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Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction Contemporary

A fire crackled in the hearth as snow fell in flurries outside. Melanie sat in her easy chair nearby and rocked while listening to an old sermon tape. The sermon was on the Fatherhood of God, an attribute she struggled to find relatable. As she listened with her Bible open on her lap, the back door flew open to little Simon standing in the cold. He wore a blue stocking cap with a white ball on top and white tassels hanging from the ear flaps. After taking his damp coat and shoes off by the door, he came into the living room to warm himself up near the fireplace.


“Just a minute young man. You come give your Grandma a kiss!”


“Aw Grandma, do I have to?” he whined.


“If you don’t, then I'll wrestle you to the ground and kiss ya anyway,” she replied with a smirk.


“Okay,” Simon sighed. He resigned himself to getting a kiss he proclaimed he did not want but deep down enjoyed receiving. They both knew the truth yet played the unspoken game anyway.


“Thank you, Simon. I love you!”


“I love you too Grandma.”


Melanie sat and watched Simon by the fire, his shadow dancing on the back wall behind her. Michael should also be in soon to warm up a bit before going right back out into the cold again. This was the boys' modus operandi. It reminded her of wading through a frigid river to sit in a hot spring, only to go back into the river again. At times, she missed those younger years by said river. She would catch her limit of fish before either her husband or children had caught even one. Pouring salt in their wounds, she would then assign them the task of cleaning her haul for dinner. Her hard work was already done in catching them after all.


Simon let out a brief, barely audible sigh, yet she heard it all the same. He looked sad with his shoulders slouched as he gazed into the dancing flames of the fire. A twinge of empathy tugged at Melanie’s heart.


“Simon, is somethin' wrong my dear?”


“I’m okay Grandma,” he replied without turning to look her way.


“Sweetheart, I know somethin’s wrong. Your body language and that little sigh told me as much.”


“What’s body language?” said Simon, this time turning to face her. Melanie sat up and leaned towards him. 


“It’s the way your body presents itself depending on how you feel. A way people communicate without using words. That’s why I knew you weren't telling the truth. Although you said one thing, your body and that sigh told me another.”


“Oh, okay.”


“Now that I have your attention, are you going to tell me what’s been botherin' ya?”


“I don’t know.” said Simon with an even bigger sigh this time.


At this, Melanie rose out of her chair and paused the sermon. She then went over to Simon, sat down next to him, and also gazed deep into the burning embers. Sitting with someone in silence for a while was often all you could do and what folks needed most at times. It expressed concern and empathy without pressuring the other to talk until they were good and ready. When she put her arm around Simon to pull him closer, his lower lip began to quiver.


“Michael and me got in a fight. He said he doesn’t love me or like me anymore. Then he pushed me to the ground.” 


A single tear escaped over the lower lid of Simon's right eye as he struggled to remain strong. He understood Grandma to be a woman of strength and, as her little man, he did not want to let her down. Shame began to blossom within him and became lodged in his throat when he tried to swallow it back down.


“Now why would he say that?”


“Well, we were building a snowman and I got bored helping. When I came up the porch to come inside I got an idea. There was a lot of snow piled on the railing, so I thought it would be funny to dump it on him. You know, pretend it was a snowstorm.”


A sharp hiccup of a laugh escaped Melanie’s mouth as she imagined how the events played out. Simon forgot the humor in it all and felt rather terrible. The tears became harder to dam up and he began to sob after his confession. He did not like to cry, but he knew Grandma was a safe person for him. She loved him and would not make fun.


“You know, silly pranks like that run in the family.” Melanie said while Simon tried to pull himself together through sporadic shudders.


“They do?” asked Simon with some rekindled hope.


“Oh yes! I remember a time—oh my was your Grandpa in stitches!—when I left a peach pit in his under-drawers. His poor jock was bothering him half the work day before he investigated.” Melanie jiggled with laughter as tears welled up at the hilarious memory.


“Did Grandpa get mad like Michael?”


“I’m sure there was a moment of frustration once the initial confusion wore off. By the time he got home though we both had a good laugh about it.”


“What about Daddy, did he play pranks back then? He sure likes them now!”


“As a matter of fact, he did. Learned from watching me I’m afraid. Although, he had to learn the hard way the lesson between practical and cruel.”


“Why cruel? Was he mean?”


