Picture it: a quiet California neighborhood, just over a decade ago, where a quaint white house sits contently to itself. The grass is a vibrant green with leafy bushes and bold pink wildflowers adorning the walls where it meets the terrain. In the front of the lawn sits an old mailbox, and next to it, a tall lamppost atop a brick cube. When you go inside after climbing the few cement steps to the door, you’re greeted with the soft smell of incense, and an aroma of butterscotch and orange marmalade from the kitchen. The warmth of the house and its owner encase your entire being with a tender feeling of home.
Just outside, in the backyard, is where the most untamed dog takes residence. Sometimes, you can even see a peacock pop up onto the fence, its iridescent feathers of cobalt blue and various hues of green flutter as he hops back to the farm just beyond those wooden posts. The TV’s on, and sitting plump on the couch is an ageless woman whose warm smile greets you with the utmost love and passion. Her snow white hair is wildly placed in a bun, and her wrinkly soft hands, grab hold of mine as I sit next to her. She hands me the remote and lets me put my own show on the TV, where she enthusiastically watches the animated characters through their journey. This was the house I used to live in long ago, and that woman was my great grandmother.
I remember one morning when my great grandmother came to my room and asked me if I still had the new box of beads I had bought some time before. I smiled at her and told her I did, since for so long I was trying to figure out what to do with the colorful assortment of plastic pieces. I sprang up and grabbed them, eagerly handing them over, curious to see what activity she had in mind. She waited in the hallway, and when I gave her the box, she sat down, patting the chestnut carpet beside her for me to join. I plopped down and watched as she pulled out a spool of string. For the next hour I sat there with her, handing her beads one by one, while she strung them all together and made a number of bright bead necklaces. We laughed, smiled and remained intent on stringing every bead until we realized the box was empty. When we were all done, me in all my youthful enthusiasm, revered at her like she had given me the greatest gift. No one had ever sat down and created something both so simple and remarkable with me, and though it was sporadic, it was worth every minute. From then on, I would walk around handing out all of the necklaces to my entire family, wishing to spread my happiness and the joy of being loved by someone great to the whole world.
As I grew older and moved on with my life to new houses and parts of the city, my love for my great grandmother only increased. Then, very slowly did my family and I begin to see the signs of old age wearing down her mental state. She couldn’t remember much, and it was hard to suddenly look into her eyes and feel lost, wanting to know where her mind kept her beautiful memories hidden.
Even when I thought hope was lost, and that I had given the world happiness but forgot to remember my own, I found one last necklace. With that necklace I remember. I remember the food, the laughs, her humor, her enthusiasm, her bravery and her love. When she lay there the night before she left us, I held onto her hand. She couldn’t say my name, or tell me I would be okay without her. I looked down at the hands that had remained the same way they always had: soft, wrinkly and warm. When I nearly slipped away, her grip tightened around mine and I was at a loss for words. I realized that I wasn’t ever going to forget her and, that even with her gone, I will always remember her in my heart and when I write, draw, or speak, she will be helping me find the words. So now, even when I think my memories have disappeared or that hope is lost, I find that one, last necklace, and I remember who she is, and who I strive to be, and then I remember: I can never forget.
-Kiran Bains Sahota