“Are you coming, Grandma?” she called up the stairs lightly.
“Yes, dear,” was the response. “I’ll be down in just a few moments. I’m moving a little slower than normal this morning,” the old woman giggled. “I’m not complaining, though. You just sit tight and be there in a flash.”
“All right, Gran,” her granddaughter laughed. “I know it’s all my fault . . . I kept you up too late.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” her grandmother called back good-naturedly as she put the pearl studs that had been a gift from her groom more than forty years earlier into her ears and lined her lips with a beautiful rose-colored gloss.
As she finished, she told the reflection in her dressing room mirror, “Not bad for an old dame celebrating Easter morning.”
Then, as had been her custom for more than fifty years, she sat down on the edge of her bed, opened her nightstand drawer, and pulled out the Bible that had been a gift from her grandmother on the occasion of her baptism. The King James volume had a white leather cover bearing her birth name in gold embossed letters that closed with a zipper. The zipper pull was in the shape of a cross, but the imitation gold finish was worn off in the precise spots where her fingers had performed this same ritual twice each day for so many years.
She let the page fall open to reveal the photograph she had lovingly gazed at every morning and every night for more than five decades. The edges were frayed and one corner was slightly torn, but she didn’t care. The young man in the photo was nineteen years old and dressed casually in a sport shirt and jeans. He was standing on a stage, surrounded by other young people wearing equally casual attire, with his arms outstretched and a wide smile upon his face as he looked directly into the camera’s lens. In the far right corner of the photo, a middle-aged man sat before an upright piano, his hands perpetually poised a foot or so above the keys. He too was smiling as he looked at the young man standing center stage. Next to the piano, the top of which was littered with paper cups and an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts, a man and woman stood with folders tucked under their respective arms and their hands extended in front of them, their silent applause forever memorialized in the black and white image.
After a few moments of looking directly into the handsome young man’s deep-set brown eyes, she tucked the photograph into its appointed place in the Bible, zipped up the cover, and placed it back in the drawer. Then she stood, straightened her skirt and buttoned her jacket before turning to smooth the bedspread. She walked over to the window and drew the curtains back to allow the morning sun to stream into the room.
Just in front of the nightstand on the opposite side of the bed, she paused again before another black and white photograph of a bride and groom standing in a church, the train of the beautiful young bride’s long white gown neatly arranged behind and beside her on the steps leading up to the altar. She put her right index finger to her lips and then pressed it gently to the glass covering the groom’s face before she walked out of the bedroom toward the stairs, a spring in her step that defied her years and fatigue.
As she descended the stairs and joined her granddaughter in the foyer, she was radiant. “Grandma, Happy Easter!” her granddaughter effused, hugging her tightly. “You look beautiful! No one would ever guess I only let you get about four hours of sleep last night. You’re amazing!”
“I had so much fun sitting up having ‘girl talk’ with you last night,” she replied. “I haven’t had such a good time in years . . . not since you were a young girl and used to stay over with me, eating popcorn and watching movies. I wish we could do it more often,” she added as she gently stroked her granddaughter’s face affectionately.
“Me, too, Gran,” the young woman confirmed. “But we’d better get going so that we don’t keep the others waiting.”
“This will definitely be an interesting morning,” she continued as they locked the door and walked toward the car. “I have never been to this church before. All these years I’ve lived in this town and I think I’ve visited most of the other congregations, but not this one. I’ve known many of the church’s members over the years, of course, but I’ve just never had occasion to ever set foot in the building! Imagine that!”
“Then today will be an new experience,” her granddaughter teased as she opened the car door. “After you, madame. Your carriage awaits.”
“Gran, I have an invitation to extend to you,” her granddaughter had told her just more than twenty-four hours earlier.
“Really? Well, invite away, honey,” she responded jovially. “You know that your old Grandma loves to keep busy. Where are we going?”
“How about church tomorrow morning?” the young woman asked tentatively.
“Church?” She was obviously surprised. And intrigued. Her eyes narrowed as she studied her granddaughter’s expectant face.
“Let me put some coffee on. You go on upstairs and freshen up a bit while I fix us a little lunch. You’re hungry, I hope, because I prepared some of your favorite things.”
“Starving. I’ll take my bag upstairs and be back down in just a few minutes. Then we can have a nice, relaxing chat over a cup of your famously strong coffee. Nobody brews it like you, Gran,” she said as she lightly kissed the old woman’s cheek before taking the back stairs two at a time, the wheels on her suitcase bouncing up the carpeted stairs behind her.
A little while later, the two women chatted in the homey kitchen as they enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches and seasonal fruit, along with strong, freshly brewed coffee laced with fresh cream and raw sugar.
“So now that you have a nice, full tummy, tell me what church I’m going to, what time and, most importantly, why,” she said matter-of-factly.
“I knew you would go with me,” her granddaughter replied happily.
“Of course I will. It’s been many years since I attended an Easter morning worship service, but I would be delighted to join you. I’m just wondering why you are suddenly so interested in attending church.”
“Well, actually, I’m just the messenger. The invitation was extended by Sean’s parents,” the young woman revealed gingerly.
“Sean it is,” the grandmother said softly. “Well, you’d better tell me all about Sean — and his church-going parents — before I meet them,” she said pouring more coffee for them and settling back in her chair to listen as her granddaughter began sharing the salient details of her ten-month relationship with the young man named Sean.
Over the next few hours, the women talked and laughed, and shared stories over coffee before making an impulsive mid-afternoon trip to the local frozen yogurt store. They were still enjoying each other’s company, and a late spring sunset on the patio of the older woman’s comfortable home, over after-dinner sherry as night set in and the conversation turned more serious.
“Gran, how did you know that Grandpa was the right man for you?” her granddaughter asked. “How did you know that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him?”
The woman sighed deeply as she looked up the sky, watching the sun slip fully below the horizon in an orange-red blaze of fading glory.
“I think it’s time that I told you the truth about your Grandparents,” she replied.
To be continued . . .