December Contest Winner “Legacy” by Shawna Mayer
“In those days mixed marriages were unheard of.” Grandma slapped the picture on the table like an ace next to a king in a hand of blackjack.
The picture showed my Grandma in her bathing costume hugging the neck of a snowman on the beach. Her parents had hated the idea of their spritely, effervescent daughter hitched to a cinderblock of ice with nothing to his name but a carrot nose and a ratty old hat.
“Pop was ready to disown me when Charlie and I announced our engagement, but Ma talked him into coming to the wedding, and by the time your father was born, it was clear he’d made his peace with us.”
The first time Grandma told me this story, she’d been baking Christmas cookies all day and smelled of vanilla and rum. I’d helped and still had bits of dough in the crevasses of my fingernails. Snuggling more deeply into her lap, I reached out to caress her long white braid.
“Charlie, wasn’t any ordinary snowman. He exposed himself to the sand and the salt air that day all because he wanted to make me happy.” She looked down at me, and raised an eyebrow. “Hear that sweetie? When it comes time for you to pick, make sure you choose one that’ll risk something for you.” I nodded seriously, recognizing wisdom was being imparted.
“He must have been cold to hug,” I said.
“Yes, but it never bothered me,” she said, “Because he always kept me laughing, and we could talk about anything. Every moment we spent together was precious.” She sighed. “Then two years after Charlie melted, I met Stanley. He adopted your father and raised him like he was his own son. I was very lucky to find two such good men.”
“Now, I want to show you something.” I climbed out her lap and she led me down the narrow basement steps, past the washer and dryer and work bench piled with broken appliances. We stopped in the very back corner in front of the ancient deep freeze. She propped the lid open and dug around, shifting the blocks of meat, until finally she said, “Here he is.” The light glinted off a silver box in the palm of her hand. She lifted the lid and inside was a small chunk of ice. “Touch it,” she whispered, “It feels like velvet.”
Tentatively, I reached out. Maybe it was only the power of suggestion, but she was right.
After Grandpa Stanley died, we had to auction off the antiques, and in the decade that followed Grandma had a series of strokes that stole more of her each time. When we finally had to sell the house there was only one thing left that I wanted.
Tonight, as I cuddle up in front of the TV next to my husband Steve, the silver box is nestled deep in my freezer.
Steve gasps, “Your feet are like ice cubes.” I smile. It runs in the family.