Goose and the dogs were waiting near the shed when I pulled in the driveway. He opened the overhead door and motioned me inside.
“Looks like your car could use a good thawing out” he said. “Looks like you could too.”
Goose reached out to hug me tightly. As he holds me, I felt all of the holiday anticipation and driving tensions just melt away. I’m here now and I can just enjoy every experience that comes. To begin with, Goose is a very good kisser. Soft tender kisses that make me reach up on my tip toes for more.
Always the voice of reason, Goose quipped, “If we keep that up, we’ll never make it to dinner. Let’s go inside.”
Goose helped me carry in my bags, and then he noticed the present with his name on it.
“What’s this?” He asked. “ I thought we were giving each other a trip after the holidays. I didn’t get you anything.”
“I saw this when I was shopping for my big boys and thought you’d like it.” I reassured him, “Really, it’s nothing to worry about.”
Then I brought his face to a smile when I handed him the three packages of carmel rolls. “They aren’t all for you, you’ll have to share them with your sons,” I scolded.
As Goose changed clothes, I prepared a cheese tray to take with us to his son’s house this evening. I began searching in the kitchen cupboards for a serving tray. I wondered how many times his wife had filled this same tray with goodies or treats for one family gathering or another. Every time I’m working in this kitchen, I think of her. The house is filled with her presence. Even the plants from the funeral are growing in the livingroom. They still have the little card picks poked into the dirt indicating who’d sent them. I didn’t mind though. I don’t want to take her place. What I’d like is to find my own place in Goose’s heart. I kept slicing and arranging cheeses and meats until the tray was full. I gathered the cracker assortment from the pantry and covered the platter with plastic wrap to hold it together while we drove to his son’s.
As we pulled up to his son’s house, I thanked Goose for inviting me to share Christmas Eve with his family. He said I should wait to thank him ‘after the craziness.’ I squeezed his hand and gave him a little kiss. Let the festivities begin! And begin they did, just as soon as the door opened there were grandchildren everywhere that wanted hugs from grandpa. I stood next to him taking it all in. Then the brown-haired granddaughter came to give me a look over. I smiled and told her Merry Christmas. She ran away as if I’d said BOO! From the other room, I heard her giving the others a full report. The blond-haired granddaughter then walked softly up to grandpa, er, Goose. She reached her arms up toward him for a hug. She kept her eyes on me during the whole hug. I smiled, but this time didn’t speak. She walked away calmly, also giving a full report to whoever remained in the playroom. The bigger boys came out to give their greetings. Two of them remembered me and said hi. They asked where my son was. I explained that he’d be with me tomorrow. They seemed satisfied with that answer and took the cheese tray into the kitchen. Goose took my coat and lead me into the kitchen to meet the one daughter in law I hadn’t met yet. She was busy cooking but stopped for a moment to say hi and accept the carmel rolls that Goose was willing to part with.
We found a place on the couch in the livingroom. Slowly the kids began coming in to play with grandpa Goose and to tell him what they hoped Santa would bring. There was a minor quibble over who was going to change the diaper of the youngest granddaughter. Goose balked. Seriously balked. “I don’t do diapers. And I’m not starting now.” A grandpa’s purrogative I guess. The announcement was made that Goose should come and carve the ham. I was left to my own devices in the livingroom. Once alone, a new inquisition began. This one far more cleaver than the one I’d passed with the Aunts a couple of weeks ago. The dark-haired granddaughter had a very calculated way of getting her information from me. She was cute as button! I’d have told her anything.
She got right to the point. “Are you grandpa’s girlfriend?”
I answered with a gentle sincerity, “yes I am.”
She followed up with a major move, she climbed up on my lap with the roux of asking me to read her a book. We read the book. And down she climbed and went into the kitchen. She had a few questions for Goose. After going through the buffet line and choosing a plate heaping full of wonderful things, Goose and I found two empty places. We sat with the granddaughters during dinner. We had lively dinner conversation too. Once we got finished with the ‘try just one bite’ routine, the blond-haired granddaughter turned to Goose and said,
“Grandma’s in heaven with Elvis, isn’t she grandpa?”
(That was a question I hadn’t heard before) Goose responded with a blush and a chuckle, “yes, she is.”
Goose left the table to get another serving of something wonderfully decadent, and that’s when the dark-haired granddaughter made her move on grandma’s behalf.
“You’d better not kiss my grandpa, or grandma will be mad at you,” she warned “and so will I!”
(I was already in BIG trouble with this one.)
It was after dinner though when I knew everything would be just fine. I was sitting on the couch by myself and the youngest granddaughter came walking up to me with her book and her pacifier. She climbed up on my lap, handed me the book and called me ‘Grandma.” I gave her a little hug and a kiss on the top of her head, and we read every word of her book. We didn’t skip even one.