Kid Joey and Grandma Crystal
By Terri DelCampo
Joey came into the kitchen early one morning to find Grandma already finished with her coffee and bagel (she was crafty like that - always up almost before the sun and no matter how early his little eyes popped open, he never heard an alarm clock. He would have to spy on her and find out how she managed to wake up on time every day.
Anyway, Grandma was on her way outside to plant some "Lily of the Valley" flowers, "before the sun gets way up in the sky and bakes my brain," as Grandma said.
"Oh good! Can I help?" Joey asked, figuring any chance to play in dirt was good with him.
"Sure, Joey, come on."
"I have a question I want to ask you, anyway."
"A question?" Grandma asked, as Joey held the screen door open for her, though she caught it on the close swing so it wouldn't bang. She knew the screen door banging was one of Joey's favorite things, but not at six-forty in the morning when they were the only ones up.
"Oh, Joey, look how pretty the sunrise has painted the sky this morning!" Grandma exclaimed, pointing to the pink and lavender majesty that Father Sun had made of the clouds.
Joey saw awesome, glowing images swirled above him, including a sea monster, a pirate ship, a crab, and a huge wave that would be perfect to splash through on his boogie board. He would have to tell his sister, Rosie, all about the things he'd seen so she could write some stories about them. It was fun having a sister who liked to write stories.
Grandma had the little plants all ready to put into a bed that she'd created and bordered with painted white rocks.
She handed Joey a little spade and let him make the holes, then fill in around the roots of each little plant after she'd set them in the holes.
"So Grandma," he started, with a little grunt here and there punctuating his digging efforts. "How come they call you "Crystal?"
Grandma smiled. She'd known the question would come sooner or later.
She sat back on her haunches, looking Joey up and down, appraising.
"I don't know, Joey, you're getting to be a pretty big boy, but I'm not so sure you're ready for my secret yet - a grown-up secret."
"I'm already six! I'm growing way up, actually. Mom says I'm getting very responsible. I do stuff without reminders and everything."
"But keeping secrets is a big deal, you know."
"I knew Rosie was getting a new bike for Christmas last year and I never let it slip!"
Grandma smiled. "How did you know?"
"Santa hid it in our garage, I guess so the sleigh wouldn't be so heavy for the reindeer - I know all their names! Dasher-Dancer-Prancer-Vixen-Comet-Cupid-Donner-Blitzen-Rudolph! Anyway, I can keep secrets, Grandma! You can trust me!"
Grandma smiled, but held in her chuckle lest Joey would think he was being made sport of - and that wasn't the case, she just thought he was cute as a bug's ear.
"Okay, but I need your solemn promise that if I show you something very special, you won't tell another soul about it."
"Okay, as soon as we're finished with this chore we'll have our adventure."
"Sure! Any time you brave the unknown to unravel a grand mystery, it's a grand adventure, my dear."
Joey worked faster, though he was careful to be gentle patting the soft topsoil around the fragile roots of the baby plants.
The moment they were tucked in their new bed, (Grandma always said flowers are lucky because they can do everything flowers are supposed to do and never get out of bed), Joey was ready to bolt. "Time for our adventure!"
"Not quite. We have to give them a drink first. Go fill up this little watering can, please."
Joey ran like the wind with the empty can, though its weight on the way back from the hose coiled up beside the house slowed him down for sure on the way back.
Soon the soil around the flowers was damp, and the refreshing water would seep down to the roots and give the baby plants a proper drink.
"Now?" came Joey's eager plea.
"Are you whining?" Grandma teased.
"Nope! Just asking."
She laughed, then, and crooked her head toward the detached garage where her gardening stuff was.
"Let's go put your spade and this bucket of soil away first. We don't want to leave a mess; it'll tick off the wee folk and they'll prank us."
"Play tricks on us - hide our garden tools, poke a hole in our hose…"
"That's why we don't want to tick them off," Grandma said as they entered the garage and put the stuff away on and under the work bench where grandma potted her houseplants and stowed her outside gardening stuff too.
Grandma led Joey back into the house, where they left their wet shoes (they'd rinsed them off with the hose by the back door - Grandma's rule before entering the house from the yard) in the mudroom off the kitchen, and up the back staircase, down the hall, around the corner where she stopped and reached up.
She grabbed the rope to the attic door and pulled it down, then unfolded the step ladder that it secreted.
Joey thought that was the coolest thing ever, when he'd first seen Daddy open the one at his old house.
But this was the first time he'd ever seen Grandma's attic door open.
"Is this where the sec…"
"Shhh!" Grandma said, a little stern. Then Joey remembered that Rosie was still sleeping. She and Daddy had kept playing Uno after Joey had gone to bed last night.
