25 Tin Can Summer
Honk! Honk! Grandma's truck roars up the driveway. Mom waves. I fluff my skirt.
During summer vacations, my favorite place to sleep is inside a giant tin can. Actually, the "tin can" is what my family calls the big silver-colored trailer parked in our backyard. And when Grandma comes to visit, Mom lets me stay in it with her.
Maggie! You're wearing your best duds! Grandma jumps out and squeezes me like a loaf of bread. She points to the backseat of her truck, which is filled with bags of cans. "Three months of good eats," she says.
Inside the trailer, Grandma adjusts her baseball cap, rolls up the sleeves of her worn-out shirt, and starts filling the cupboards. "A tin can filled with tin cans," she says.
Bimetal , I correct her, smiling, as I pick up some cans to help with stacking . Last year in science class, I learned that most cans are made from a combination of tin and steel, so they're really a bimetal.
Bimetal? I buy lots of metal, Grandma chuckles as she points to a pyramid of cans.
Where are all the labels? I say.
In the garbage. My roof sprang a leak and it rained all night on the canned goods. By morning, the labels were a soggy mess on the floor.Grandma places lettuce, milk, butter, and cheese in the refrigerator, "We have a trailer full of food. Who needs labels?"
I roll a can back and forth on its side. I trust my grandmother, but all those label-less cans concern me. Still, thinking about food makes my stomach rumble.
I heard that, says Grandma. "It's time for lunch."
While I set the table, Grandma holds the can opener like a magic wand and points to the cupboards. "Pick a can, any can."
I know of only three canned things I like: green beans, black olives , and peaches.
Whatever you select, I've got something to go with it. She points to the refrigerator.
I grab a can and shake it. "I don't know what's inside."
Yes you do. Food! The only thing missing is the label. Grandma takes the can and slowly turns the can opener. "What's inside is the same with or without a label."
I peer into the dark crack in the lid. Black olives!
Your favorite, Maggie! Grandma drains the dark liquid. "Now, a main course."
I pick a can from the top of the pyramid. As we open it, a pink, mushy concoction oozes from the opening. "Refried beans," says Grandma. "My favorite." She ignores my wrinkled nose and opens a package of tortillas .
Someone knocks on the trailer door. It's my friend Troy. I set one more place.
Grandma says, "Troy! Choose our dessert."
Troy and I open his can while Grandma finishes rolling burritos . I cross my fingers , hoping it won't be lima beans . It's pear halves. Yum.
Troy and I pop black olives on our fingers and pretend they're puppets.
Later, as we kick his soccer ball around the yard, Troy says, "Your grandma dresses funny."
I pretend to ignore him.
She wears strange old shirts and hats, he continues.
So? Maybe she likes those clothes! I kick his ball over the fence.
That night, as I snuggle into the trailer's bed, I tell Grandma what Troy said.
I wear Grandpa's old clothes because I miss him. She points to her threadbare flannel shirt. Clothes are just wrappers, like labels on tin cans."
Bimetal, Grandma. I smile and close my eyes.
The next day, while we open cans of vegetable soup and cherry-pie filling, I tell Troy, "It's what's inside that counts."
Yeah, I see that, he says, grinning as we spoon out dessert.
After weeks of mystery meals, Grandma's cupboards are bare.
Let's go buy more bimetal, I say.
Grandma hugs me. "I'm sorry, honey. When the cans are gone, so am I."
Our last meal is brown bread (from a can!), peaches, and lima beans that I gobble down to make Grandma happy.
See you later, says Grandma as she waves and toots her truck horn. Her truck roars down the driveway.
I peer into the empty trailer. A single can sits on the counter next to a note.
If black olives are inside this bimetal can, you can bet I'll be back next summer!
Troy holds the can while I crank the opener. What if it's apricots or tuna fish? A dark liquid sloshes onto my jeans. I smile. Time for another puppet show.
(By Kimberlee Esselstrom)