My grandfather and I gazed into the green M&M’s in the dish on the Thanksgiving counter, feeling happy about their peppermint flavor. As we kept taking them between our fingers and eating them, he gave me advice about boys. He’s been married for more than half of his life, and he knows. “Have fun,” he said. “And pick something you really like.”
I know by heart the other tenets of his relational advice, which I overheard him delivering at points throughout the day. He narrated it using three farmer-fingers as counting props. “Women are to be loved—cherished—and respected,” he said, pronouncing each adjective with more punch than the previous one. To my brother he added, “And never throw cold water on a girl.”
The advice has become sweet by way of repetition, though when I stop to think about it I don’t know exactly what he means about the cold water.
Our Thanksgiving meal was expansive enough for all of Rushville, the tiny town where we annually feast and where my mother used to hopscotch on the sidewalk. The turkey looked like it sprung from a television ad, and my Uncle Jon ate the leg of it. The Labradoodle traveled from sofa to table and back, coveting crumbs of pie.
My small girl-cousins and I held a turkey-drawing contest. Whoever’s was funniest would win. I drew a knife above my turkey and big arrow reminding it to run,but no one found it funny. While we drew I asked around the table: What do you want to be when you grow up? The yearly check-in.
Holly is big enough to play the saxophone now, but also still small enough to climb me like a tree and hang on. “A teacher,” she said.
Danielle is older, and becoming more beautiful with each year. “An author,” she said.
Aubrey’s a kid of buoyant cleverness, and this year she gifted me with a blue braided bracelet at the last hug good-bye. “An illustrator,” she said.
I had to smile, because I want to be all of those things, too. Pick something you really like.
After two everlasting Scrabble games among the aunts, with a half-hour of pondering and dictionary-thumbing between each turn, I walked outside and sat on the cold swing set.
As I stared at the sky, a meteor streaked through it and vanished faster than I could gasp. I made a wish—too late, maybe, since the falling star had already disappeared. I hoped the wish would register anyway.
“It was a plane crash, not a shooting star,” my father told me later, when I described what I’d seen, and said that I thought the star had red in its tail.
“It wasn’t,” I said, refusing to have cold water thrown on my dream. “We would have heard about a plane crash.”
He conceded. We would have heard about it. Rushville has a population of 645.
Wouldn’t it be good of God, to give us something we really liked?