Grandpa’s footsteps shuffled into the spare bedroom I was sleeping. His house was stout and was constructed of thick wood beams, complete with an old-fashioned porch swing. Grandpa probably built the house with his own hands as a wedding present for grandma.
I didn’t raise my head from the early morning covers, which shielded me from Winter’s coldness that crept into the room. The quilts were huge, thick, warm, and hand-stitched by grandma. The mattress was overly deep and was handmade from the down of a thousand chickens. To breathe, I had to expose my mouth and nose from underneath the suffocating quilts. If I turned the wrong way, the stem of a feather would poke through my pillow and jab me in the cheek.
I could hear grandpa ambling to the fireplace, and heard him poke the burning logs with an iron rod he kept next to it. I heard the flames begin to roar as he invited oxygen to blend with the smoldering cinders.
I’m certain he thought I was still sleeping, and with my face still mostly concealed, I opened my eyes to see the green paisley wallpaper that began to crack and peel from the ages. Straining to breathe, I stretched my neck out like a turtle emerging from it’s shell. The freezing temperature turned each of my exhales into a thick white fog.
The fireplace roared as grandpa shuffled the burning logs with the poker. I knew the comforting warmth of a fireplace is always best a few feet away. My bed, however, rested all the way across the room.
After grandpa left, I did a quick search below my bed for my pants, sweater, and socks, and leaped up to dress before I froze to death. I exited the room with short, quick steps and embraced myself with my arms to keep my warmed limbs close together.
“Well, Good Morning, Michael,” mom said when I met her in the kitchen. “Did you sleep good last night?” I had just learned in school that mom should have said “well” instead of “good,” but folks from Lily, Kentucky had their own dialect. “Did you enjoy grandpa’s fireplace?”
“Yes, mom,” my teeth still chattered.
The kitchen already smelled of fried eggs and homemade biscuits, and the sun beamed happily through the windows. Dad and grandpa were already sitting at the massive table while grandma was teasing the flames in the iron stove.
“Its freezing in here,” I said as a trace of white mist escaped my mouth.
“You must embrace life, Michael,” Grandpa said. I wasn’t sure what that had to do with being in a kitchen that felt like an igloo.
The china made a beautiful presentation for the over-easy eggs and biscuits, and was delicately swirled on the rim with a green and purple floral pattern. Grandpa had a peculiar way of eating by carving the outer white circle from the egg, then leaving the runny yolk to sob his bread into.
Grandpa definitely enjoyed life, and never complained for a man who was a laborer for the L and N Railroad. For twenty years, he laid railroad ties and ate cold gravy sandwiches prepared by grandma. He ate voraciously, but was slim and fit for eighty years old.
Then grandma removed a large glass jug with a dark, thick, syrup from the cabinet and placed it on the table. Grandpa poured the molasses onto his plate, then placed a square of butter into the syrup. Like a professional chef, he mashed and stirred the two ingredients together to make a cream colored glob. Then he swiped a biscuit into the sticky pool and inserted it into his mouth.
“Try it, Michael,” grandpa said. He poured a glob of molasses onto my saucer, then sliced a sliver of butter on top. “Blend it together.”
I obeyed by squishing the butter into the sticky sweetness with the back of my spoon.
“Now keep stirring.”
I twirled the spoon around and around until the concoction looked like grandpas recipe.
“Now dip your biscuit into it.”
I did as was told and was overwhelmed by the delicious sensation. Mom, dad, grandpa and grandma all had their eyes on me as I smiled with delight. The euphoria warmed my senses, and time seemed to stand still. All was quiet except for the gentle flames of the iron stove.
“Embrace your life, Michael,” grandpa said to me with a gleam. “Always remember precious moments, and take them wherever you go.”
Written by Michael C. Watson
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