The sun was shining brightly, but the day might as well have been gloomy. I sat on the porch steps with my chin in my hand, watching leaves scurry across the grass. No one would help me! Not Jeff, who hurried off to a part-time job after school. Not Mom and Dad, who were busy in the house. Not anyone! Then I saw Grandma riding her bike up the lane. “Hi, Grandma!” I jumped up and ran to meet her.
She grinned and waved. “Hi, Sheri!” she called. “What are you doing, honey?”
“Nothing!” I replied bitterly.
She got off her bike and kissed me. “What would you like to do?”
“Learn how to catch a ball, Grandma. The kids at school can all catch a ball, and all I do is drop it!”
“You’re an expert cookie maker,” she said, taking my hand and walking toward the house.
I shook my head, frowning. “You make the cookies—I just put the icing on.”
“We’re partners. I do one part, and you do the other. Right?”
I nodded. “Right! But, Grandma, cookies don’t have anything to do with catching a ball.”
She stopped and looked hard at me. “You’re absolutely right! OK, partner, let’s do something about it.”
When Grandma makes up her mind to do something, it’s almost done!
“Ellen?” Grandma called. “Yoo-hoo!”
“In here, Mother,” Mom answered from the kitchen.
They kissed each other; then Grandma took two pieces of cucumber from the salad bowl and handed one to me. “Is there a ball and mitt around here?” she asked.
“Probably in the cellar,” Mom replied. “Why?”
“Sheri is going to learn how to catch,” Grandma said.
Mom grinned as Grandma and I, armed with the ball and baseball glove, headed for the fields.
“OK,” Grandma said, “concentrate on where I’m throwing the ball. Catch it in your glove, and cover it with your other hand so that it doesn’t fall out.”
She swung her arm back and brought it forward slowly. The ball swooped through the air toward me. I stuck out my arm with the mitt on my hand and closed my eyes. When I opened them, the ball was lying on the ground, the same as it always did at recess. “I’ll never learn!” I moaned.
Grandma laughed. “Everyone closes his eyes in the beginning. Now you have to learn to keep them open and watch the ball. It can’t hit you if you’re watching it and catch it.”
I tried again. When I saw the ball coming, I started to close my eyes, then remembered what Grandma had said. I grimaced (in case it did hit me), but I watched it through my squinted eyes. Suddenly it landed right in the pocket of my glove! I jumped up and down and shouted, “I did it! I did it!”
“Of course you did! All you need is practice.”
“Will you practice with me, Grandma?”
“As long as the weather’s good, we’ll practice every day, partner,” she promised.
“Where’d you learn to catch?” I asked later, when we started home.
“My brothers and I were so close in age, that I had to learn!” Grandma chuckled. “Before long I could throw straighter and farther than any of my brothers. And I could catch any ball that they threw—without a mitt!”
“You didn’t have a mitt?”
“I always wanted one, but I never did get one,” she replied a bit wistfully.
We kept on practicing, and I got to be pretty good. Then one morning when I woke up, there was snow on the ground. Soon I saw Grandma coming along the lane, pulling a sled! I giggled and tapped on the window. She waved, motioning for me to come outside.
“Mom, Grandma wants me to go out and play. Is it OK?”
“Of course, Sheri, but bundle up. If I know your grandmother, she’s off to the big hill to go sledding.” Mom waved out the window to Grandma.
Grandma and I snuggled on her long sled as it sailed down toward the pines. We zoomed around them, jetted through the opening in the fence, and sped on toward the meadow. We bumped over a rut, dodged a stump, and finally slowed to a stop not too far from the stream. The icy water gurgled past snowcapped stones, and Grandma pointed silently upstream. A deer stood beside the water, staring at us quietly. Then it turned and bounded into a thicket. Our long walk back up the hill began. As we walked, we talked.
“Are you excited about Christmas?” Grandma asked.
“So am I, partner,” she said happily. “I’m counting on you to help me bake cookies again, you know,” she added quickly.
I grinned. It was fun being partners with Grandma.
Mom let me go Christmas shopping alone that year. I bought Jeff a book, Mom a scarf, and Dad gloves. They were easy to shop for. But Grandma … Well, it seemed like Grandma had everything! I walked around the mall, looking at everything, but nothing seemed to be right. I wanted something special for Grandma.
Then I found it! When I got home and showed everyone my gift for Grandma, Jeff laughed, Mom shook her head and smiled, and Dad just nodded. As I wrapped it, I began to worry. Would Grandma really like it?
I sat at the window and looked toward Grandma’s house. I could imagine her sitting by her fire, rocking and peeling apples for a pie. She would be singing, and her cat would be purring. Yes, I thought as I finished wrapping her gift, Grandma will like it.
On Christmas Eve we all sat around Grandma’s cozy fire. Christmas lights sparkled on the tree and in the windows, and her house smelled like cinnamon and pinecones. As I handed Grandma her gift, my heart pounded wildly. Please like it, I pleaded silently.
Grandma slid a finger under the tape and removed the wrapping without saying a word. When she opened the lid, her mouth fell open. Then she hugged me fiercely, and I knew that it was fine.
Later, when the others were in the kitchen, Grandma and I sat quietly watching the fire together. She slid an arm around me and pulled me closer and said, “Your gift was the best of all, honey.” Then she lifted her other arm and gazed at the mitt still on her hand. “It’s what I’ve always wanted. Thank you.”