Some people can’t believe in themselves until someone else believes in them first.
– Good Will Hunting
My grandmother had a small two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a building in Youngstown, Ohio. My parents would drop me off for a visit, and Grandma Myers and I would spend several days, just the two of us. We would visit Mill Creek Park and walk through the extensive flower gardens.
Each visit, I would perch on one of her two couches, and look through old loose photographs, older generations of Shumakers and Myers intermingling with newer ones in the disorganized drawer of her breakfront. She would sit beside me, naming people, so that I learned my family’s faces without ever meeting most of them. After several years, I knew who they all were myself. I loved looking through those photographs, most of them black and white, seeing my mother as she grew up.
On Grandma’s coffee table was a candy dish, full of colorful, hard candies. Some were in clear wrappers and some were wrapped to resemble strawberries. I would eye her candy dish, but she never invited me to have one. One day, when we were talking about going to visit her sister, she noticed me eying her leaf-shaped candy dish.
“I always keep candy here,” she said, smelling sweetly of perfume and talcum powder, wearing a belted dress. “I told your mother that the candy was for guests, and she never touched a single piece. I was very proud of her for resisting the candy.” My grandmother fixed her hazel eyes on me, behind their cat shaped glasses. She looked at me a while in silence, to see if I understood what she was saying.
I thought over her words. She was not inviting me to eat the candy. Rather, she was suggesting I should not eat any of it at all. I thought this was a bit cruel, and I was sad at first. I realized that my not eating the candy was very important to her, and so I did not eat one piece. We dropped the subject, and I never asked her for any.
When my grandmother’s niece came for a visit, she offered her and her daughter Becky a piece of candy. Becky was near my age, and she happily unwrapped one and popped it in her mouth. I was jealous for few seconds. But then I was proud. I realized that I was not a guest in Grandma’s house. I was family; I belonged.
After a while, I hardly noticed the candy dish, and I did not feel tempted by it. Her eyes gleamed with approval in the evenings, when she would look at it, and notice it was still full.
Looking back, over the long years, I realize she taught me willpower. I would not have believed I could be in the room with candy and not eat a single bit. My stepmother used to hide snickers bars, not trusting any of us, but I knew from the clink of the good flatware that she had hidden them in the dining room buffet. My grandmother left candy out in plain sight, and there it stayed. She believed in me, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I still look at that hard candy in stores, knowing it’s not for me. I can live without it.
old apple tree
wide branches slow the wind
bulbs bloom above roots
Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham
Inspired by the Haibun Thinking, Quote Week.