Love Song In Sepia
by Sean Critchfield
I remember her hands turning the knitting needles like mercury. Beating yarn into fabric. And in her wisdom, she’d spin her words into gold. I studied each line on her brow for truth. Reading the creases like India ink. Dark. Permanent. Earned. And she hums along with the record, knowing each warm pop and crack like lyrics. Like history.
We skip generations like the songs on the album and I am more like her than I’ll ever know. A vinyl copy. Pressed and shiny. But she was gone before such things began to stick.
She is like the smell in a well used kitchen, even when the oven is off.
A sweet recollection of a melody you hum under your breath.
But I am drawn to her like warm covers.
Like a soft glow.
And me, mid-life, and still with wet wings.
And she prepares me for the world with these moments. Keeping each second accounted for.
One pearl stitch at a time.
We listen as the room melts to afternoon sepia. The song lifts and sways. Kissing my ankles like the tide. Stroking my face like wind.
The woman makes the music sweeter with each rock of her chair.
“Why does the album skip sometimes Grandma?”
She laughs. Doesn’t look up.
“Because it is old and eventually it won’t play anymore at all.”
I knit my brow up like her blanket.
“Then why do you listen to it so much? Won’t you use it up?”
She organizes her work, spreading it across her needle as she does the same with the words in her head. The album sings out to her.
“Because it tells the truth.”
I listen harder. Looking for hidden words between the notes.
“It doesn’t talk, Grandma.”
She smiles at how little I know. Sad for me. And says,
“Yes it does.”
“What does it say?”
And our game is done. I now have Grandma’s eyes, smile, and attention all to myself. She sets her labor in her lap and fixes on me. I am now her project and she will knit me together with the same love.
“Listen. That part says that your friends won’t forget who you are. Even when you do.”
And they won’t. And you will.
“Ah. This part says, You, My Love, are the prize. Not them. Remember that.”
And I am.
“This part says that Men don’t cry. But if she loves you. If she really loves you, she’ll hold you when you do.”
And she will.
“This part knows that God is not counting on us as much as we are counting on him. He knows we will let him down and loves us regardless. Remember this part of the song when you are a father.”
And I will.
And Grandma sat quietly. Her fingers still seemed to be a blur of motion. Her mind, even faster.
“One day Grandma will quit playing too. I’ve already begun to skip.”
And then we sat together. Quietly.
And sepia became blue. And blue became black.
And all at once, the music stopped. Replaced by a motor whir and a methodical thump.
A one legged tap dancer, facing finality.
“What do we do now, Grandma?”
We sat, listening to more time pass like music. Clickthump. Clickthump.
It was in this moment that I would finally see the jigsaw puzzle for the beautiful picture that it was.
All creases and landscape and hello goodbyes.
Grandma reached over and cast magic as the years in her hand settled the needle into the groove once more.
She answered all of my questions as the music whispered its truth to me a new.
“We let the song play out.”
“Because it’s romantic.”