Marlee remembers dancing around to the song “I’m Looking Over my Four Leaf Clover” in the living room everyday after school with her grandma. She would grab her and Brandi’s arm and they would move throughout the entire house singing the Willie Nelson song at the top of their lungs. That was one of their many traditions.
Marlee also remembers jumping in the backyard pool at midnight with her grandma and sister almost every night during summer. Her grandma would get in first, let them know the temperature of the water so they could prepare themselves for the plunge, and then she would wait until Marlee and Brandi canon-balled in, judging who made the biggest splash. They were loud. It was midnight. But they didn’t care. They were having a blast together making currents and waves throughout the entire pool. That was another tradition they shared.
Marlee remembers baking dozens upon dozens of cookies every year around Christmas time. They would dedicate an entire day to slaving over the oven like master bakers. Grandma would tell Marlee and Brandi how to mix the batter (that was half gone after eating it raw), how to roll the dough into the perfect sized balls, and what temperature to set the oven to. They would then finish it off by licking the bowl and mixer clean and finishing off the left over cookie dough. Of course they would test about three different cookies when they got done baking. This was one of Marlee’s favorite days of the year. She got to spend the entire day with her grandma eating an endless amount of sugar and raw cookie dough. This was one of their favorite traditions.
Marlee also remembers the one summer her and Brandi refused to be at home. Their grandma lived right across the yard, but they were determined to stay there and never leave. She bought them bunk beds to sleep on and they would spend all day swimming, making lunch, dancing around the living room, putting puzzles together, playing Skip-Bo, picking berries, and watching Judge Judy and endless Lifetime movies. It was the best summer of their lives. They loved being with their grandma. She was their best friend. They had so much fun together.
Marlee also remembers every night before bed, whether they were staying over at their Grandma’s or they were back over at their house, their MeMe would call them or come back to the bedroom to give them each a kiss and whisper the phrase “I love you a bushel and a peck -” and then Marlee and Brandi would answer back, “a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” That was their way of saying they loved each other. That was a tradition that carried on through the years. And they all three meant those words. They loved each other so much and they would do anything for one another.
She was more than a grandma to them, she was their best friend. She was the lady who took them out of pre school to spend that extra time with them watching the movie Thumbalina about a million times or slicing them apples to dip into peanut butter every night while watching movies together on the couch. She was the lady that emptied her shed out every summer so Marlee and Brandi could make their summer clubhouse. The lady that would leave half of her coffee cup full so they could finish off the remainder of the beverage. The lady that would buy them 7-Up and make the couch into a bed during the days that Marlee and Brandi were sick and had to stay at home from school. It wasn’t the medicine or the toast and 7-Up that made them feel better, it was the fact that they were with their best friend. The best medicine was when she would come into the bedroom, rub Vicks on their back, tuck them in, and whisper “I love you a bushel and a peck” into their ears. That automatically made them feel better.
Years have past, and some of the traditions are hard to carry on. Marlee’s grandma is older and a lot more fragile. Marlee and Brandi are not around as much. There is no pool to jump into at midnight. No record player to dance to. No school to stay home sick from. Their grandma is too sick to empty the shed to make it into a clubhouse and too weak to spend all day slaving over the oven baking dozens and dozens of cookies.
But there are some things that have not changed. They still watch Lifetime movies together when Marlee and Brandi are home to visit. They still play card games together. And most importantly, they still tell each other “I love you a bushel and a peck – a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” No amount of sickness or weakness can prevent them from loving each other the same amount that they always have. She is weaker. She is sicker. She is older. But she is still alive. She is still their best friend. And she still loves them “a bushel and a peck.”