Cheryl Hughes: Fried Milk
One day at work, a grandmother pulled her car into our shop, with her little curly-haired granddaughter riding in the back seat. We talked about the joys of being a grandmother. She said her sister had come for a visit the week before, and when she went to the door to leave, her granddaughter said to her sister, “Why don’t you just stay. You can do anything you want to here. I know, because I do.” That pretty much sums up what it is to be a grandmother.
I remember looking forward to the birth of my granddaughter, Sabria, for one main reason: I would get to be the good guy. Being a disciplinarian never set well with me. I did it because I didn’t want my kids to be total heathen, but it was a role I was never comfortable with. I’ve often heard parents brag about how they “set them straight” or “showed them who was boss” when referring to disciplining their children. I never felt I had anything to prove to our girls, I just wanted them to be good, decent people. I never saw respect as something to be demanded, but rather something to be earned.
When our girls were born, I had a tremendous amount of “I don’t need to mess this up” anxiety. When Sabria came along, I was free to just love her. My daughter could take over the “I don’t need to mess this up” angst.
Like the little granddaughter in our customer’s back seat, Sabria does pretty much what she wants to at my house. Case in point: When Sabria spilled milk onto the kitchen stove while she was fixing herself a bowl of cereal, she asked, “Can you fry milk?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “Let’s try it and see what happens.”
So we did. I pulled out a skillet, put it on a burner, melted some Crisco in it, and Sabria poured one-fourth of a cup of milk into the skillet. At first, the milk started boiling then it started bubbling, and finally it created one huge bubble that looked akin to a bio-dome.
“Cool!” she said, “Let’s video it!”
See what I mean?
When Sabria spends the night with Garey and me, she often returns to the bedroom she and her mom shared for the first four years of her life. She rummages through boxes of her mom’s things from high school and college. She sets pictures on the desk and small table in the room. She tries on old hats and belts and night gowns left behind after she and her mom moved out. On her last visit, she came down the hall wearing a graduation cap and gown.
Sometimes, we sleep together in that bedroom. Those are my favorite times. She talks to me as we’re drifting off to sleep. “Gee, I’m the second slowest person in my class,” she confides in me. “I want to play soccer, but I can’t run fast, and you have to be able to run fast to play soccer.”
“Well, we will keep riding bikes together, and that will build up the muscles in your legs,” I say, “then we will work on your speed, and try to get you ready to play soccer in the spring.” This satisfies her, and she moves on to the next item on her mind.
“I think trees and plants talk to each other,” she says, “but we just can’t understand their language.”
“I do too,” I say. “I told God one day that if trees go to Heaven after they die, I hope my big maple tree decides to live in my yard there.”
“Me too,” she says.
I am starting to drift off to sleep. Sabria is still telling me things she thinks and things she has discovered. “What are we going to do tomorrow, Gee?” she asks.
“I’m not sure, but it will probably be something nobody else has tried before,” I say, picturing the giant milk bubble in my skillet, and wondering how many more days it’s going to have to soak
Before I can use it again.