Story from a Grandson

Ditto lifted his right leg, resting on the other one which stepped on the office’s floor swathed in maroon carpet. His eyes suddenly fixated on a small frame which had been months sat on his desk. It was a gold colored frame—reminding Ditto of the day when the photo was taken. The picture was taken twenty-two years ago, when he was 5 years old. The joyful day for both Granny Nancy and Teddy; it was their 35th anniversary.

At the same time, Ditto remembered the little secret that he had been keeping for years. It was a box full of love letters which he had kept it long. Ditto had known the letters for more than twenty years, even longer than the time he had known his own fiancée—Rebecca. He could never forget the handwriting. A neat handwriting from a man for someone Ditto always loved—his lovely Granny Nancy. The neatness also reminded him to the grass in the backyard of Grannies’ house which was always cut neatly by their gardener.

The backyard was the place where Grannies’ 35th anniversary’s party was held. The house itself was located in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Ditto closed his eyes, flashing back to the moment when the party was held. He took a deep breath, his nose suddenly smelled the green fresh grass. The smell of fresh air. He always loved the backyard because the grass was always soft—so tender that Ditto never felt pain despite how often he fell for he was being super hyperactive. He somersaulted a lot, but he never got bruises until one day he got severe bumps as falling from a swing in one afternoon while he was playing alone with no one. He kept flashing back to the moment, his ears could even hear the sound of a birds’ chirp which often perched on the mango tree planted by Granny Nancy.

That day, Ditto lied on the grass all day. For him, the grass was the best natural bed ever. Granny Nancy kept coming to him back and forth just to give a plate full of Bitter Ballen—Ditto’s favorite Dutch meat based snack. Granny always cooked Bitter Ballen for him, and it was cooked based on the family recipe. Yup, Granny Nancy was half-Dutch. For it was always Ditto’s favorite, he would always ask for more and more mustard, and it was always served fresh.

As a 5 year old child, Ditto never cared if he would be super fat because of snacking too much. He also would not care if his clothes were smeared with mustard since he was too excited to eat Granny Nancy’s Bitter Ballen. And every time Ditto finished eating, Granny Nancy would always come to him and kiss both of his chubby cheeks.

For Ditto, Granny Nancy was always an angel. An angel with a pearl necklace around her neck and a smile that never left her lips. A loving grandmother who always made ​​a kwast or a typical Dutch lemon juice with hot water for her husband, Granny Teddy. Granny also liked to sing, especially the Dutch songs she had learned in school time.

Ditto’s reverie instantly shattered when Rebecca appeared in front of him. He did not remember if they had arranged any lunch date before. “Hi!” He greeted Rebecca spontaneously.

“You look surprised,” said Rebecca then smiled.

“I am surprised. Why didn’t you call first?” Ditto then swifted his eyes from the photo he stared for almost thirty minutes to Rebecca’s eyes.

Rebecca chuckled. “Yeah, I intended to surprise you. Let’s have lunch, honey.” Ditto nodded and immediately walked out of his office with Rebecca

***

“Come on, tell me more stories about Grannies,” said Rebecca after taking the first sip of her green tea.

Ditto rolled his eyes. This café had always become his and Rebecca’s favorite. Not as usual, the café was very quite today. Only the strains of jazz music that could be heard from the corners of the room. “I’ve never told the story how Grannies separated because Granny Nancy left first, have I?” Rebecca shook her head. “Okay, here we go.”

Ditto paused for a moment before telling the story. “I was 7 years old at that time. When I was playing yoyo, I was struck by Mommy who was sobbing. Three words came out of her mouth: Granny Nancy left. At first, I did not quite understand what she meant. I guess, Granny Nancy was just away from her home, and that’s why Mommy was sad. Not long later, Daddy came and explained to me that Granny Nancy should go away and would not come back. Then I remembered the story of heaven and hell that was told by Granny Teddy two weeks before the death of Granny Nancy. I did not quite understand what to do. I remembered everybody was sobbing and I began to grieve because there would no longer be any Bitter Ballen made by Granny Nancy for me.”

Rebecca nodded without expression as she listened to Ditto’s story. She listened to the story very seriously. As Ditto fiancé who had never met her own biological grandparents, Rebecca was always curious about what it’s like to spend time with a pair of grandparents, also about their love story.

“Not long after the death of Granny Nancy, Granny Teddy moved into our house. He always looked sad. He liked to sit in the rocking chair, looking at his wedding photos until he finally fell asleep. Always like that. Until finally …” Ditto stopped telling the story. His mind suddenly drifted back to the love letters in the box. No one ever knew about it. He had never told anyone.

“What? What happened then?” asked Rebecca curiously.

Ditto blinked his eyes for several times. No, no. He would not tell anyone about the love letters, even to Rebecca. “Until finally Granny Teddy began busying himself with gardening and planting  Granny Nancy’s favorite flowers—the Chrysanthemums. Now you know why we have a lot of Chrysanthemums in our garden, right?” Rebecca nodded again. Ditto was thrilled by amusement. Rebecca’s nods reminded him of the dog’s figure which was often placed on the car’s dashboard.

***

Ditto had already spent two hours re-reading the love letters in the old wooden box. The only box owned by Granny Nancy that he had never shared with anyone. When it was first discovered, Ditto was still too young to understand the writings. Most of the sentences were written in Indonesian while the others were written in Dutch. When he finally took Dutch course in junior high school, Ditto finally understood the final contents of all letters. There were bunch of love letters from a man to Granny Nancy. The man was not Granny Teddy, it was from someone named Bob. Among the dozens of letters with one type of handwriting, there was one letter written by Granny Nancy. It was a reply that had never been sent.

Ditto could never forget the last two sentences in the letter written by Granny Nancy. If I really have to go, we will surely meet again. It is nice to have a secret to keep, us.

Ditto put all of the letters back to the box. For a long time he had been keeping the box under the bed, now it was time to let the box go. Right next to the Chrysanthemums planted in the garden, Ditto buried the box deep in the middle of the night.

Before entering the house, Ditto glanced at his watch. 0:02. He whispered softly, “Happy birthday, Granny Nancy. I will always keep your secret every now and then.”

NOTE: This is what I wrote for my Prose class. I am so glad to write one story like this, and I would like to explore more in writing. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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