I pressed my face through the bars on the stair rails, waiting to catch a glimpse of the elderly woman who lived upstairs, Miss Meirink. We had lived in our new apartment for two weeks now, and each Tuesday, Miss Meirink walked up two flights of steps, carrying her bags of groceries. Her shoes made an odd scraping sound across the floor. Determined to see the woman who shuffled down the hall each week, I hid in the shadows, peering through the stair rail. As she opened the front door to the apartment building, I saw her—tight gray curls framed her warm and jovial face and her blues eyes sparkled like a lake on a moonlit night.
She looks awfully old to be a Miss.
As if able to hear my thoughts, Miss Meirink turned my way and asked, “What’s your name?”
I answered without hesitation, “Mary.”
She reminded me of Grandma Trudnak, who had died the summer before, leaving a hole in my life the size of Mama Cass. Sometimes I felt as if I would fall right in that hole and never climb out.
“Would you help me carry my groceries upstairs?” she asked. I nodded. She rested two bulging paper bags on the step in front of her, removed several cans of soup from one, and placed them in her bag. She handed the lighter one to me, and, together, we walked up two flights of stairs to her apartment.
I followed as she turned the key in the look and entered the sparsely furnished apartment. After placing the groceries on dining room table, I turned to go.
“Can you wait one minute?” Before I could answer, she disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a small paper bag. “This is for you.”
“Thank you, Miss Meirink,” I said.
“Call me, Pauline, dear.”
As the apartment door closed behind me, I peeked inside the bag. Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies! My favorite. How did she know?
That was the beginning of our relationship.
Over the years, she called me up to her apartment many times. I always left with a tiny brown bag, stuffed full with goodies—homemade cookies, a plastic bracelet from the five and dime, or a piece of chocolate fudge.
I don’t recall when I first realized Miss Meirink was God’s gift to me or when I first thought of her as my adopted grandma. I only know that one year, while choosing her birthday card, I purchased one with a basket of flowers on the front that said, “Happy Birthday, Grandma.” Somehow, that made it official. God had given me a kind and loving Grandma, after I lost my own.
As the years passed, Grandma Pauline could no longer shop for herself. Instead, Daddy and I shopped for her. We always tucked a little surprise in her bag—a magazine, a chocolate bar, or a bag of those chewy caramels that she loved—just as she did for me when I was a girl.
Grandma Pauline celebrates her 100th birthday this month, and we’re planning a celebration at Cedar Ridge Nursing Home.
I have some wonderful surprises tucked inside her bag.