Garma

Sand clung to the bottoms of my wet feet and stuck in the spaces between my toes. It made me think more about Garma—my affectionate name for my grandmother; it started as a mispronunciation when I was two-years-old, but it stuck, like the sand between my toes. The name was just more permanent.

As a young girl, my family would visit Garma's cottage over the summers. My parents would take me down to the beach, and I would get dressed in my little polka-dotted bathing suit and swim and roll around in the sand. Garma and my parents would laugh with me.

I loved Garma. I always looked forward to the summers. To me, her cottage was a second home. Aside from the summers, I never spent much time there, but I knew that Garma's cottage was more of a home to me than our apartment in Los Angeles. It was warm and welcoming.

Baking with Garma was one of my favorite activities. She would let me put ingredients in a large bowl (after she measured them), and then she'd let me mix everything together into delicious-looking cookie dough. Then we would shape the cookie dough into small ovals and put them on a baking pan. She would tell me not to eat the dough because it had raw eggs in it, but I would always sneak little bits of it when she wasn't looking.

I can distinctly remember the smell of cookies baking in Garma's oven; the intoxicating smell filled every nook and cranny of her house. It was just one smell that made up Garma. Her smell was distinct: a mix of the cookies I loved, wool sweaters, logs burning in a fireplace, ocean spray, and marigolds, her favorite flower.

Garma was very much like a marigold, simple, yet beautiful. Yes, there was no question in my mind that Garma was absolutely beautiful. The wrinkles and creases of her beautiful, peachy white skin were soft as velvet to my touch. How many times had I fallen asleep with my head lying on one of her shoulders, her soft cheek brushing up against mine? Even her wool sweaters were soft, not the itchy fabric I had felt in stores.

She would bring me to the market place in town on the weekends. Fruits and vegetables and flowers and jams were lined up on wooden tables outside under a tent. Garma would say, "You can get anything here you want, Alexa," and I would always run over to one table and pick out a shiny, green apple—a Garma Smith apple, as I called it. Yep, Garma smelled like apples, too.

And then there were her card games. Garma knew just about every card game there was to know—Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Bridge, Poker, Crazy Eights (my personal favorite), and many others that I did not know the names of, and many of which I didn't know how to play. She would sit with me at her old, oak table, and we'd play cards. I always won, and Garma would hug me and congratulate me and tell me how great I was after every game. I was elated, no doubt.

So much had happened at that oak table. We used to do arts and crafts, there. And she would sew my ripped pants at the table, too. My mother told me that her father—my grandfather, Garma's husband—would sit at the table and carve wood blocks. I never met him, so he was remembered through the stories Garma and my mother told me of him. He had apparently been a successful officer in World War II. Garma had shown me pictures of him with her when she was much younger. Garma had no wrinkles or creases on her face then, and her hair had been black, not the salt and pepper hair I was used to. My grandfather was wearing a uniform in one picture, and Garma was wearing a long dress. She had a big lump on her stomach. Garma would point to the lump and say to me, "Look; there's your mother." When I was extremely little, I thought that she had eaten Mom, but now I knew more about life; babies got big in their mothers' tummies before they decided it was time to come out. I didn't remember this ever happening to me, but Garma said I was the "most precious baby ever" and that I was a "gift" to the world and to her. So we had something in common; she was unquestionably my most precious gift. She was my Garma.

My Garma. I continued to walk down the beach. The sand clinging to my feet felt good, and I needed that. It grounded me; it kept me from flying up, up, and away. Up to a place where I could hopefully find Garma. For those ashes we had thrown into the lake were certainly not Garma.

I lied down and let the sand cover my whole body. I stared up at the gray sky. It was darker than Garma's hair, a sign of the coming storm. I looked out to the water. The waves were beginning to become white capped. They would make a crashing sound as they came tumbling onto the shore. Swish. Thwack. Swish. Thwack. The water was rhythmic and soothing.

My eyes caught on a little glint coasting along a wave nearby. Thwack. It was brought to the shore and rolled along the sand, stopping about ten feet away from me. Curious, I got up and made my way over to the glint.

I picked it up. It was a bottle. I brushed the sand off the surface, and I could make out its light green surface. The bottle was corked, and I pulled on the cork. It was difficult to open, but the cork came out.

I stuck one of my fingers in the bottle, and I could feel the edge of a piece of paper. Gingerly, I took the paper out and unrolled it. It read:

Hello to anyone who may be reading this.

The weeks of storms have been harsh, and I don't know how much longer my ship can hold out. I cannot imagine it staying afloat for more than a couple more days. The water is strong. The ocean is vast and powerful. And I am just a sailor. One person out of the many in the world. What difference does one life make in the scheme of things, eh? No matter how hard it may seem, life goes on. And all I can wish for is that I will be remembered, whether by my dear family, or by my friends, or by the many people I have crossed paths with in my lifetime, or by you, Reader. I don't want to hurt anyone with my impending death; I just want to be remembered.

Reader, I have sent out my message in this bottle to be remembered. Please remember me.

Alfred Petherford

July 29th, 1894

Tears came to my eyes as I held the letter to my heart. Through my soft cries, I managed to say, "Thank you, Garma. Thank you."