The Safety of Stories

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Every year, my sister and I used to stay with our grandma for a week over the summer.

A gnarled tree grew by the front porch. The trunk had split into multiple growths years ago, and it had a spot big enough to stand on.

A rain barrel stood under the gutter, cool and deep and smelling of thunderstorm air.

In the dawn light, I woke to mourning dove calls and the whistle of distant trains. The texture of the bed reminded me that I was safe. 

My grandma had blue and white china plates and knives with wooden handles. I remember helping her with the dishes, with a dish towel that smelled as downy and crisp as the sheets and comforter in the bed where I had slept.

There were so many places to hide and read books at Grandma’s house. The dust-scented space between the bed and the white, pebble-textured walls. I remember the feeling almost of rubber as I ran my hand over that texture. There were sometimes spiders there – slow, long-legged, and tan. I didn’t mind their presence when we were alone together. 

I wish that I could tell my grandma thank you for the space that she created. 

I used to love watering her flowers. Plunge the plastic, molded watering can into the rain barrel’s depths and circumnavigate the house, my arms drying in the sun.

“My poor flowers!” I can still hear her say, after one of my more enthusiastic tours. She never wanted me to feel bad for helping, though, so I over-soaked her flowers more than once. 

Sometimes I wish that I could visit that house again. Past the lilac bush, past the tree. Through the brown door to the rooms that forever in my memory will remind me of the place where I learned to love reading on my own. The safety of stories was born from here.

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