Josie planted the soles of her bare feet on the worn-smooth wood of her grandfather’s porch and pushed back. The porch swing creaked into motion, and she lifted her feet straight out to gain momentum. Her momma hated to swing high, hated the feeling of motion out of her control. But Josie loved it. She closed her eyes and quickly pulled her feet beneath her, tipping her head back and giving in to the sway as thin wisps broke loose from her ponytail and tickled her cheeks.
She breathed deep and caught the scent of chocolate chip cookies sneaking out through the front door screen. The sweetness mingled strangely with the day’s freshly cut grass, but it was all familiar. It smelled like home.
“Baby, whatcha doin’ out there?” Her grandmother stood at the front door, sending the query softly through the screen.
“Just enjoying this beautiful night, Gran,” said Josie, and then in a whisper, “I don’t want to leave.”
The screen gave a slight screech as it opened, more insistent than the creak of the swing but quickly curtailing as the wooden door met its frame with a thud. Josie’s grandmother crossed the length of the dark porch and took a seat, assuming swing duties in her graceful, comforting way. Never one to smother, her grandmother took Josie’s hand rather than putting an arm around her.
“You know, it seems to me that I remember a little girl who couldn’t wait to leave this place not all too long ago.”
Josie leaned into the older woman, resting her head on her shoulder.
“I’ve always loved it here,” countered Josie quietly, and she gave her grandmother’s hand three gentle squeezes. It was their code, each squeeze an unspoken word. I. Love. You.
“I love you too, sweet pea, but I wasn’t talking about you. Your mother was the one who high-tailed it out of here as quick as she could. She soon found that there’s a funny thing about leaving the nest before you’re ready. You always ache to go back. And you can’t ever get it out of your chest, that ache. Not ever.”
Fireflies blinked in agreement across the stretch of field surrounding them, and Josie tried to count as many as she could before her grandmother spoke again. It was a favorite pastime when she was little, but even then, she knew an accurate count was impossible. There was no way to tell one from the other when the bugs went dark and then suddenly illuminated again in a completely different spot.
“Josephine, I want you to hear me. You have to go home, and you have to do it with an open heart and the intention of making it as right as you can. I know it doesn’t feel like enough sometimes. I know your momma isn’t what you need all the time. Oh, how I know. She and I have had our moments, but I believe in my bones that she’s doing her best. She needs you, too, Josie. You have unfinished business that can only be sewn up if you’re there and willing to work together instead of against one another. You’re strong, my sweet, beautiful girl, but it isn’t time to grow up quite yet.”
Josie burrowed determinedly against her grandmother and nodded against her arm.
“I’ll go, Gran. I will. But can I stay a few more days?”
“‘Course you can, sweet pea. You and Jake will always have a place to rest your heads here. That’s what family’s for.”
Categories: Work in Progress