Amazing Kids! Magazine

Estelle

By Bella Grasso, age 16, California

 

“Not so hard sweetie!” Estelle cranes her neck as her granddaughter tries to bring the small plastic brush through her long, thinning, gray hair.

“Sorry, grandma,” Marie responds softly and instantly eases up on the brushing.

“Hey it’s ok honey, grandma just isn’t as strong as she used to be. Lots of things hurt more than they once did.” Estelle relaxes in the wooden rocking chair and thinks about her younger days. She used to be so accustomed to her mother’s harsh brushing that nothing could pain her once beach-blonde scalp. She would squirm on her pink flowered bedsheets as her mother quickly brought the brush through her tangled curls.
“Ellie hold still!” she would say, clearly annoyed. Young Estelle knew that her mother was late for work but she stalled until the very last second. Anything to keep her attention on her. She remembers wrapping her skinny legs around her mother’s strong ones and her mother trying to kick her off onto her pale pink carpet. Estelle smiles longingly in the creaking rocking chair and her eyes crinkle along the corner creases.

“I think that’s enough, for now, Marie darling. Thank you.”

“Oh, ok grandma.” She puts the brush on the bedside table and kisses her grandmother on her sagging cheek.

“Go play my dear,” Estelle says happily although Marie is already running out the door to join her older brother. The elderly woman painfully pulls herself out of the chair and ambles to the kitchen window. Marie and Ethan are throwing a tiny football back and forth on the lawn that desperately needs to be watered. Estelle doesn’t have the strength to ask her grandchildren to do it so she lets it remain withered and brown.

Estelle Grainger is nearing 80 years old but will never admit it. She avoids all mirrors, never talks about her age and refuses to let anyone other than her grandchildren see how frail she really is. She is in a constant state of terror as the clock of life ticks in her ear. Being four and six, Marie and Ethan assume that their grandmother and only guardian will accompany them for the rest of their lives. Estelle can feel life slowly being pulled away from her grasp but she will not let go. She is all her grandchildren have for a parent and she can’t imagine them anywhere other than with her. Because of that, she will keep pushing day after day, no matter how painful the process is for her. She may not have much physical strength left, but her spirit is strong, and cannot be taken away from her.

The light is calling to her. She knows that voice, she’s heard it a thousand times before. She longs for it. It seems closer this time. She must go to it. She attempts to reach out but something is holding her back. Two somethings to be exact. Is that music she hears? Those voices are different. Younger.

“Happy birthday dear grandmaaaa!” Estelle laboriously blinks her eyes open and lets the dream slip away. “Happy birthday to you!” Her eyes crinkle as she smiles once again, seeing her two grandchildren holding the most misshapen chocolate cake she has ever seen. Fully waking up and realizing what day it is, her smile falls as quickly as it appeared.

“Don’t you like your cake? I told you it was ugly Marie! You ruined it!” Ethan’s little face scrunches up as he shoves the cake onto the bedside table and Estelle’s heart breaks into a thousand painful shards. She puts on a brave face and tries to save herself.

“No no, my little angels this is perfect! You two make me so happy.” She then pulls them into her chest so they don’t see the tear zig-zagging down her cheek. It settles on her chin for a brief moment, then splashes onto the wood of her bedroom floor, growing an inch a second. Estelle watches the now puddle slither across the floor until it reaches the corner of the room. It begins stacking itself on top of itself, forming a tower of tears against the wall, growing and growing until it reaches the ceiling. It stops moving as if it needs to regain its strength for the journey it’s about to make. After a moment or two, it lifts itself off of the ground and begins snaking across the ceiling, forcing Estelle to lean back to watch it encompass the square of ceiling right above her head. It then freezes again. Estelle watches her withered expression in the river of tears above her head and begins to focus on her pained eyes as the body of water falls on her. All goes black. Or maybe white. It all looks the same as the tears surround her.

Estelle feels light, soft sheets instead of her heavy, thermal ones she needs to keep warm. She rolls onto her side and feels no pain in her lower back that usually comes with that motion. Her mind is at ease as she awakens from whatever stupor she is rising out of. She looks around and is shocked to feel no neck pain. She twists her back and doesn’t feel the familiar painful crack. She effortlessly leaps out of bed and scans her surroundings. A bed with pink flowered bed sheets greets her along with a fuzzy pale-pink carpet and peach colored walls. Estelle gasps, instantly recognizing the room. She opens the closet door to look at herself in the mirror and is disappointed to see her elderly self-staring back although something is different in Estelle. Although her appearance is the same, she seems more youthful and light. She takes a step closer to her reflection to get a good look at her face, though her eyesight is better than it has been in thirty years, and can’t find the pain in her eyes. She looks happy. Estelle is staring at herself in the mirror and sees the same reflection she always has, but can’t recognize it. She shuts the closet door too forcefully and it slams with a loud bang. She is astounded with her strength, as she can usually barely crack her bedroom door enough for her to slip out of.

“Elle come here I need to talk to you!” Estelle hasn’t been called Elle or Ellie since she was a kid. Who could possibly be calling her that now? She moves excitedly toward the voice that familiarly called her. At that moment a blond, laughing, little girl goes zooming past her toward the voice. Estelle is frozen in her tracks. She feels her muscles tense, but not in fear. More like confusion. Immense confusion. In front of her is a six-year-old version of Estelle Grainger. And in front of the little girl is Gertrude Grainger, her grandmother. Estelle collapses into the kitchen chair behind her, unable to move, but eager to find out what brought her here and why.

