The next ten days of Betsy’s Christmas Break were spent doing little other than cooking, baking, and delivering. They made complete meals and delivered them to individual families in need, and deserts to elderly folks, much like her grandmother, living alone. They spent an entire day baking and decorating sugar cookies then delivered platefuls to everyone in her grandmother’s life with children and grandchildren. Not a day ended without Betsy’s heart full of pride and joy.
She lay snuggled in at night embracing a new freedom, a kind of contentment she’d never known. Smiling faces and gratitude shown by those they’d visited flooded her heart, and Betsy felt the time spent with Grandmother Graham had opened doors wide, welcoming a fresh awareness of a rich life outside Betsy’s limited world.
Her cell phone had been abandoned and forgotten. It was a surprise to discover she hadn’t missed the wasted hours spent doing nothing with the phone attached to her hand like an appendage she couldn’t leave alone.
Thoughts of her parents marched in and out of her mind, not like soldiers warring, but simply as a line of little black ants moving purposefully through her life, yet without threat. Betsy saw clearly how the problems in their marriage were not her fault nor were they hers to fix. Accepting that truth removed fear from one shoulder and guilt from the other.
Just as her grandmother had done, Betsy vowed to grow up strong and independent and make life good for herself and for those around her. The self absorbed life she’d been immersing in would fall from her sight.
Exhaustion lay over her like a blanket. She closed her eyes and tried not to cry.
“Wake up sleepy head! You haven’t got all day!” Her grandmother stood over her scornfully. “You’ve packing to do and your tea is getting cold.”
With that, her grandmother once again, did an about face and hurried out of Betsy’s father’s childhood bedroom, door gaping wide open.
Betsy smiled. It was quite possible she would not miss her grandmother’s way of saying good morning.
Teeth brushed, clothes on, hair in a pony tail, Betsy bound down the stairs to the kitchen. On the table in the nook were the customary two cups of tea and a not seen before shoe box.
Betsy sat down to her tea while her grandmother finished dusting what looked to be French toast with confectioners’ sugar. She set two plates on the table then got hot syrup off the stove and poured it into a tiny pitcher.
“There,” she smiled at her granddaughter. “I’ve saved the best for last.” She watched expectantly while Betsy poured hot syrup over thick golden toast then used her fork to cut off the first bite. Betsy savored the richness of egg, cream, and cinnamon. Taking a second bite, her eye’s lit up in surprise.
“Yes, stuffed French Toast.” Her grandmother smiled. “Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Oh Grandma, this is the best yet!” Betsy took a huge bite making sure it had all the ingredients in one bite; toast, sugar, syrup, and peach filling.
“The absolute best!”
Her grandmother beamed.
“I knew you’d think so,” she looked at her folded hands on the table for a moment, then at Betsy.
“I’ve made you a box of tools to take with you, so you won’t forget and you won’t quit.” She pushed the box towards her granddaughter.
“Have a look.”
Betsy lifted the lid and peered into the shoe box. The first thing she saw was packets of yeast. Then cards containing the recipes she and her grandmother had been using over the last ten days. Betsy smiled as she flipped through them then saw the pastry knife, a pastry blender and bags. There was an assortment of brushes and a box of toothpicks. And there was a card.
Betsy fought back tears as she opened the card from her grandmother and read the words written in small scratchy letters. Her grandmother loved her. That was all she needed to know.
There were no words to fill in the space. They finished their breakfast, sipping tea and gazing out the window. They cleaned the kitchen together then Betsy went up the stairs to zip the last few items into her suitcase.
The metal hangers swung freely in her father’s closet once again. The little bed was neatly made up and her clothes were gone from the dresser drawer. Betsy looked at the cork board, decided on five photos to take, and removed them, tucking them into a pocket in her backpack. She’d charged up her cell phone in the night and she checked to see that it was back on.
The doorbell rang.
Down stairs her father stood in the foyer as a stranger would. His smile was insincere as he thanked his mother for keeping Betsy, saying how he hoped she’d been no trouble.
He appeared to be in a hurry to leave, even agitated.
“I’ll meet you in the car Daddy,” Betsy heard herself say by way of dismissal. His face showed surprise yet he nodded toward his mother and left the house, closing the door quietly behind him.
Betsy embraced her grandmother and although it took a moment, the old woman softened and hugged her back, at first gently, then fiercely.
Stepping back Betsy and her grandmother shared an honest smile.
“Thank you, Grandma,” was all Betsy could say.
“It was my pleasure,” her grandmother responded.
Betsy lifted her bag and opened the front door. Looking back, she asked, “Grandma, do you know how old I am?”
Grandmother Graham frowned. “I don’t think you ever told me.”
“Well,” Betsy smiled, “I’m twelve year old in two months. “That means I’ll be old enough to take the bus by myself. Can I come and see you sometime?”
“What do you think?” the old woman grinned as she watched Betsy walk down the steps and down the narrow walk way to the curb where her father waited with the car running. “What do you think, girl?” she hollered.
Betsy smiled and waved as she shoved her bag in the back seat then went around to the passenger side of the car. She opened the door, took one last look at her grandmother, and threw her a kiss.
As they drove away she smelled yeast, sugar, cinnamon, butter, nuts, raisins and currents and orange zest and lemon zest and curry. She smelled spices and spices and spices, as they wound down the road, away from her grandmother’s kitchen.
Sighing, Betsy wondered where the kitchen would be that she’d be baking in next.