Ellen watched the plane glinting in the sunlight across a wide and clear summer blue sky. She was laying on her back in her grandmother’s yard on an old plaid blanket she found on the back porch. Ellen squinted as the plane moved through the sky and away from her. She imagined all those people on board, maybe a mother taking the kids on vacation, perhaps a business man meeting his mistress for a weekend tryst, maybe a college kid wide-eyed and optimistic about the future. She rolled onto her right side and looked back at her grandmother’s house.
Grandma Jones had passed away nearly a month ago and had left the house to Ellen. Ellen wasn’t sure what she was going to do with this little brick and wood bungalow her grandmother had lived in for nearly 48 years. Ellen had lived there herself for the last ten. She had been through a pretty bitter divorce and didn’t have anywhere else to turn. Grandma Jones immediately offered her a place to stay. Ellen’s own mother couldn’t be bothered it seemed, what with her life at the gallery and the newest young lothario to entertain.
The house was a place of contentment for Ellen. It was where, as a small child, she first went for a swim in a little plastic pool. It was where her First Communion party was held. It was where her Grandfather taught her how to garden. She had her first kiss near the back yard fence with Robert Kowalski. It was where she got high for the first time and her grandfather just stared and laughed at her. It was always the safest place in her life and memory.
Grandma Jones had lived nearly another lifetime by herself after Grandpa Jones had a heart attack and died, far too young. Ellen’s own mother was inconsolable, but Grandma Jones just accepted it, mourned and then moved on with the business of life. She knew she had been lucky to have had love with a wonderful man and cherished every moment. Ellen’s mother never got over it and seemed to go through her life trying to find another man just like Grandpa Jones but she never realized that they don’t make men like him anymore. So it was divorce and marriage and divorce and marriage and divorce all of Ellen’s life.
Ellen felt the warm sun on her exposed arms, legs and on her face. She sat up and reached for the bottle of water she had brought out with her and took a long cool sip. Grandma Jones wouldn’t go outside in the summer without a cool glass of water or lemonade within arm’s reach. She had been thirsty as a little girl and seemed to always worry, in the back of her mind that the dust bowl would happen again and she’d be left without something to drink. Ellen had pointed out to her that it seemed silly and Grandma Jones had laughed about it too. But she was too set in her ways to change it and could laugh it off as one of her foibles.
There was another rumble in the sky above as another plane ascended into the high atmosphere. Ellen looked up at it. She and Grandma Jones would sit in the yard and watch the planes taking off from the near-by airport. Grandma once had worked in an airplane factory during the war and then in the offices of an aeronautics firm, so she had an affinity for planes. She always said that it was the greatest feat of mankind to see a bird and think, “why not me?” It was something Ellen had come to admire so much about her. It was the thing that she would probably miss most.
A car alarm started blaring in the distance and it disturbed the peace Ellen had been enjoying in the yard. She realized that she had to get up and go back inside and continue sorting through her Grandmother’s things. It would take her a long time to examine every little shred of her Grandmother’s life and wonder if she’ll ever be as lucky as her. It was a journey she was looking forward to. She wondered what Robert Kowalski was up to these days.
Ellen chuckled to herself and picked the blanket up off the soft grass and headed back inside the house. She knew at that moment she’d keep the house. She smiled and opened the squeaky screen door and stepped into the cool comfort as another plane soared overhead.