“I don’t think he meant it to be mean, but it sure came across that way at the time. You see, your Aunty had brought over a new boyfriend for dinner one day and your Papa didn’t like him at first. If you ask me, he didn't want to lose his sister's attention so he decided to play a prank on the boyfriend to scare him away.”


“Oh no! What did he do?”


Melanie held back a budding grin as she recalled that particular evening. The details were forever etched in her mind and she was quite fond of this memory. 


“Your dad took one of my sewing needles and stuck it in the seat of the poor boy’s chair while we was playing cards. I have never heard a grown man yelp the way he did!”


“Did it work?”


“Did what work?”


“Daddy’s prank. Did the boyfriend ever come back?”


“He sure did! Kevin was not a man to be easily deterred. He took it in stride and laughed it off. We all did—after I scolded your Papa of course.”


“Wait, do you mean Uncle Kevin?”


“The one and the same!”


By this point, Simon had forgotten all about his present sorrows. They sat there holding each other a bit longer in silence, a joyful calm settling over them. Simon found comfort in his grandma's warm and understanding embrace.


“Honey, Michael was upset and didn’t truly mean what he said. All the same though, it wasn’t right to react to you the way he did and say what he said. I will have a talk with him later.”


Simon felt better with the issue off his chest and some fresh perspective. He hoped Michael would not get into too much trouble with Grandma. The least Simon could do was lend a hand in finishing the snowman. He would offer up his scarf as a peace offering. There was also a nice-sized carrot he remembered seeing in the kitchen earlier.


“Thanks, Grandma. I love you.”


Simon gave her as big a squeeze as his little arms would allow before getting up to go back outside again. Melanie planted another kiss on the top of his head. She then watched him struggle to bundle himself up in wet clothes before scurrying away.


“I love you too young man!” she yelled after him.


It took Melanie more effort to get off the floor these days, but it was worth it. She clicked the sermon back on and returned to her rocking chair. The love of the Father now felt a little more real for her as she thought of how much she loved those boys.

August 17, 2023 00:01

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34 comments

Carolyn O'B
19:58 Jan 29, 2024

Quirky and fun.

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J. D. Lair
01:53 Jan 30, 2024

Thank you kindly. :)

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Aidan Romo
22:25 Jan 06, 2024

A nice, simple, laid back story with all the warm fuzzies that most people can sympathize with around their grandparents or close members of the family. It shows that those people, no matter what may come, will always lend an ear to you without shame or neglect. Good writing once again on display here! You sure know how to make simple yet deeply relatable tales.

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J. D. Lair
02:42 Jan 07, 2024

My grandma would be happy to hear this Aidan! I wrote this in honor of her and the legacy she left my family. She was such a sweet and wise matriarch. Thanks again for taking some time to read one of my stories and leaving such high praise. Looking forward to your next story so I can return the favor lol.

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Aidan Romo
06:10 Jan 07, 2024

Lol Hopefully it is soon. And also of course!

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V Joyce Lott
01:13 Nov 19, 2023

This level of writing is legendary. You sir are a professional. Loved this. Reminded me of my maw maw down here in Louisiana. Kudos 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

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J. D. Lair
15:22 Nov 19, 2023

Wow! Such a high compliment I have not yet heard here V. I’m a bit speechless, thank you so much! ☺️ I’m glad it reminded you of your maw maw. They can be such important parts of our lives and I was fortunate to have such a kind and humble model. It’s been a while since I have contributed a story here, or written at all. Life has been busy haha, but your kind words have me strongly considering getting back in the game.

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V Joyce Lott
22:05 Nov 19, 2023

Same @ life being busy. But keep it up you're truly a wordsmith. I look forward to reading more. FOLLOWING (STALKING) 🤣 you.

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J. D. Lair
04:11 Nov 20, 2023

Haha I will! Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks are coming up, so I’ll have more downtime to get back to my smithing. 😁

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12:29 Nov 06, 2023

You’re felt like one of those chocolate bombs so popular last Christmas. If you drop the ball of chocolate in warm milk, out pours marshmallows, unique flavors, and cocoa powder. Stir and you have the best hot chocolate imaginable. Grandmother listening to the sermon tape is the warm milk. Each addition to the plot made the drink more delicious without being overly sweet. I especially loved the zingers. Showing Grandmother’s naughty side kept the story from being too sweet. She was the bourbon that rounded out that mug of deliciousness....

