I feel important. Like one of the big people that gets to wear a nametag on their shirt. I always put the nametag on when I go anywhere with Poppy. I love wearing it because it makes Gramma laugh and shake her head. She says that it’s silly, but Poppy says it’s to keep me safe. In case I ever get lost. But I’m always with Poppy…I could never lose him.
I’m 18 years old. Going through junk in my closet. I’m tossing some old CD’s and donating the clothes that I’ve grown out of. Really though, I’m only looking through my closet to find something worth writing a vignette on. If you’ve kept it, it must mean something to you, she said. But she doesn’t know me very well: I don’t keep much. The majority of the things I’ve kept are tied to my grandparents, especially my grandfather. As I’m thinking this through, I stumble across the goofy name-tag that my grandfather used to make me wear on my shirt when we would go out to Cresson Springs or the breakfast restaurant in Munster. (The one with a stuffed animal head above every table.) I was probably four or five at this point…at least when the name-tag was introduced. I didn’t stop wearing it until I was probably ten. I’m trying to remember how I came to acquire it anyway. Immediately, I scold myself for forgetting.
I am 16 years old to the day. Today is my birthday party that Mom is throwing for me at the new house. New house, new boyfriend…same old stupid card from Gramma. I’ve never told her this, but I resent the fact that she only signs her name on the card anymore. She used to sign both of their names, Love Gramma and Poppy, but apparently it doesn’t count anymore since he’s not around. I’m expecting to read her usual signature when I open the envelope to find no card at all. This time, she’s included a pocketknife that used to belong to Poppy and my old name-tag. I haven’t seen this name-tag in years. It’s yellowed and stiff, with typewriter print and a metal clip at the top. I read it to myself:
My name is LAUREN LEWIS
Address – 1601 Madison Ave.
Parents: Todd & Marcie Lewis
Same address & Phone
I am with my grandfather:
William F. Eberhart
1427 Third St.
Cresson, Pa. 16630
The backside is blank. I immediately recognize that the phone number has changed. The address has also changed. Half laughing, half crying, I wonder how anyone would know who I belonged to, when the return address was outdated and incorrect. But it doesn’t matter. Gramma is choking up now, too. Looking at me, she can barely get out that she wanted to give me a present that really meant something, and she wanted me to have this. Her solitary signature means everything now. Hugging her, I realize that my grandma is my rock. She has always been there for me to lean on—her signature, and her presence, and her love are constants in my life that I take for granted sometimes. My grandfather is there for me as well. Just as I was “with my grandfather” then, I know I will always carry my grandfather with me now. And the memories—they are what keep these moments alive for me every day.
Common Poppy! I’m ready to gooooo! I’m not strong enough to open the door by myself. Gramma is coming over with a brush, but I want to leave right now. Your hair looks like a rat’s nest Lauren, let me comb it before you leave. She is pulling my hair so hard with the wig brush. Poppy comes in the patio. Don’t bother with that now, she looks fine. Come here and let me put your name-tag on. He is clipping the grown-up name-tag to my shirt so I don’t get lost. Well alright then, Gramma says. I think she would rather I fix my hair than put the name-tag on. But she laughs, so I know she’s not mad. She just thinks it’s silly. Don’t get lost, she says. I won’t, I say, because I’m with my Gramma and my Poppy!
-Spring 2012/Senior Year of High School