Gram & Me changes again! Thanks to the eye-opening comments of a friend who is not afraid to provide an honest critique, I have revised the opening pages of Gram & Me. The book is written from two points of view (POV), Sarah and her “Gram”, Marian. The first chapter is in Sarah’s POV. I’m interested in any and all comments any readers have!
“Tomorrow morning my parents and my baby brother, Christopher, and I were going back to Washington State, where we lived. We visited Gram and Gramps for three weeks every summer. They lived in a city in upstate New York called Saratoga Springs. They made our visits fun and busy, doing things we didn’t do at home. When we weren’t out and about, I loved snuggling with my soft and warm Gram on the couch, wrapped up in a thick, cozy afghan cocoon on a rainy, chilly night, watching a movie and eating popcorn. Gramps was a jokester. His eyes had a mischievous gleam. His half-grin let me know when he was goofing, and I laughed inside and outside every time he joked with me.
That last night, my vacation friend Allison, who was also eight years old, and I were coloring in the family room. Allison’s grandma lived next door to Gram, and her mother was my mom’s best friend in high school. The family room was adjacent to the kitchen. We were lying on the braided rug in front of the brick fireplace. Christopher, my four-month-old baby brother, was asleep in his car seat, which doubled as a bed when we weren’t in the car. There was no fire in the fireplace because it was summer.
I wasn’t really eavesdropping–I was just within view and earshot. The grown-ups seemed to think us little kids were in our own world, not paying any attention to the adults. It wasn’t completely dark outside, because I could still see the barbecue grill that Gramps had cooked the chicken on for dinner. It was on the patio through the sliding glass doors. Leftover smells of our dinner and strawberry pie dessert lingered in the air. The adults sat around the dining table drinking coffee and talking – Gram, Gramps, Mom, Dad, Allison’s mom, Mrs. Maxwell, and Gram’s neighbor, Mrs. Callahan, who was Allison’s grandmother.
“It can’t come fast enough for me,” Gram was saying. “Your dad’s been retired for two years already. In just four days and—“she looked at her watch “—twenty-one hours I will be officially retired.” She wore a huge grin, her eyes were bright, and she looked happy. She tucked a lock of silvery hair behind one ear, revealing one of the diamond stud earrings Gramps gave her on their fortieth anniversary, which they celebrated the first weekend of our visit. “We can’t wait to hit the road. First thing on our bucket list is a cross country trip. No timetable. No commitments dragging us back here. Just pure freedom to explore the country for as long as we want.”
“What about the house?” Mom asked. “Won’t you worry about leaving it vacant?”
Gram waved away the question.
“It’s going on the market the day Marian retires,” Gramps explained. “We don’t dare list it before then, because properties are selling too fast around here. Everybody wants to move to Saratoga.”
“You’re selling the house?” Mom looked horrified. “But where will you go when you’re done traveling?”
“We’ll get an apartment,” Gram said, shrugging. “No hassles of homeownership. For the first time in our adult lives, we want to be free of all responsibilities. Maybe that will change after a while and we will want to buy something. But right now–” she sighed “—I can’t think of a more perfect and relaxing way to live.”
“But you’ll get bored,” Mom whined. “You’ve never been one to be idle. You won’t be happy!”
“Watch us. And who said we’ll be idle?” Gram wore that knowing smile that always made me feel safe. Like she could control anything and make bad things disappear. “We’ll just be doing only what we choose to do, when we choose to do it.” Hands out, palms up, slight shrug. “What could be closer to heaven?”
Gram’s announcement worried me a little. Where would we visit them when the house was sold? It sort of felt like home away from home here—would I miss it? But Gram and Gramps made a fun adventure out of everything. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t matter where they lived.
We had to get up and on the road very early on our good-bye morning, to drop off the rental car and check in at the airport. Gram fixed cereal for me while Mommy and Daddy finished packing upstairs. Christopher slept through it all.
“Who’s going to eat the Fruit Loops after you’re gone,” Gram asked me, settling into a chair across the table.
I was too sleepy to answer. But I grinned and shrugged and stuffed another spoonful into my mouth. We never had Fruit Loops at home. Mommy said they were no better than eating candy for breakfast. But almost anything was okay when we visited Gram and Gramps.
“Keep an eye on your brother while we load the car,” Mommy told me. “And go to the bathroom before we get on the road.” She sipped from a coffee cup on the table and wrinkled her nose. “Cold. Guess I left it sitting too long.”
“Go finish loading,” Gram told her. “I’ll heat it up and put it in a travel mug for you.”
Mommy smiled at Gram.
A little while later, Daddy came and said it was time to go.
“Did you use the bathroom?” Mommy asked me as she picked up Christopher. “We’re not making any bathroom stops between here and the airport.”
I nodded, and we all followed Mommy and Daddy out the front door. Daddy hooked the car seat into the car and strapped Christopher in. We all kissed Gram and Gramps goodbye. Gramps hugged me extra tight, lifting me off the ground, making me giggle. Eyes twinkling, he said, “I’m going to miss my favorite granddaughter.”
“Aw, Gramps,” I said, grinning and touching his cheek, “I’m your only granddaughter.”
“Hmm, I believe you’re right about that.” He winked and lowered me to the ground.
After one last hug with Gram and Gramps, I climbed into the car and buckled up.
Daddy backed the car out of the driveway and headed toward the interstate that would take us to the airport.
It wasn’t very light out yet. The sky in the east was bands of yellow and pink above the horizon. There was just enough light to pick out car colors, so Daddy asked me if I wanted to count blue cars. We always started with blue, because there aren’t many purple cars. Purple is my favorite color, but blue is closest.
There weren’t many cars of any color so early in the morning. I watched as each one approached either from behind or on the other side of the highway.
“I need to get off at this exit,” Daddy said, steering the car toward the exit lane. “We’re low on gas, and the rental place will charge a premium to fill the tank.”
I was at three blue cars and about to call out four when Daddy yelled and pounded the steering wheel.
“Geezum, what’s that jerk doing? He wants half of our lane!”
Blue car number four was almost even with us when it swerved again. Daddy said some bad words as the car hit us. Our car zigzagged, and then we were flying over an embankment. I didn’t think cars could fly. It turned out, they can’t. As we dropped, my stomach felt like it did on my first roller coaster ride.
The car crashed into the side of the steep hill. Christopher woke up, crying. Daddy’s seat rushed toward me, and I felt a horrible pain in my left leg. Daddy and Mommy’s airbags blew up in their faces, and the car filled with a burning smell. I thought the car was going to explode, like on television.
The car kept moving, but on its side, where there were no wheels, and then it hit something and toppled, rear over front. I put my arm out to brace myself and felt another sharp pain in my arm and my tummy and then in my head, as the car continued tumbling two, maybe three times. Through the cracked windshield I saw a stand of trees coming at us fast. A bright light flashed, and then there was nothing.
I don’t know how much time passed. I heard sirens. It was hard to open my eyes. Daddy and Mommy and Christopher were sleeping. I wanted to sleep, too. I hurt everywhere.
Then everything went black again, and the pain went away.”
I will look forward to your comments!