She did this by teaching me how to see the beauty in a common wildflower and how to find joy by simply dancing in the rain.

Nana always told me that I would be the writer in the family, and when I look at old photographs of us, it makes me want to write about our times together and somehow make a permanent record of those memories. Those pictures capture those simple moments in time when we did everything together, and those times with her were always special. We ran, we sang and we played. She let me ride in the front seat of her truck—something my parents never would have allowed—on the way to feed the ducks at the park. “Rachel, that little one needs some bread,” she’d say. Because she and my grandfather lived across from a railroad crossing, fast freights would regularly scream by as we worked together in her flower garden or as I rode my bike on the dead end street that ran beside their little brick house.

Sometimes she would take me back to a tire swing that hung from a sturdy limb of a century-old oak back in what used to be a thick forest behind her house. Her two stray dogs that she had taken in, Red and Bubba—not so cleverly named by my no-frills grandfather—would follow close on our heels, always hoping that a piece of my banana popsicle would break off and fall to the ground.

To get our chores done, Nana had a special way of making anything fun. I didn’t realize that yard work and washing dishes were chores, because she made everything a game.

On summer mornings we’d have breakfast, which consisted of eggs—not something I would normally enjoy, but Nana made “the good ones.” Then we would walk a few doors down to her neighbor’s pool and spend the rest of the morning swimming. Once we returned home in the afternoon, she would bring out my plastic, dollar store microphone and her exercise step, which served as a perfect stage where I would perform the children’s songs that she had taught me early on. After dinner, which usually included “beanie weenies” and her famous mashed potatoes, we would play card games like “Canasta,” “Old Maid” and “Go Fish” until late in the evening, long past my bedtime.

When I look at those old photographs, it brings a flood of those simple, bittersweet memories. Each picture captures a precious snapshot in time that will always live in my heart. We’re both older now; my grandmother has some serious medical concerns, and as a high school student, I have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow for as much free time as I would like, which makes my time with my grandmother much more precious. I saw her a few weeks ago, and as we were leaving, she reached up to hug me, a simple gesture and the opposite of the way it used to be. Walking out to the car it started to rain; all of a sudden, I felt like dancing.

This past May, Rachel’s grandmother, Patricia Knox, lost her battle with cancer a few weeks after this was written. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.

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