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memories i left in a box somewhere

by harper johnston

It’s strange how one remembers things about someone only after that person is gone. Funerals certainly don’t do that solid, yet somehow peculiar and often heartbreaking rule justice. All they do is talk about the basic, boring facts of the dead when they had life, because that is all people will amount to, just an empty shell of an obituary rough draft. “Bonnie June Peckham-Rathburn, Daughter,Sister,Mother,Grandmother,Great-Grandmother” blah blah blah. Funerals would have a greater effect of they talked about all the tiny, strange details that make a person who they are or were. We still cry, but if we really let go we would cry and cry and cry, never stop crying.

There are many details I know of my Great-Grandma Bonnie June, my Grandpa’s mother, but they are not the “important” type. I do not know what my great-grandma's brother's names were, but I can remember the story she always told Azbey,Danielle,Hannah, Hadley and I of them shoving her onto a wild pony and running her around behind their barebones country house. I remember asking her about the dust bowl for a school project, and her telling me about the grasshoppers, straight as wires, every one all dusty and dried out on a fence post. All these little tiny things just stuck in my brain, floating around back there somewhere until I feel the need to grasp at them and bring them out of the dark, empty spaces where other random tidbits of information go, like how to do long division. You never really know how much you can miss something until it’s lost back there forever.

 I miss being a kid. All of my cousins and my sister being kids with me, doing kid things like agreeing to wash my great-grandma’s car for a dime and thinking we were the richest people alive. Or only eating the good jelly beans out of the bowl she unwaveringly had out for us every single year around Easter time, like rations for her seven-year-old troops. We always left that flowery glass bowl full of the black jelly beans.All of us always clamoring for her to make lemonade, but Danielle always made it the best. We always used the same pitcher and set of cups; ones with tomatoes on them. Danielle got to keep them, like a special hidden legacy that only we could understand. 

All these silly pint-sized details, mini moments that only the young deem important enough to cache. I forgot when her husband Marlin was dying, but I do remember that he would always play cards with us if we got bored enough. I wasn’t alive to know my great-grandfather, yet he still leaves traces of a ghost, somewhere in his children's eyes; they always seem lost, like they’re looking for someone or something to hold onto. I have the best memory of her out of all my cousins, I knew her the longest even though that isn’t quite fair to Hannah, who won’t remember a lot of things. But that’s alright because we’ll tell her and she can understand what we mean by everything. I really don’t want these strange, inexplicable memories to fade. 

It’s been over a year and I haven’t misplaced the box I store them in yet, although it is dusty. But I’m dusting it off right now and it is kind of nice to just think, to just remember. Remembering those late nights sleeping in her living room with Azbey, and us two staying up talking about nothing, because what do eight-year-olds have to talk about anyways? I thought I knew everything then. 11 o’clock was late and 8 o’clock was early to us. Hannah always slept in grandma’s room with her, because she consistently got too scared, although a Dora sleeping bag does...not much to fend away the nightmares. Every time we went over to her house, which used to be a frequent and favorite activity when she lived there, she would have some little craft activity planned.Whether that be making soaps or sewing together dolls,we normally got too distracted by her room full of odd little toys for us to invent worlds with, like a tiny stove with tiny pots, or a mouse beanie baby, or Blokus, or Dominoes, games we never played right because they were always more fun if you made up all the rules. We all had our patron items, like the American Bird Encyclopedia I read when people got too boring, or the Barney suitcase Hannah dragged around behind her like a dog on a leash.

 All of us still have ties to that old house, with the chickens and strawberries in the backyard, and the tree with a face on it that Grandma called her “boyfriend” in the front with the ceramic pig on the porch, and the funny colored walls with the doors that went in a circle.We would chase each other through until we all went crazy or just got too tired and gave up. There’s a school down the road from where she used to live, and we would always beg to go down there and let our energy out on the poor jungle gym, who had clearly been subjected to enough abuse already. Everything in that house was orange; her absolute favorite color. The bath towels, the rugs, the curtains, the napkins, were all the same bright and cheery shade that she was. I can only remember her getting mad at all of us once; when we ran back and forth and back and forth and back and forth from her front door to the back door because both of them had doorbells, and ding dong ditched her, which subsequently became a barred activity. She might get mad at the old TV in the playroom, because we always wanted to watch VHS tapes on it but she could never figure out how to play them. And when our parents pulled into her cracked concrete driveway and said, “It’s time to go” we always dragged our feet on the shag carpet for as long as we possibly could.

All these funny,odd little memories popping up like dandelions and honeysuckles in a well manicured suburban yard. Weeds like these always have a purpose. Dandelions make wonderful crowns, and you can drink the honey out of a honeysuckle if you’re smart enough to know how to do that. Flowers taste almost as sweet as nostalgic childhood memories do, but those have a certain kick that you can’t quite replicate in any recipe. Memories,memories, memories,sandbags on a hot air balloon. The people with the best balloons often have more of those. 

My Great-Grandma Bonnie June was one of the best of everything. She was constant sunshine, warming up everyone and everything around her so you just couldn’t help but smile along with her. Now everyone smiles a little less wide,we forgot how to really do that well. Seeing the people you love crumpled up like a ball of paper does that sort of thing to you. Learning to uncrumple the paper, we all struggle with. Sometimes I cry if I hear an old song, or think of an old memory, drug to the surface of my mind like a time capsule. But that is what people do. We move on. I move on. I move forward, always looking back and ahead. People fade, and some memories die, so hold onto those moments.Someday I will be my great-grandma for someone, all that’s left of me is rusty memories from people who knew me. When that day comes, I’ll let go of everything. But right now, I want to remember.

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