but she had been warned. When she gripped the table,
pulled herself up and said, “Napkins!” I said, “I’ll get ’em.”
I didn’t say, “You’ll fall and we’ll be sopping up your blood
with paper towels.” And when she pushed herself up for the salt,
I said, “I got it. Relax! Let. Us. Eat.” Whenever my parents went out,
Granny’d try to take charge. Even Ellen was saying, “Stop it, Granny.”
But Granny just laughed. When she got up for the butter, I said,
“If you get up again, I’m tying you to the chair.” I was joking,
but she took it as a challenge so when Ellen asked if we had any ketchup
and Granny pushed herself up, I said, “That’s it!” went to the pantry,
got some rope, looped it around her waist and tied it to the chair.
And it worked. In fact, we forgot about it until we finished our dessert
and cleared the table. I was at the sink rinsing plates, when I heard,
“Jackie? Tunk! “Jackie?” Tunk! And turned to see her struggling to her feet,
then falling back from the weight of the chair. “Jackie?” Tunk!
Her face red from laughing – making a big show of it. “Jackie?” Tunk!
Pulling the knots tighter and tighter. It took ten minutes to get them loose.
So now forty years later I dream we’ve had another baby, she looks
just like my son Zak, but black haired with Granny’s blue eyes.
I’m rocking her to sleep in the chair in Zak’s nursery with his name
painted in red and blue on the top rail. She begins a soft baby snore
and settles into my chest like I’m a hammock. The chair parts squeak
in a steady rhythm and I’m afraid to stop. Out the window, it’s pouring –
an August heat-clearing rain. Large drops ricochet off the street
white against the black tar. I wake in my dark bedroom
to Tunk! Tunk! I wait for a Jackie! Or the sound of Granny laughing.
First published in the Naugatuck River Review