"Sorry," he whispered as he followed Grandma up the ladder almost silently.
To his surprise she collected the ladder up into the attic after them and closed the door, too.
"Now you have to step quietly or everybody'll think Bigfoot moved his family in up here."
"Bigfoot lives around here?" Joey's eyes widened.
"There have been rumors…"
Joey's jaw dropped. "Have you seen him?"
"Seen him? I used to leave extra firewood for him at the edge of the woods!" Grandma said, lighting a candle and placing its hurricane dome over it. Then she tip-toed over to an old chest of drawers at one end of the attic and stooped to open the bottom drawer after placing the candle on top.
Joey followed, not wishing to remain in the shadows outside the candle's sphere of dim light. He didn’t mind the dust so much, but there were webs in the beams above, and where there were webs there were creepy crawly wee beasties that could slide on down them into your hair. Ugh, he scratched his neck, absently.
Yeah, he wasn't crazy about them, and he almost wished Super Kato was up here to protect him from the tiny skittering monsters.
By the time all those dust and creepiness thoughts had lightninged through Joey's mind, Grandma had drawn something round, wrapped in an old baby blanket (it looked like) out of the bottom drawer.
An old end table Joey had never seen at Grandma's before was nearby and Grandma walked over to it. There was a big pillow on the floor on one side of it for Grandma. She pointed at an overstuffed chair across the attic and said, "Get the cushion off that chair, sweetie, and put it over here across from me to sit on. Don't forget to be quiet about it or our adventure and the grand secret will be blown."
Joey thought he would make a good spy, as quiet as he could be.
Finally, as Joey sat across the small table from Grandma, she began to peel away the blanket covering from her big secret.
"You played soccer in school?" Joey guessed, which brought a derisive snort from Grandma.
Joey frowned at Grandma's big secret. "A glass ball? What can you do with a glass ball? It won't bounce; it would break."
"Joey, you've never heard of a magic crystal ball?"
"Magic?" Immediately intrigued, Joey rose to his knees on the cushion, leaning on his elbows on the little table, the ball between he and Grandma on a little ornate iron stand that looked like crescent moons with stars on them.
"Magic," Grandma reiterated, and smiled a mysterious smile that Joey had never before seen on Grandma. She looked different somehow. Her eyes were brighter and she looked, well, mysterious. Not in a scary way - more like in an exciting way.
Her secret was turning out to be super cool.
"Okay, Joey, the secret isn't the crystal ball itself - everyone knows I can see in the crystal ball - that's why I got called Crystal.
"I was wondering about that, actually, if it is such a big secret, how come everybody knows it?"
"Not everybody. Rosie doesn't know it. Neither do your cousins."
"I know a secret that Rosie doesn't know? Cool!" Joey beamed a smug little smile and perched taller on his knees there by the little table in the dusty attic.
"However, the ball itself isn't the whole secret."
Grandma shook her head no. "Watch."
Grandma curved her hands over the ball, that Joey gauged was somewhere, midway between the size of a softball and a volleyball. Had he known about such things, he would have guessed the sphere to have a seven inch diameter, but he was just a little kid way too young for geometry yet.
Beneath the inverted cradle of Grandma's hands, the crystal ball began to come alive with color, swirls of green and white and gradually some flesh tones, and the swirls began to take shape. People shapes, furniture shapes, window shapes.
Mommy was lying in a special bed that sits up - a hospital bed. She was smiling down at a little baby all wrapped up in her arm, and Daddy was leaning down too, a smile on his face, talking to the baby.
"Is that Rosie?"
"Nope. You. This is the day you were born. Look, there I am, and Poppy, Nana, Rosie, Mimi, and Mumsy. We were all there to meet you for the very first time."
"Poppy's alive in here?"
"When the crystal ball shows the past, it's like movies, you see."
"Oh. But that's cool he's there to see sometimes. I miss Poppy."
"I know you do, sweetie, we all do. Let's see what else the ball can show us."
The scene inside the ball blurred and swirled for a few moments, and then began to sharpen into shapes like it had the first time. It showed Rosie running into the little Betterton waves with her boogie board.
"Hey! That’s Rosie's new swimsuit! She hasn't worn it yet! Did everybody go to swim without us?"
And just as those words left Joey's lips, Grandma smiled as Joey joined Rosie in the waves, flopping on his own boogie board within the crystal sphere.
"Wait! That's my new trunks, too!"
"The ball is showing us the fun we'll be having this afternoon. And THAT, Joey, is the big secret!"
The fog in Joey's brain cleared as the swirls of color had sharpened inside the crystal ball, and the meaning dawned on him. "It can show the FUTURE!"
And Joey knew right then and there that this was only the very first secret adventure he would be sharing with Grandma Crystal!"
TD - 8/8/2015