I stood in front of the mirror, feeling more present, more deliberate than usual. Most days I race through the motions–floss, bush, mouthwash, eye-makeup remover, wash face, rinse face, apply skin repair serum, then moisturizer, then wrinkle cream, blow nose, wash hands, rub on hand salve, swipe chapstick–and climb quickly into bed. But for some reason, on this night, I was paying attention to every movement, every step, of my regular routine.
When I got to the “rinse face” step, I closed my eyes and moved the warm washcloth carefully over my eyes, across my cheeks, and slowly down my neck, holding the heat there upon my nape as a flicker of a memory burned in my mind.
My paternal grandmother’s name is Sally. She and my Granddad lived on Hilton Head my entire childhood and I really can’t recall any important event of my adolescence where my Grands weren’t in attendance, right alongside my parents.
As children we loved sleeping over at their house. We’d watch movies in the den and Granddad would read us stories. We got to take baths in Grandma’s tub, which was surrounded by her stacks of romance novels. She would fill the tub with more bubbles than water and we’d splash and play with the golf balls she had sitting in a plastic Cool-Whip container on the rim of the tub.
After a sufficient soak, she would dry us off and lather us in her yummy, smelly lotion. We then got to choose one of her t-shirts to wear to bed. I always chose the yellow Vagabond Cruises shirt with the tiny dolphin on the front. It was always perfectly soft and perfectly worn in.
We slept in the lilly-wallpapered room upstairs with the twin beds covered with dark green quilted bedspreads. On one bed sat a life-sized Raggedy Ann. On the other was Andy. And on the shelves above the bed sat every Care Bear in existence. Once Grandma started a collection, she finished it, by golly. My favorites were Tenderheart and Good Luck Bear.
Once we’d chosen a bear to sleep with, she would read us a story. My favorite was a book about Too-Loose the Chocolate Moose who would melt when it got hot and leave his chocolately footprints all over the forest.
After the story, we would say prayers and she would tuck us in under the yellow flowered sheets, which, like the t-shirt, were perfectly soft. And then that’s when it got really good.
As we got situated, she would get a really warm, really steamy washcloth from the bathroom and run it over our faces and necks and hands. She told us that her mother, our Mama Maude, did this very thing for her at night when she was a little girl.
And oh, was it cozy and warm–the most peaceful and happy thing right before bedtime. Then she would wind the music box, turn on the night light, and close the door.
As I stood in front of the mirror, with the warm washcloth pressed to my neck, I felt as though I were six again, draped in a soft yellow t-shirt, buried under soft yellow sheets, with my Grandma right there beside me.