The Secret, by Britta Benson
Her apple cake was something else. I’ve got to give her that.
It was July or possibly even October. The months could never quite keep themselves in order. They were like cats. Her northless memory resembled a twitching magpie. Every now and then, Granny May snatched the shiny things out of thin air. Keen, but too fragile, far too slight at times, then heavy as grief, a roar.
Perhaps life was just a collection of rings, too small, too large, like warm hugs and kisses and the sadness of saying goodbye on the wrong Monday.
‘You’re my best friend’, Granny May would sing at the garden gate to no one in particular. She loved them all, the postman, the people in the neighbourhood going off to work. The school children, pointing fingers, making fun of her. Granny May laughed with them. She didn’t need to hear the joke. Her soul listened to the stars on the other side. Babies understood and smiled back.
‘You’re my best friend’, she sang, rain or shine, sleet or snow, her slippers a magic carpet taking her for a ride into oblivion.
If the wind howled at her, she would simply howl back and win the argument every time. There she was, a pointillist dream, under the blossoms of the cherry tree in spring and then amidst the white roses in summer with a Christlike crown of thorns.
One September morning we had to cut her out of the bramble bushes at the end of our drive. She got stuck, pining. An occupational hazard. The moon so strong, Granny May stronger, though. Just a little frayed around the edges, thinning, waning. She didn’t mind. Pineapples, onions, fish and cucumber. All welcome.
We loved autumn. We loved winter even more. Granny May was easier to find amongst the bare naked trees, her purple rinse sticking out like a beacon of hope. Bethlehem.
‘You’re my best friend’, she sang, as she stroked our neighbour’s rowan tree. Her feet firmly anchored in the fallen leaves, she stuffed the last remaining bloodred berries of the year into her mouth. They were her best friends too.
She looked so happy hugging that trunk of eternity, chomping, rejoicing. It was the day, Granny May reached perfection and realized, life was easy, done. Weightless, iridescent.
She had forgotten everything, our names, her own. The lot. No more worries, just a here and now, where everyone was her best friend and she, the most beloved creature of them all, basking in rainbows.
Having mastered the art of living, she drew her own consequences. There was no bewildering her soul any more. In a most wonderful, most authentic affirmation of who she was and all that she could ever become, she went to bed that night.
‘You’re my best friend’, Granny May said into the darkness one last time.
The famous apple cake recipe, her secret, forever safe.
Britta Benson is a circus skills instructing German, a writer, performer and linguist thriving in Scotland, her chosen habitat since the year 2000. She writes a daily blog, Britta’s Blog – Letters from Scotland, teaches Gaelic and follows common butterflies.