My grandparents came to town in a huge, white RV that had driven over the grand canyon, through Yosemite National Park, and across the great plains, and they parked it in the tiny RV campground next to Burger King in Swananowhere, just fifteen minutes from home, and I would visit them every Summer just a year or so after my sister was born.
My grandfather, a WWII veteran who had toured—and survived—D-Day, liked to show me the campground’s few offerings. There was a picnic house in the middle of the huge grassy field where the fake owls lived, and he would beat me at shuffleboard with the nearly broken community sticks and scratched red plastic pucks.
My grandmother would walk me to the tiny sunken creek that crackled underneath the metal-fence topped hill, opposite the campground, where the Burger King was built. Sometimes, we might go there for breakfast. If it was with my grandfather, that meant 7:00am, and black home-brew coffee that tasted like jet fuel. If it was with my grandmother who woke five hours later, I’d order a burger for lunch and play with the light-up Men in Black toy. But my grandmother more often brought me on a stroll to the buckeye trees that lined the tiny creek, and she’d show me how to pry open the green fruit they dropped with a cinderblock, so I could pry the seed out with my fingers. She told me buckeyes were lucky. I carried no less than three in my pockets whenever I left their RV to go back home.
My grandmother was also a fudge popsicle connoisseur: the half-fridge in their RV was about a quarter full of her latest test-purchase in flavor, consistency, and overall fudginess, and I owned pride of place as her favorite test subject. We sat together on the couch that turned into a dining room table, and taste-tested our newest choco-loaded favorites, and looked at the things they brought with them across the country. My grandfather’s childhood Bible, complete with a pencil-line sketch of a rugged looking outlaw on the inside cover. A broken Radioshack clock-radio combo that I fixed with a 9-volt I pulled out of the fridge. An orange tiger-eye stone from out West. A make-your-own-sock-monkey kit. An old family photo.
And a stuffed teddy bear. Only 5 inches tall. He was made out of something that looked like a light brown dishtowel. He had no face, his left arm and right leg were freying, and the cotton was sticking out. He looked like he had been beat up in the washer, and spent most of his days holed up in the Nike shoebox under my grandparent’s bed.
She said I could have him, if I wanted; he used to be hers, but she’s not played with him in a long long time. I took him, and immediately gave him a lopsided smiley face with a ballpoint pen.
Note, my grandparents let me keep a lot of things from the RV park: a Radioshack, clock-radio combo, an old bible, the family photo, a green mesh bunk storage net for sailors, several pocketfuls of buckeyes. I’ve gotten rid of most of them over the years, or moved them into storage, or slipped them into photo albums I don’t look at anymore.
But I still have this bear, and he sits on top of the shelf over my bed, grinning at the walls like they’re the most wonderful sight in the whole wide world.