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J. D. Lair
20:36 Nov 07, 2023

Haha this is the best comment I’ve received on a story so far. So vivid! Thank you so much for reading. :)

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Hillie Jeffery
09:20 Nov 02, 2023

What a beautiful story! Those little family moments are so well described and really brought a smile to my face.

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J. D. Lair
14:36 Nov 02, 2023

Oh good, I’m glad! I haven’t had time to post new stories in a while, but I’m hoping to get back to it soon. Thank you for reading. :)

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John K Adams
17:41 Aug 28, 2023

Only those with years of experience can provide the perspective of time past and events in context. That is a lesson lost among those chained to cell phone screens. Well done.

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J. D. Lair
00:13 Aug 29, 2023

Thank you good sir! May we learn to disconnect in order to reconnect. Appreciate your thoughts!

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John K Adams
00:16 Aug 29, 2023

You are welcome!

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Helen A Smith
09:50 Aug 20, 2023

I loved reading this story. It’s great seeing how the grandmother and grandson relate to one another here. A story about trust and family connections and continuity and also learning how far to go with pranks. I guess pranks are a way to see how far we can go with those we love; what their response will be reveals a lot about our relationships. The language is very natural and the story flows to a happy conclusion which fits the prompt well. The nan seems such a great character. Very wise and supportive. How much we need our grandparen...

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J. D. Lair
18:54 Aug 20, 2023

Thank you for reading and taking time to comment such wonderful thoughts Helen. :) I’m happy to hear her warmth and wisdom translated well through the story. I cherish those memories a lot!

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Marty B
20:05 Aug 19, 2023

Great advice- ‘ Sitting with someone in silence for a while was often all you could do and what folks needed most at times.’ I did not grow up around extended family, and feel a loss, as having family to share experiences of parents, or older siblings is such a gift. You shared the value of that gift in this story. Thanks!

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J. D. Lair
21:33 Aug 19, 2023

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Marty. :) all my extended family were in different states growing up, so it was mostly my nuclear family all the time (3 younger siblings!), but we would visit my grandparents in Arizona at least once a year. Those times were always so special and are reflected here. I’m happy to hear the sentiments translated well.

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Amanda Lieser
17:15 Aug 19, 2023

Hi JD, Oh what a heartwarming story. I loved the way that Melanie felt like someone who had lived this full life. She had adventure and love and happiness. I also appreciated her advice. Sometimes, things that feel typical in our family of origin can be a challenge for our partners, but I hope that Simon and Michael can find a way to love pranks together or compromise on what that looks like for their day to day life. Nice work!!

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J. D. Lair
21:21 Aug 19, 2023

Thanks you Amanda! Melanie did live a fulfilling life and was well loved to the very end. :) Simon and Michael learned to work together too. It can just take siblings a while sometimes lol. I always appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I’ll hop over to your story here soon, assuming you wrote one this week. :)

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Anna W
02:04 Aug 19, 2023

The warmth of Grandma's love and the warmth of this fire have made a wonderfully cozy story! Loved this one JD.

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J. D. Lair
14:07 Aug 19, 2023

Thank you Anna. Glad you enjoyed it. 😊

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Nina H
10:40 Aug 17, 2023

Grandmas have a way of making things better, don’t they? Your story shows that special bond. Very nice, JD!

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J. D. Lair
14:59 Aug 17, 2023

They sure do! Thank you Nina. :)

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06:22 Aug 17, 2023

Aw this is just lovely and sweet. Thanks JD missed you on here last few weeks

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J. D. Lair
14:32 Aug 17, 2023

Thank you Derrick! It’s good to hear I was missed. :) I didn’t have any solid ideas for a couple weeks (Barbie and whatnot) and last week I just ran out of time. I’ve still been a bit engaged with reading and commenting when I can, but it’s good to be back.

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Mary Bendickson
02:17 Aug 17, 2023

Sweet memory, little Simon.⛄

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J. D. Lair
03:15 Aug 17, 2023

Sweet memories indeed. I miss her. ❤️

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Unknown User
23:41 Sep 01, 2023

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J. D. Lair
01:23 Sep 02, 2023

Thank you Joe!

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Unknown User
15:20 Aug 21, 2023

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J. D. Lair
15:23 Aug 21, 2023

Oh, good. That makes me happy! Thank you for reading. :)

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