The Red Velvet Box – Chapter 3
When I stepped in the door of Grandma’s small house, I was hit with the familiar smell that all old people seemed to have: the smell of moth balls and mold.
“Mother! We’re here!” my mother called out.
“I’m in the kitchen, Ruth,” came a small voice.
“I’ll put your cases in the bedroom,” Dwight said and headed to the back of the house.
Grandma’s house had only two bedrooms, so mom and I had to share a room. It was a little creepy sharing a room with your mother, but at least she understood a woman’s need for privacy, so both of us dressed and undressed in the one, small bathroom in the house.
Mother and I walked through the living room, small dining room, and into the kitchen where Grandmother sat at a small wooden dining table. Grandma had shrunk. I swear it. She was so thin her skin hung from her arms and her face like she had deflated or something. Mother didn’t seem shocked by how she looked, so I tried not to be, too. It wasn’t easy!
“Hello, dear,” Grandma said, leaning over so mother could give her a kiss on the cheek.
“And look at you! My have you grown,” Grandma said, reaching out her arms for a hug and kiss.
I obliged but against my better judgment, and I was right; she smelled like baby powder, and kissing her was like kissing skimmed over mashed potatoes: all cold and mushy.
“You look so grown up!” she said when I pulled away. “What are you, sixteen now?”
Maybe Grandma had a bad memory, but she sure was a good judge of maturity! “Just thirteen, Grandma,” I admitted with regret. Mom was standing right there, so I couldn’t even inch it up to fourteen without being caught.
“You could ʼa fooled me.” Her eyes twinkled as she smiled.
“Dinner should be ready around six,” Dwight said, coming into the kitchen from the other direction. “Just walk on over, if it isn’t too far for you, Blanch.”
“I’d walk a mile backwards for one of Olivia’s meals!” Grandma joked.
A mile backwards? That’s funny, I thought, imagining my little old Granny walking backwards down the street. She’d probably need to wear a sign on her back that read, “Make way, old person coming through!”
But then I saw my Grandma Blanch try to stand, and I realized it really was a joke. “That leaves us plenty of time to start work on the attic,” my Grandmother said.
“We can start that anytime,” Mother said.
“No time like the present,” Grandma replied, and she pushed herself slowly up using the back of her chair and the table top for support.
My mother noticed how much effort it was for Grandma to stand and ran up next to her. “Let me help you, mother.”
Blanch stopped mid way up and scowled. “Let me be, Ruth. I have to do this myself when you’re not here.”
Mother went a little white and stiff and took a step back. I had never seen my mother stopped like that before, and she was just trying to help. I’m not one to take my mother’s side on things, but Grandma seemed like she was getting mean as well as forgetful…
“Where do you want to start, Mother?” she yelled, startling me.
“How ʼbout with the Christmas decorations, since I need to put them up soon, anyway,” came the small, distant voice of Grandma Blanch from below. “They’re over on the north side.”
Mom looked around, not sure which way was north. I looked out of the window to our left and noticed the sun streaming in. I pointed straight in front of us. “That’s north,” I said and stepped forward.
I spied a box that had “Lights” written on the side. I opened it up and sure enough, it was Grandma’s Christmas tree lights. “Yup, this is it!”
I knew they were the ones Grandma used because Grandma’s lights were like no other lights I had seen before. Grandma’s lights had an oval, plastic base with a thin glass piece coming out of the top like a small candle. The neat thing about this glass piece was that it was filled with water, and when the light got hot, the water would bubble up in the glass. It was really cool.
Mother had joined me by then and was opening boxes of her own, mumbling, “I just don’t know where to start here?”
“I’ll take the lights down,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“Just put them at the top of the steps,” mother said quickly. “I’ll carry them down. It’s too dangerous for you.”
“I can do it.”
“Please don’t argue with me, Kate. I’m not in the mood for an argument right now.”
I dropped my shoulders in defeat and put the box of lights where I was told.
When I walked back to the Christmas things, I noticed a large dark-colored box sitting on top of a stack of boxes. It wasn’t a tall box, it was probably only about five inches high, but it was as wide as a drawer in my dresser back home. I could tell this box was different. It wasn’t made of cardboard like most of the other boxes, and as I got closer to it, I could tell it had a tassel hanging down from the lid. When I picked it up, I instantly knew something was different. This box was made out of something special. I took the box over to the light, blew the dust off the top, and sat cross-legged on the wood floor. I ran my hand over the top of the soft surface. It was covered in velvet, red velvet. I salivated at the thought of the treasures that must be inside.
I tipped the box so the tassel side was up, slipped the loop the tassel was attached to over a clear sparkly button, and slowly lifted the lid. My imagination wasn’t disappointed.
The box was all red inside, too. It was made up of seven felt-lined compartments, six square ones and one longer one on the side and each compartment held the most amazing array of ornaments.
“Mom! You gotta come see this!” I said, not trying to hide my excitement.
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