This is totally a fiction. The diary’s changed to protect my innocence.
Ellen sighed. “Mom, I told you. That’s mine. That’s where it belongs.”
“What’s that?” the old woman pointed to the scar on her left forearm.
“That’s where you got hit with a shovel when you were twelve. Remember?” Ellen pulled a photo from the packing box.
“Did you do that?” Indignation rose in the woman’s voice.
“No, Mom. I wasn’t even born, yet.” Ellen sat gently next to her mother. “Uncle Larry was digging a hole when you ran in front of his shovel. You always said he did it on purpose.” Ellen smiled at the family joke and patted her mother’s leg. The old woman stared at her arm.
“Are you hungry?” Ellen rose from the sofa and looked at her watch. “We’re having fried chicken for supper.”
“It smells good.” She looked around her daughter’s spacious living room.
Ellen shook her head, wading through crumpled newsprint and bubble wrap. “That’s promising, since I haven’t picked it up, yet.” She returned to the half emptied packing box.
“Where did this pillow come from?”
“Mom, you’ve asked me that seventeen times. It matches the sofa.” Ellen unearthed another photo and wiped the frame with a dust cloth. “Look, Dad’s and your 30th anniversary trip to Egypt, remember?”
The old woman ignored the irritation and stared at the boy digging in the cardboard box on the dining room table. “He always did love Christmas.”
Ellen looked at her son, Adam, and frowned. She was sure Mom was seeing her brother, David. He had been dead for fifteen years.
“Look Mom, what’s this?” Adam held up a little book. “It has a lock.” The five-year-old jumped from the chair and ran into the living room.
“Come here child and show me what you have.” The old woman’s voice lost a decade of disease.
“See, Grandma.” Adam held up the pink book with silver lettering. “It says, Baby Di-ary. What’s that mean?” He flopped on the cushion next to his grandmother.
She held the book and rubbed it like she was conjuring an incantation. “I started this when your sister was just a baby. We didn’t have a baby book, so I thought I’d give it to her when she grows up.”
“Really? How do you open it?”
“The key’s been gone awhile.” Grandma hunched close to the boy. “See?” She pushed a tiny worn button and the silver clasp sprung open.
“Wow. Will you read it to me?”
Flipping through the pages the older woman breathed a little laugh. “Look at this.”
Dec. 20, 1976. David and I made cookies this afternoon.
Ellen had never seen the book and snuggled down close to her son, processing the date. She was two years old.
It was such a mess, I thought I’d lose my mind, but he wanted to give his sister something for Christmas.
“Do you remember that?” Grandma looked at Adam.
He shook his head and turned to Mom. She shrugged and smiled her reassurance.
Grandma continued each word more animated for the telling.
“I got Ellen down for her nap late.”
Who’s Ellen?” Adam looked at his mother.
“Me.” She mimicked surprise and pointed at herself with raised eyebrows.
“But I thought ….,”
“It’s Grandma’s story, let’s just listen.”
David stood on a stool. I measured and he poured the ingredients for our gingerbread men. He loved using the cookie cutter—must have asked a
thousand questions. The red cinnamon candy eyes were his favorite. Took
forever, but it was worth it. He can’t wait to wrap one for Ellen.
The weatherman is threatening freezing rain. I hope David Sr. makes it
Grandma looked at Adam. “Was that a good story?”
“Yes, Grandma.” He gave her a quick hug and ran into another room to play.
“That may have been the last time I baked gingerbread.” The old woman’s laugh filled the room. “You know how I hate to roll cookies, Ellen.”
“Yes, Mom.” Ellen nodded. She did know.