By Debbonnaire Kovacs
Susannah May Farmer flopped on her bed and read her letter again. Mac Evans had sent pictures of herself, Joseph, all their friends, and G. M. Susannah thought that was a funny thing to call a grandma. But then, it seemed G. M. was a funny grandma. G.M. had taken Joseph and his friends to a show where they all got to paint to music, and more paint had ended up on the painters than on the paper! Susannah laughed out loud at one photo of Mac and Trevor with purple eyebrows and orange-spattered grins.
Matt put his head in her open door. “What’s so funny?”
“Come and see!”
They laughed together over the silly pictures and Mac’s funny letter.
Then Susannah sighed. “I wish we had a grandma. G. M. must be the greatest grandma in the world.”
“Susannah!” Mom called from downstairs. “Telephone!”
Susannah hurried down and took the phone. For a second, she couldn’t even tell who was on the other end, the voice was babbling so excitedly. “Who? What? Oh, Kenya! Slow down!”
“My grandma! She’s coming to spend a whole week with us, and she’s the greatest grandma in the world! She tells the best stories, and makes the best cookies, and—and—even gives the best hugs!”
Susannah was startled. Had Kenya read her mind? She felt a little jealous. Everybody had wonderful grandmas. “What?” she asked, pressing the phone against her ear.
“I said, you’re invited! Your whole family. We’re coming to your church again this week and Grandma’s coming too and then everybody’s coming to our house for dinner.”
Over the next few days, it seemed the whole town was talking about Kenya’s grandma.
Susannah’s little brothers were excited because they had heard she made cookies.
Mike was excited because he loved stories, and Kenya assured them her grandma’s stories could make you see, hear, and smell what she was telling about.
Solly exclaimed, “None of my relatives live in the States, so we never get to have big parties like my mother’s and father’s friends do! This will be almost as good as a wedding!”
His older sister, Sara, rolled her eyes at that. She and Kenya’s sister, Nairobi, had become friends and now rolled their eyes at nearly everything the younger ones ever said or did. But even Sara looked forward to meeting the World’s Greatest Grandma. Nairobi had explained that Grandma treated a person with respect, clearly understanding the difference between mere kids and teenagers who were practically grown up.
The long-awaited Sabbath finally arrived. At first glance, Grandma Washington just looked like a particularly elegant lady. She wore gloves to church, and a hat that exactly matched her dark blue suit. But when she smiled, which she did a lot, there was a certain twinkle in her eyes that made even the parents gather around her almost as eagerly as the children.
At dinner, Morgan, Nairobi, and Sara got to sit with the grown-ups at the big dining table, while the younger children sat in the kitchen, but all could hear and laugh at Grandma’s funny stories of her trip.
Afterwards, willing hands hurried to clear the table and put away the leftovers. Then there was an even greater flurry of activity as they escorted Grandma to the center of the couch in the living room and found places around her. All the adults sat on chairs, while the kids, big and small, crowded around Grandma. Susannah noticed that Sara and Nairobi forgot their dignity and scooted close to her feet. Kenya leaned on one side, and with one of her twinkles, Grandma reached out and pulled Susannah to the other side. Both Luke and Johnny found room on her soft lap. The rest of the boys piled on the couch or floor.
Grandma smiled around on them all. “What a passel of boys and girls!” she exclaimed, and her laughing eyes clearly included the grown-ups, who grinned back at her.
“We know we’ll always be your babies, Mama,” Kenya’s dad said. “I was thinking of arguing for a place on your lap, but you’ll notice I controlled myself like a big boy.”
“You’ll never be too big for me to hold,” Grandma Washington told him.
“Or to smack!” Kenya’s mom said, and the laughter grew louder.
“Now then, once upon a time, long ago and far away,” Grandma began, and the room fell silent instantly. “It was a quiet, sparkly night, sharp and cold on your ears and your nose. Some men, and some children, too, gathered around a fire and pulled their wool cloaks close around their chins. They rubbed their hands together and watched the little flames that danced in the air at the tips of the fire.”
It was true. Grandma made you see and smell and feel what she talked about. It almost felt cold in the room. Susannah snuggled against Grandma’s warm shoulder and closed her eyes so she could see the sparkly stars and smell the smoke. “Close by, they could hear the ‘maa, maa’ of their sheep settling for the night. The shepherds began to talk quietly. ‘Do you think the Messiah will really come soon?’ ”
It was the story of Baby Jesus! As Grandma went on, she made it sound like a whole new story no one had ever heard before. Susannah shivered when the angels came, and held her breath at the heavenly beauty of their song. She ran with the shepherds down through the dark, stony village streets, her breath puffing in clouds as she looked for the stable. Her heart caught in her throat as she knelt beside a stone manger filled with dusty hay, staring at a Baby as tiny and wrinkled as Johnny had been when he was born.
Before Susannah’s eyes, the Baby turned His little head and made a noise like a newborn kitten. Then He opened His eyes and gazed at her in that intent, unfocused way babies have.
“He was the King of the whole universe, and He didn’t even know it yet,” Grandma softly said. “He came here and He risked that, for you.” She looked around at her listeners, and Susannah took what felt like her first deep breath since the story had begun. She didn’t know whether Grandma Washington was the Greatest Grandma, but she told the best stories, about the Greatest Person, in the whole, wide world.