Eyes Open – Eyes Closed

By Maike Newman

MaikeEven if I am not able to remember the pitter-patter of my little feet on the rug-covered hardwood floor anymore, I still recall this comfortable feeling I had sleeping over at my grandparents. The times I woke up in the morning in my room, climbed out of my bed, sneaked across the hallway to my grandparents’ room, and came to a stop right in front of my grandmother’s bed. I looked straight at her face, her eyes still closed. It never took more than a minute before she opened them, smiled at me, and said, “Good morning, my little darling.” 

For me, seemingly insignificant situations like these are what I connect to so much love, freedom, and adventure, and it makes me smile every time I recall them. Straight away, it brings back memories of the times I stayed at my grandparents’ house and played in their garden. These regular occasions were filled with carefree adventure, comfort, and love. My grandparents lived in the countryside in a house surrounded by fields and forests. The garden was so vast that it was easy to get lost in between the fruit trees, bushes, and flower beds. Every season was a unique experience: in summer the chirping of the birds; during autumn the crunching of leaves underfoot; in winter the quiet sound of snowflakes creating a soft blanket; and during spring the bright variety of colors signaling a new beginning.

Staying there meant one adventure after another. Sometimes it was a visit to the local soccer club, other times a ride through the garden in a wheelbarrow pushed by my grandfather, or a trip around the grounds on a riding lawn mower. With my grandmother it may have been berry picking, playing with the animals, or playing hide-and-seek. Those times were so carefree that it was easy to drift into daydreaming, and I would often spend the whole day outside. But no matter what I experienced, the best thing was climbing the stairs at the back of the house to see my grandmother standing in the kitchen while she was baking or cooking something. The lovely smells varied throughout the year from the sweet fruity scent of strawberry marmalade or apple pie to the mouth-watering aroma of a steaming roast dinner or fresh asparagus soup. These scents would waft through the glass panel door onto the terrace and reach me when I entered the house.

My grandmother was always a warm and caring woman, concerned first and foremost about the well-being of everyone around her. Standing in the kitchen watching her whizz around was one of the most comforting feelings of my childhood. And for some reason, always at the right time, my little mug was placed in front of me, filled to the brim with steaming tea or cocoa. My grandmother always gave me a pure and generous smile that told me I was special and loved unconditionally.

At that time I took all those things for granted, as they were – and always had been – a part of my life. Only now can I truly appreciate how special these moments were.

Not such a long time ago, I could hear my halting and hesitant footsteps on the sterile floor. For a moment on that walk down the white corridors, I remember feeling very small once again. I opened the door and took a few steps until I stopped in front of my grandmother’s bed. I looked at her and waited … seconds … minutes … an hour … eyes closed.