My grandma never comes to Pennsylvania. Last August was the first time in six years since she’s left her Florida condo for the likes of the northeast, and when she came up she stayed for a couple weeks. She was in Devon for my littlest brother’s graduation party, saw the family, met Zack. I didn’t think she’d be back for awhile, but my uncle is having surgery and she wanted to be there for him. She wanted to take care of him like another mother would, even when her son is sixty years old.
I was really excited to see her. I talk to my grandma on the phone every week or every other week, usually when I’m walking somewhere. Gotta walk 15 blocks? Time to call Leone. She’s always there, she always makes me laugh, she always wants to know what I’m wearing, who I’m seeing, and how much wine I’m going to drink. We like to gossip about celebrities and family members.
My office is really close to Suburban Station, which makes getting to suburbia a breeze. I took the 5:05 Express to Bryn Mawr with about a million other main line commuters and sat down with a book. I’m rereading “Local Girls,” by Alice Hoffman, which was one of my favorite Young Adult novels when I was of age. I plucked it off my bookshelf in Devon last time I was at home, along with “Chasing Redbird,” by Sharon Creech. When we approached Wayne, I took out my toiletry bag and started applying makeup, because I wasn’t wearing any. Eight hours at the office with wet hair, no makeup, a striped jersey dress and stinky cotton sandals. Professional? Eh.
I took out my blush and mascara, then hesitated. Uncapped the eyeliner and eyebrow pencil, because why not? Every time I see my grandma she tells me how I would benefit from eyebrow pencil. A few months ago I finally took her advice, bought the damn thing and you know what? My face looks way more complete. Grandma knows best. At least, mine does.
When I take the train to Devon from work I feel so grown up. I walk up Station Avenue, cross the five-way intersection, wave to the neighbors. I open the side door of my parents’ house, and my mother greets me from the kitchen, always. My grandma was in the living room and said slyly, “who’s that?” as I walked through the doorway, and immediately complimented me on my eyebrows, figure and face. She didn’t like my dark nailpolish, though. Five minutes and five hugs later, she gave me a beautiful gold ring she purchased in Florence in the 1970s. It is so very chic.
My brothers, parents, grandmother and Zack started sipping on wine, nibbling on a sharp cheese from Wellfleet, Massachusetts, when I brought up Le Grand Continental, which I started rehearsing for at the beginning of July and will continue until the performance weekend, which is the same weekend I turn twenty-five. Two hundred Philadelphians of all ages will perform a thirty minute performance piece in front of the Art Museum steps. My grandma laughed at the idea of me in a “dance recital.”
“Oh that’s right,” my mom said. “I think Justin has something that weekend, too.”
In case you didn’t know, my 19-year-old brother Justin plays guitar for a band called McLovins. They tour nearly every weekend in New England. They play festivals, concerts, and they are recording at the ESPN studios this week for the second time as Sportsnation’s house band.
“What, no,” I started in. “You have to come see me. You can’t miss this. You see Justin do everything.”
“We’ll see, I’m sure it will all work out.”
“But you drive everywhere for him! You watch him play all the tiiiiiime! Moooom!”
Zack kicked my foot under the table. “What?” I snapped.
“I can talk to my mother, she’s my mother.”
But I was whining. And even though I knew it didn’t sound good, or professional, or adult-like, I didn’t care. I’ve been working hard, trying to memorize a half hours worth of choreography. I’m doing my part within the community! I’ve been putting four hours a week into this thing! And fuck, it’s going to be my birthday!
I asked Zack to accompany me to the garden to pick some rosemary for the dipping oil we were going to eat with dinner. “I turn into a child when I’m home, you realize that, right?”
I didn’t go up to my room at all. Most times, when I’m home for an afternoon or just for dinner, I don’t. I get lost in it. I open all the notebooks, the drawers, the closets. I read passed notes and finger through jewelry and shuffle papers. My room overwhelms me. So I avoid it.
I was planning to spend the night in Devon after Zack went back to Philadelphia, but the thought of not sleeping in my “own” bed at my parents’ (currently occupied by my grandma) was making me anxious. Like, how weird that for half a dozen years growing up I would never sleep anywhere but home, and now I’d rather be in my “own” bed, in Queen Village, with Zack. As I dumped a quick load of laundry into the dryer, I apologized to my mom for whining, or being rude, or as I often do, “jump down throats.”I felt bad. I always say the wrong things, say too much, get emotionally involved too easily- even after just one glass of zinfandel. She said not to worry, and that she wouldn’t miss my performance for anything. I made sure I’d see my grandma again sometime before she left to go back to the sunshine state and got into the passenger seat of Zack’s car.
After the doors were locked and teeth were brushed, Zack said out of nowhere, “You’re a good daughter.”
“You love your mother and grandmother so much. You treat your mom like she treats her mom. With care and love.”