As read aloud on October 15th, 2015 at the Trinity Reformed Church in Allison, IA.
In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know my grandmother as an adult. She’s always been good at keeping in touch. We’d talk on the phone, and she’d fill me in about family and ask me about Seattle, my cat Sawyer, and my writing. She never, not once, asked me, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”
I appreciated that.
We liked to keep in contact via the mail, too. She liked having something more tangible than a phone conversation. Me, too. Her cards came with letters tucked inside, written in cursive. I’d send her postcards, and I picked hers out special, making sure the card wasn’t a duplicate, and I tried to find the picture that closest resembled a lighthouse, because she loved lighthouses.
The last postcard I send her had an honest-to-God lighthouse on it, but, as the U.S. Postal Service would have it, only a shredded corner of the postcard made it to the post office, with only the zip code intact. I’d told Grandma to expect mail, and after a month of nothing, she inquired. The postmaster had saved it just in case.
When I returned to Victoria, B.C., where I’d gotten the postcard, I bought a magnet with the same lighthouse on it. This time I hand-delivered it during my visit home over Labor Day weekend. And, of course, Grandma had something for me, too: a newspaper clipping. She usually had something about Seattle to share with me when we talked, and it wasn’t unusual for me not to have already known about it. This particular news article was about Seattle’s mystery soda machine.
It’s an old, outdoor Coke machine that somehow always stays stocked with a variety of soda. It costs 75 cents, and each of the six buttons is labeled mystery, so you never know what kind you’re going to get.
In the article, I recognized the cross streets in Capitol Hill; I’d been to the neighborhood before.
So the other night, I enlisted a friend to drive me there. We each dispensed 75 cents into the machine. I got a Sprite; my friend got a Mountain Dew. But of course I didn’t stop there. Next, we drove out to West Seattle, where one of the only lighthouses in the city resides. The lighthouse wasn’t as accessible as I’d thought. I’d imagined that we could simply drive over and sip our sodas in view of the lighthouse. Instead, we parked the car, and I trekked across a rocky beach in the dark, soda in hand, using my phone as a flashlight until I was satisfied with the view. Then I popped the soda tab, took a sip, and drained the rest into the Puget Sound.
It was the best thing I could think of to do.
Happy birthday, Grandma. I love you.