you mind checking my recent story out too? Thank you :)

Reply

Show 0 replies