“Sweetheart come here.” The girl approaches her grandmother and gets lifted into her arms. Estelle is shocked that a woman of her grandmother’s age is still able to do that. She sits back and thinks about Gertrude for the first time in years. She was truly an amazing woman. Even at an old age, she was always moving around, doing whatever she could for Estelle. She was her best friend until she moved out for college. Estelle wishes she could be that for Ethan and Marie but she can barely move anymore and can’t even imagine where Gertrude’s mentality came from. How did she do it?

“You need to stop pestering your mother, silly girl,” the grandmother says, knocking Estelle back into reality, or whatever this is.

“I’m not grandma!”

“You know full well you are Ellie. She’s a very busy woman and can’t always play with you.” The girl rolls her eyes.

“I know that grandma. I just want her to spend some time with me.”
“I know angel but she’s a very serious and accomplished woman and doesn’t really like playing. Why can’t you play with me? Am I too old for you?” Gertrude says teasingly. The little girl sighs and lays her small, delicate head on the sturdy shoulder of her grandma.

“I know baby, I know. It’s hard but don’t worry, your mother loves you very much and she’s very proud of how you’re growing up. Trust me, love, someday you’ll understand.” The child seems satisfied and throws her tiny arms around the neck of her grandmother who responds by spinning the girl around in her arms. Estelle is amazed. How? How does she have the strength? Gertrude puts down the little girl who runs outside to play by in the leaves with the other neighborhood kids.

“Now onto you missy,” Gertrude says and looks at Estelle. Estelle shockingly puts a wrinkled finger up to herself to ask ‘me?’ Gertrude lets out a strong laugh, a laugh that instantly puts Estelle at ease.

“Yes you, you old thing, come here. Just because we’re both old ladies doesn’t mean I’m not still your grandmother.” Estelle smiles widely and eagerly approaches her.

“How are you- What are you-”

“Hush dear. All you need to do now is listen. Are you enjoying your strength?”
“Oh yes! I wish you could feel it! It feels like-” Estelle gets cut off by her grandmother’s strong laughter.

“I do feel it, love! That’s how it feels to be a grandmother!” Estelle stares at her puzzlingly.

“But I’m a grandmother and I haven’t felt this good in thirty years!”
“Ah yes, those lovely little ones at home waiting for you. They truly are little bundles of sunshine.” Estelle sits back into the kitchen chair and lets out a sigh.

“They deserve better. And soon they will have nothing.” Gertrude pulls Estelle up out of the chair and looks at her disappointingly.”

“Those children love you to death. You just need to relax and make the most of the time you have with them which is a lot longer than you think. You will see that once you let go of your worry, you will feel as good as you do now every day. Maybe even better.” Estelle looks at her grandmother doubtfully.

“But how do I not worry? I’m all they have left!” Gertrude puts her wrinkled hand onto Estelle’s even more wrinkled cheek.

“They are happy Estelle. Whether you are going to be with them for a day longer, or twenty years longer, they are going to be smiling by your side. It’s up to you to be smiling by theirs.” Estelle softens.

“I wish I had your strength.”

“And you can! You just have to relax. Let go of your worry. Smile.”

“Grandma, grandma come play with me!” The sweet voice of a young girl breaks through the air.

“Duty calls!” Gertrude says smiling.

“You will do it.” She firmly pats her old granddaughter’s shoulder and jogs outside to join the little girl. Estelle feels terrible. She wants to be for Ethan and Marie what Gertrude was for her. She hears laughter coming from the window and approaches it. Outside she sees Gertrude playing frisbee with her young self. Estelle had forgotten how active her grandmother had been, even at her age. She longs to be that way for her grandchildren. She needs it. Can it be as simple as letting go of worry? She must try for her grandchildren. They deserve everything she got from her grandmother as a child. Watching her grandmother play with her young self and thinking about her own bundles of joy, wishing she could give to them what they deserve, a tear zig-zags down her wrinkled cheek. This time she closes her eyes and lets the river of tears take her without a second thought.

“Are you crying, grandma? What’s the matter?” The voice of a young boy is like music to Estelle’s ears. She feels the bodies of her two grandchildren pressed against her.

“Happy tears my love! I get to spend another year with my two favorite angels in the whole world!” Estelle can’t contain her happiness. Her body feels light and her spirit is lifted. She presses the two bodies closer into her chest.

“Grandma you’re squishing us!” Marie says laughing. Estelle releases.

“I’m your favorite though, right grandma?” Ethan retorts.

“What’s wrong with having two favorites?” Estelle says tickling the two children. They shriek and jump off of the bed away from their giggling grandma. “I’m going to get you!” Estelle says bounding off of the bed after her grandkids. She can’t believe how young she feels. Her feet glide across the floor as if she were wearing socks. The children laugh and sprint out the front door, little feet flying. As Estelle is about to leap out the door after them, something makes her stop in her tracks. For a moment out of the corner of her eye, she thinks she sees the shadow of Gertrude in the rocking chair. The wooden chair is slowly swinging back and forth in a rhythm that reminds Estelle of a heartbeat. She smiles wistfully and races out the door to join the two children wrestling outside.