7 01 2010

Writing about my memories of cocoa and quiet evenings where I was allowed to dream and pretend I was an adult sipping coffee just like my parents brought other memories to the surface…

As a child, my mother’s kidney illness and subsequent weakness meant that we spent a lot of time with our maternal grandparents because our mother was too weak and too tired to care for two energetic children. She spent many days lying in bed because she was too weak to get up…and on those days, we were bundled up and dropped off at our grandmother’s home in Edina, MN. She had a beautiful home complete with a child’s guestroom where her many grandchildren could stay when they visited…it was filled with toys and I remember running in their as a child, picking up a plastic tea set and pretending to have a tea party in the back garden, surrounded by dolls and flowers. I loved to pour water in the little red plastic teapot (the one that had flowers on the side) and pour it daintily into the tiny cups that were arranged before my odd assortment of dolls and stuffed bears. I could spend many days basking in the sunshine and pretending to host lavish parties with sugar cookies and water…those were idyllic moments.

On special occasions, my grandmother would allow me to fill the teapot with pink Kool Aid rather than plain water…those days felt amazing and special as I poured something special in those tiny cups. I felt ladylike and genteel, like I was having tea at the Ritz…

On one occasion, my grandmother was nowhere to be found but she had promised that I could use Kool Aid instead of water. I was six years old and impatient to begin my tea party with the promised Kool Aid…so I went to the kitchen and tried to lift the jug from the refrigerator’s lowest shelf. I was exhilarated when I poured a fine pink stream of Kool Aid from the big jug into my tiny tea pot without any spills; I felt like a grownup and wondered why everyone else thought I was too small to get my own drinks…and then I tried to put it away.

I lifted the jug into the refrigerator but somehow it tipped and there was a pink waterfall splashing all over my feet, ankles and lower legs. I watched it pooling in the bottom of the refrigerator and then washing in a pink tide along the pristine white kitchen floor. My heart thudded and I stopped breathing…for that is when Ann walked back into the room.

All hell broke loose as she screamed at me for my impatience, my disrespect, my ruining her clean kitchen floor. I looked up at her, still holding the almost empty jug, too scared and ashamed to move. It was slow motion as she raised her hand (her finely manicured hand with gaudy costume jewelry rings) and I saw the light glinting off those colored stones in the multitude of rings she wore on her slender fingers. Time sped up as her hand came down towards me, striking me across the face and snapping my head over and back. I felt the sting of her hand, the cutting edges of her rings and the shock of being hit course through me as I burst into tears and ran from the room, tracking pink footprints as I went.

I never told anyone about that encounter with Ann, but I stopped looking at her as my lovable grandmother. I lost respect and love for her in that one instant where her hand struck the face of a six year old child…but I never told anyone about it.

That was the last time I had a tea party…and the taste of Kool Aid has a bitter aftertaste for me even after all these years.




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