Coming Of Age
| Blue and Gray ©
Janine ran past the old chicken house scattering the scurrying chickens and climbed the pole fence so she could see the last of the dust in the distance. The shiny new Packard disappeared beyond the knoll. Satisfied that her mother and grandmother had finally gone, she ran back toward the house with her sun streaked hair flying behind her. Today, she chose to wear her favorite dress. Mother said, "It's shameful, for a girl your age to wear something so short." Grandmother reassured her that, "at twelve, she had outgrown everything too." Her lilac gingham hit her well above her knees, but she didn't care. "Today will be special. Only my favorite dress will do."
"Today," Janine proudly announced at breakfast, "I am old enough to stay home alone." Two whole hours alone while Mother and Grandmother delivered the food boxes that had been lovingly prepared for those less fortunate. On this day, she determined to confront the ghost in her grandmother's closet once and for all. She determined to stop the whispers behind Grandmother's back, the whispers no one ever shared with her, dead in their tracks. "That ghost must come out of the closet, put his dukes up and fight like a . . . well, fight like a ghost." Janine swallowed hard and wiped her cool clammy hands on her skirt.
The door to Grandmother's bedroom swung open effortlessly with only a small push. Sunshine filtered through the window adding a glow to the four-poster bedposts. A blue and gray quilt covered the high bed which looked like an upside down bathtub on four feet. The room smelled like furniture polish. It seemed too immaculate to be lived in. Next to the window sat a blue overstuffed chair and next to the chair, a drop-leaf table. A soft breeze billowed the gauze curtains brushing them against Grandmother's Bible on the small table. Against the opposite wall stood a large dresser and next to the dresser, the closet door. Setting her jaw, she took a step toward the door. Only now did it occur to her the closet door might be locked. Pondering over this latest thought, her eyes focused hard on the door knob. She had come too far now to walk away without trying it. Her only decision now . . . should she swing it open fast or sneak up on it and peek. She braced herself
The tall lanky girl held her breath as she reached for the knob which turned easily and slowly swung open. She stepped back in surprise. "What does a ghost look like?" Grandmother's clothes hung neatly, by color. The blues hung together, then the greens and browns, with greys on the other end. Her Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes and her working-in-the-garden shoes sat neatly beside her slippers. Behind the shoes, pushed back in the corner and nearly hidden from view, Janine spied a large, brown chest. It looked like a treasure chest. Forgetting the ghost, she immediately fell to her knees, scattering the neat row of shoes and pulled the chest out. It occurred to her that the burning sensation on the back of her neck felt like Grandmother's watchful eyes, as she turned the skeleton key in the keyhole. The key clicked as the lid gave slightly and came open only when she pushed with both hands.
She sat very still sucking in her breath. In the chest, white material with pearls embroidered all over lie neatly folded. A stack of letters tied with a blue ribbon and some faded pictures had been placed on the beautiful beadwork, She reached for the letters and with hesitant hands, untied the ribbon, carefully opening the one on top. The letter had been written on stained paper, like it had been rained on and the handwriting difficult to read. Examining it carefully brought out phrases here and there . . . "To my loving wife." Further down the page, she read . . ." Nothing has impacted the war effort more than the lack of food. My dream of our life together is the only thing that is important to me anymore." Tears welled in her eyes as she turned the paper over. The letter ended with . . . "The enemy is on the rampage again. I pray I will somehow survive. Kiss our beautiful daughter for me."
Janine put the paper back inside the envelope and tied the ribbon around the letters, trying to lay them carefully within the imprint on the soft shinny material. She picked up the photographs, one of a baby, one of a young woman with a little girl on her lap, and a wedding picture. The lady holding the little girl and wearing the wedding dress certainly seemed to be her grandmother. She had the same long arms in her lilac gingham as the lady in the photograph had in her beautiful white dress and her very own facial expression smiled back at her.
"Grandmother, you're a traitor. You married the wrong side. Grandmotheró " She whispered, running her fingers over the tattered image of a beautiful young woman in a wedding gown and a man in a blue uniform. "Grandmother, I love you . I'll never tell anyone."
Sheryl Hamilton Chaney