As a child, I didn’t get to see my grandfather that often because he lived in a different town than we did. When he did come for a visit, it was amazing. His entire being was enthralling to me; he had a signature smell, which was a mixture of aloe plants and new writing paper just out of its plastic package. His appearance was always so fastidious; I used to imagine that he went through a gigantic starching press with his clothes, as their stiff cleanliness seemed to extend to him. His face and skin looked pristine, and his teeth were sparkly white. He carried himself in a sophisticated manner and was genuinely polite.
I looked up to my grandfather very much, and I can proudly say I inherited many of his qualities. He would always come in our door with a big smile and a hug and would immediately ask me how I was, or what I was doing in school, or if I had done anything interesting recently. He would ask me these questions no matter what age I was and would always pay full attention to my answers. Most adults will pleasantly ask a child those same questions, but when the child answers, the adult will only give a happy little nod and reply with “Uh-huh,” or “Is that so? This was never the case with my grandpa; he seemed to instinctively know that the typical adult answer wasn’t enough for me, or any child. I waited at my window for what seemed like hours for him to show up, but my mom told me it had only been ten minutes. I was three years old, so I did what any other child would do in my situation; I sat down in front of the television and watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” to pass the time. Mr. Rogers was always so pleasant; he would show me how he fed his fish and tell me that I was special, and he even showed me how crayons were made.
He was my first friend outside of my parents and could always console my nerves. He reminded me of my grandpa. Just as Mr. Rogers was putting on his loafers and jacket to go home, there was a knock at our door. My grandpa had finally arrived! He greeted me as usual: with a happy smile, a big hug, and an extra gift for Valentine’s Day of a small red and white teddy bear with google eyes that moved in their sockets. Since the weekend before had been my dad’s birthday, my grandpa came with his usual present of a tropical print shirt form Tommy Bahama, along with brown sandals.
I wonder now what my dad did with all of those brown sandals; I know exactly where all his tropical shirts are because my mom always complains of not having enough space for her clothes in their closet. My grandpa stayed with us for the whole weekend; we took nature walks through the woods behind our apartment, we went to the museums in Balboa Park, we played the game “Candy Land,” and we read together every night. It was hard to accept the fact that he had to go home on Monday morning, but accepting that all things must end is one of those things in life that all children have to learn.
However, he told me Sunday evening after we read the fairy tale book, The Little Mermaid, that he would be happy to drop me off at my pre-school the next morning on his way out of town. Monday morning came, and my mom helped me into my red corduroy jumper and my pair of white stockings with little red hearts embroidered on them, so that I would be festive for my class Valentine party. I packed my red and white teddy bear that my grandpa had given me in my backpack, along with valentines for my classmates.
My mom gave me two little packages filled with candy for my teachers and instructed me not to forget to give them out. As a special treat, my grandpa took me out for a Valentine’s Day breakfast where I was allowed to order the kid’s breakfast that had a chocolate pancake made to look like a face with whipped cream and cherries for its eyes, nose, and mouth. When my grandpa and I pulled up to my pre-school, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before letting me out of the car. He watched me go inside the gate to the playground, waved goodbye, and was gone.
Being the middle of February, it was a cold morning. I noticed that my fingers were losing their feeling as I held onto the gate watching my grandfather’s car drive away. The wind whipped through the playground and made the swings look as if they had invisible children playing on them. As I turned toward the school building, I began to feel as if something was not quite right about the schoolyard. My teachers were not in their usual spots beside the doorway to usher the children in…there were no children to usher in…there wasn’t anyone at all. Panic flooded my senses.
Was this one of those days that I didn’t go to school?! Had my parents read the calendar wrong?! Had my grandpa dropped me off at the wrong place?! Was this even my school, or did it just look like it?! I tried the door, but it was locked. Should I try to walk home?! No, somehow I determined that I would never make it. Finally, I decided that there was nothing to do but to sit on the playground and wait for my mother to come pick me up. At least I had my teacher’s Valentine presents to keep my strength up. I sat down on the wooden floor of the playhouse and opened my book bag.
The google-eyed teddy bear fell out, and his eyes wiggled all over the place. As I turned to pick him up, the wooden slat I was sitting on pulled a hole in my tights. I stared down at the little red hearts on my tights and began to cry. My teddy bear’s google eyes were now laughing at me, and my stomach began to hurt from the chocolate pancake. Where were my teachers?! Why had my grandpa abandoned me?! What had I done wrong?! The cold wind was making the tears harden on my cheeks, and I couldn’t feel my nose anymore. By this time, my crying had turned into wailing, and I was getting louder by the minute.
The world seemed as though it had ended, and I was the last person left. In my fit of crying, I didn’t notice that the door to the school had opened. My teacher, hearing my loud wails, had opened the door to see what the matter was. “Jessica, is that you? ” she yelled. As I realized that someone was talking to me, I came out of my daze and ran to her, hugging her around her waist. Seeing that it was my teacher, I told her what had happened. She then said that she had been there all along, and that my grandpa had only dropped me off thirty minutes too early. What a relief, the world came back to life in under a minute.
As I hung up my coat on the peg in the corner marked “Jessica”, I realized that everything was okay, and that I wasn’t going to die on the playground. I was left paranoid after that day; I needed my mom to stay with me until I was safe inside the classroom before she could leave. My grandfather started to visit us more often and that was great because he took me everywhere. Everyday with him was an adventure! When Monday morning came and it was time for my grandfather to leave, I skipped the happy face chocolate pancakes and just waved him goodbye from the front porch.