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Time for a summer memory. Maybe it will warm me up on this cold Minnesota night. Y'all, my house is drafty.
The summer before my grandmother died, the girl was about...2 1/2 or so. For whatever reason, she discovered an affinity for sundresses, which continues to this day. I do not know whose child she is in this respect; I lived in t-shirts and shorts when anything beyond a swimsuit was required and school was out.
My grandmother was not in good health- since my grandfather died, she had slowly gone downhill, allowing her dementia to take over, slipping away from all of us. She was depressed and horribly angry at him for leaving her; after sixty years of doing everything together, it was the one thing about which he did not consult her. I can just picture my grandparents going over their weekly schedule together: Jean, on Thursday, we're going to the grocery store, you have an appointment with Dr. Brock in the afternoon, and oh, yes, the Grim Reaper will be coming on Friday night, so make sure to wash your hair.
My father brought her out to our hometown to live near us, and since I was the mother of the great-grandchild, I was duty-bound to visit every Sunday and bring the girl with us. To escape the stifling heat of her apartment (despite the 90 degree temperature, she would not turn on the air, and walked around the house in a pair of long pants and a cardigan sweater), we often went outside to the lawn of her assisted living complex, where a few benches rested and the girl could run about and play.
I can't tell you what day it was, nor can I relay the exact sequence of events. However, I know the girl was wearing a red gingham sundress and white sandals. The dress and her blonde hair contrasted with the clear blue sky and bright green grass, and my grandmother and I watched as she kicked a ball up and down the green. I leaned over to her and watched her smile, a genuine smile of enjoyment at her great-granddaughter's adventures.
"You know," I said. "She's learning all sorts of new things."
"Oh, I'm sure," she said, her voice gravelly from age and cigarette smoke. "She's a very smart little girl."
Because my girl is so cute, and so little, she naturally attracted a crowd of old folks whenever we visited, and on this day, a few of the ladies stopped by to chat with us as the girl played.
"I was just mentioning to my grandmother that the girl is really learning quite a lot of things," I said to the ladies. "For instance- look at her." We turned our attention to the girl, who had temporarily forgotten the ball she was kicking, and had instead turned her attention to the sky above. Her head tilted back, arms swung out to the sides, and skirt flowing, she circled and circled, laughing and laughing.
"She's learned how to twirl."
A collective sigh went up amongst the gathered womenfolk- and for a moment, I could see their eyes light up and the wrinkles smooth. For just one moment, we were all girls again, twirling in our Christmas dresses on the altar at church, in our Easter dresses on the lawn before the egg hunt, at the family reunion in a sundress that was made to have the wind blow under it, caressing skinned knees and cooling warm legs. Every woman to whom I've told this story has gotten that look on their face- the look of girlhood past, reliving the joy of a simple 360 degree turn, repeated ad infinitum.
It is a singularly girlish delight...and one more reason I am glad to be a woman.