Grandmother’s House

by Janet Sheffield

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    Erin’s grandmother lived in the country in an old-fashioned house. When Erin spent the night there, her bed was covered with fluffy fat quilts, and she could look out the window at millions of tiny twinkling stars. A big grandfather clock always ticked off the minutes and bonged out the hours.

    In the mornings Grandma made warm slices of bread all buttered and sprinkled with sugar for Erin. Then Grandma always hugged her and said, “Bless your heart.”

    One morning Erin’s mother told her that Grandma was going to move.

    “Move!” Erin said, not understanding how Grandma could do that.

    “Yes. She’s moving to an apartment in the city,” Mother explained. “Won’t that be nice?”

    Erin didn’t say anything. She didn’t think it was nice at all. She was sure an apartment would not have hiding places under the stairs or a big pantry full of fruit smells or a table that could open up so big that twenty people could sit around it or a dark mysterious broom closet.

    Erin went to her room to think, and the more she thought about it, the more she didn’t want Grandma to move.

    A few days later Erin’s mother said, “We’re going to Grandma’s for dinner. You can wear your new dress.”

    Erin didn’t want to wear her new dress. She wanted to wear the old faded jeans she always wore to Grandma’s so she could ride on the rocking horse in Grandma’s basement. She wanted everything to be just as it always had been.

    Erin was unhappy all morning. When she climbed into the car and her father headed in the opposite direction to Grandma’s farm, Erin could hardly hold back the tears. She was afraid Grandma would be as different as her new house.

    Father drove the car through the big city and stopped in front of a tall building and parked his car. When Erin got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk, she looked up. The tops of the buildings were hidden in the clouds. Looking up made her dizzy.

    When they went inside the big building, Father pressed a button on the wall and suddenly Erin heard Grandma’s voice coming out of a little box.

    “Hello,” she said.

    Father answered by telling Grandma they had arrived.

    “Come right up,” Grandma’s voice replied.

    Erin and Mother and Father stepped into an elevator that went so fast Erin’s stomach felt quivery. The elevator stopped on the twenty-ninth floor. They stepped out onto a carpet so thick that Erin’s feet didn’t make any noise at all as they walked down a long hall.

    Erin’s father pushed a button by the door. When Grandma opened the door, she hugged Erin, pulled her inside, and showed her all around the apartment.

    “It’s very nice, Grandma,” Erin said politely. But she felt lost and sad. Nothing was the same as it used to be.

    Suddenly there was a loud buzz and Grandma said, “When people are downstairs, I can talk to them from way up here. Do you want me to show you?”

    She brought a stool for Erin to stand on and showed her how to press the button to talk. A delivery man downstairs had some flowers for Grandma. When he got off the elevator on the twenty-ninth floor, Erin looked at him through a little peephole in Grandma’s door.

    “You can see out,” Grandma explained, “but he can’t see in.”

    Erin liked the mysterious hole in the door until she thought about Grandma’s door in the country with its stiff scratchy lace curtains and a big china knob. Erin missed that door.

    Soon Grandma said it was time to wash for dinner. Erin went into the bathroom and switched on the light. It was the brightest light she had ever seen and it seemed to warm the whole room.

    I’d like to take a bath and then stand under that light, Erin thought. It would make me feel good.

    After dinner Grandma said, “Now you must let Erin stay with me tonight. I have everything ready for her in the extra bedroom.”

    After Erin’s parents left, she watched television for a while, answered the door buzzer twice, and helped Grandma put the dishes in the dishwasher. Then Erin lay on Grandma’s soft deep living room rug and listened to the chrrg-ssh, chrrg-ssh of the dishwasher. Grandma sat in her same old rocker and knitted.

    Before long Grandma said it was time to go to bed. She filled the bathtub full of warm water and put in some sweet-smelling bath salts. The warm light felt good as Erin got ready to take a bath and even better afterward as she stood under it and dried herself with a big fluffy towel.

    Erin was happy when she went into Grandma’s extra bedroom. There was the same old bed from Grandma’s other house, with creaking springs and the same big fluffy fat quilts on top. She crawled under the covers and snuggled down in the familiar bed. Through the window Erin could see thousands of tiny twinkling stars in the sky.

    Soon the door opened and Grandma came in. She leaned over the bed and gave Erin a big hug.

    Erin heard the grandfather clock bong nine times, and when Grandma kissed her goodnight and said, “Bless your heart,” Erin knew her Grandma was just the same as she had always been.

    Illustrated by Dorothy Wagstaff