Hello. My name is Maria Oswald. I am 27 years old, and this is my story. It begins with my first memory. My grandfather is carrying me on his back and we are walking on our beach. We entered the woods and walk on a path until we got to the small clearing filled with lilacs we sat down and ate the food that we packed. I remember my sandwich got hopelessly squished and my grandfather split his in half and gave one to me. We then packed up and went back to our beach where grandfather tried to teach me to skip rocks. We had many experiences together. I spent almost all my time with my grandfather. When I would have a nightmare, I wouldn’t call mommy, I would call out, “Grandfather!” On my seventh birthday, grandfather gave me the one thing I had always wanted, my very own toy. My sister had one, my brother had one, but I was born when our poverty just started and I had never had a single toy. Sometimes I might play with a potato before we cooked it but I have never had a permanent toy. On my seventh birthday grandfather came with a package wrapped in old newspaper. It was about the size of a loaf of bread. I asked him what it was, and he told me to open it. I did. Inside there was the most beautiful teddy bear I have ever seen. It was red, both of our favorite color. It seemed to be made of velvet. A luxury I have never had. I named him Harold after his giver. Two days later, my dearest grandfather passed on. My little seven-year-old self didn’t quite believe it. I repeatedly thought that grandfather would be back tomorrow to play a game with Harold as we did before he died. But it never happened. When it finally hit me that he was dead I didn’t want to carry my life on. I went to the sea and before I swam out as far as I could so I could never come back, I heard my grandfather’s voice saying, “Oh, little Maria, I know you love me and I love you too, but we will be together eventually. Not now, I want you to live your life to the fullest. And one more thing, I love you.” Then his voice was gone, but I never forgot and to this day I try my hardest to live freely and love the world just like grandfather wanted me to. I write this now after coming back from placing sweet smelling lilacs on his grave by the sea and telling him about how I still miss him sometimes and how I still have his little red bear.
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