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The Little Things
Traffic. Traffic for miles and miles on a Saturday afternoon in Olympia. A human being could wish for nothing worse.
My grandma and I departed from our house in our small town (you’ve probably never heard of it) in order to get to the Tacoma mall at the reasonable time of noon, meaning we had to leave at ten, meaning I had to wake up before nine on a Saturday. But other than that, the traffic, and my grandmothers current argument about how modern music sounds like static, my day was going smoothly.
“I just don’t hear what you do. Don’t you hear the static?”
“Maybe it’s just the traffic.”
“No that’s not it, because when I switch it to another station it’s fine.”
I sigh, quietly, internally, because if I sigh aloud she will make a u-turn on the packed highway and drive us straight home.
“Oh yeah! I hear it now!” I must proclaim such a thing in order for prosperity to remain on this crowded highway. You’re welcome, fellow drivers.
“I wonder what it is…” She continues to mumble on about the static for a few minutes before the traffic finally moves another ten feet. We had been going 3mph for the past half hour.
Another twenty minutes goes by before we’re driving at a normal speed on our way to my grandma’s favorite place to shop: Nordstroms. “Where an outfit’s price is equivalent with an iPhone.”
She finds a parking space close to the front doors. Must be our lucky day. I open the door and step out, the rainy, frigid Washington air slapping me in the face. Luckily I have my coa- Oh wait. No I don’t have a coat.
I curse at myself as I trudge beside my grandma towards the doors.
We strolled through rows upon rows of colored purses before she was satisfied that everything was indeed to expensive, and we could move on.
My shoes clicked against the shining tile as we walked to the escalators, the low hum of the moving steps buzzing beneath me.
We shopped for an hour, your normal Saturday. We got lunch and watched the clouds continue to turn darker rather than into a sunny blue sky. Again, extremely normal.
Another half hour passed before we went down to the make-up department. I was uninterested in caking my face in powders and creams and what-not, so I stood idly by while my grandmother was ushered around. She came back with armfuls of beauty products, the saleswoman smiling wider than a kid on Christmas. I leaned against the front counter where two other woman around my grandmas age stood. Myself being bad at the whole human to human societal ritual of speech, I continued to lean against the counter whilst avoiding all eye-contact. But my grandmother being the wonderful social butterfly that she is interrupted the silence.
“You guys trying to reverse time too?”
The three of them laughed.
“Oh, I suppose,” the older of the two women said, a small bag in hand. “I’m just here refunding some things.”
They continued to talk like this until my grandmother put a hand on my shoulder and dragged me into the conversation. The topic made me immediately uneasy. They were talking about cancer.
I didn’t catch most of it, but the older woman was talking about how the cancer had spread throughout her bones. Her skull, her arms, her legs. Everywhere. I stood, offering what sympathetic looks I could. These kinds of topics made me uneasy, especially the way my grandma easily talked about my grandfathers death. It was something I couldn’t understand.
“Well, I have an eleven year old granddaughter,” the older woman said. My grandma was now focused on checking things out, abandoning me to socialize on my own. “And I want to leave her something behind, you know? One gift doesn’t quite seem like enough because when I’m gone I’ll miss so much. So I came up with this idea,” I nodded. “I’d like to run it past you, I mean, I don’t know you, but just to make sure it isn’t stupid or anything.”
I smiled, nodding again. I suddenly felt like a lot depended on what I said.
“See, I was thinking I’d have a charm bracelet. And so whenever some big occasion happens, her 13th birthday, graduation, college, when she marries, all of those milestones, I’ll have someone send her a charm.” She looked like she was on the brink of crying, tears brimming in the corners of her eyes. “Is that a good idea?”
I smiled, replying, “It’s brilliant.”
“And how would you react, what would you think if your grandmother did something like that for you?”
I paused, not quite sure what I should say. I glanced over at my grandma, her shaky hands running her credit card through the slot. The clerk began putting things into the bags, and my grandma laughed at the price, mumbling something about having to “live a little!” I tried to think of a proper description, my mind deciding on a single word.
The woman smiled widely, “Thank you. Thank you, very much.” She bowed her head slightly, before turning and hobbling to the other woman she was with. I stood, waiting for my grandma to finish at the cash register before we grabbed our bags and left.
“What did she ask?”
I told her the woman’s idea.
She nodded, replying “Any kid would be ecstatic."
I shook my head as we walked out the doors, “Not ecstatic. Honored.”