518 by Makaelynn DuVall

I walked through the gates and vines to the backyard and was welcomed by a billow of smoke. The sisters gathered, grouped speaking low humming tones, raspy from the hot tar in their regal cigarettes. They wanted to smoke and so they would camp outside and wait between cigarettes. (If there was an in between) They did this before and after their stepfather died of emphysema. There was laughter among the haze and the outside group high on caffeine and nicotine sat together and took in the summer breeze.

Inside, the bosom of my grandmother waited for me with warm casseroles in hand. She made ones I would eat heartily, others I would pick from, but either way I would go over and over filling myself to the top. The excitement of her siblings buzzing around. My grandmother was young when they were present, and she would cook and joke with them, never smoking since her 20’s, quitting when she had babies. I was now one of her babies and I felt like royalty coming to her home. My grandma loved to show us off.  Everyone calling each other nicknames and pet names and curse words and whistles. We would get there well into the party, and we would make our rounds calling them all aunt and uncle. Even though they were our great aunts and uncles, we would kiss close to the mouth on the cheek and inhale the cigarette and coffee breath thick with steam. Then we would sit and wait for the other kids to show up so that once in a while they would come with their grandparents to visit, and we could long lost cousins down the line play outside for a few hours to pass the time. But mostly, we sat in the living room, the patio and outside in the front or back. I remember dirt on my hands. I remember squeezing into spaces and I remember being asked how school was and always lying about how it really was. These were the types of relatives that you got new clothes for. My grandma would groom us to look good for her family. Her family did the same to their children and grandchildren. The siblings are always keeping a silent count. I remember lying about how good I was doing, because I remember lying to make my grandma look good. I knew she would’ve done the same for me. I would sit on the porch swing and drink my coffee white and sweet with cream until my tummy was aching and my thoughts were flying. When we would finally leave it would take hours because we would kiss everyone again and again. Sit out in the driveway just talking. My grandmother was the type of person that wanted to talk. She wanted to talk about the birds and Jesus.

Biography: Makaelynn is a 34-year-old female and a Greeley, CO native. She has a son, and they live with their dog, Knickson. Makaelynn started writing because she would from a very early age have this ache to fill an empty notebook. The blank lines had the courage to be anything she wanted them to be. Makaelynn was, and always will be, in love with reading and books. She loves the adventure of a good book, and the healing words of someone else sharing their experiences. Makaelynn soon realized if she could fill those empty lines with her life or a caricature of it, then, maybe she too could get rid of this ache for just a moment. She also wanted to capture the pulse of the human condition. It all started with expressing her own experience. 16 years ago, Makaelynn started her journey at Aims Community College. She started as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. Makaelynn will now graduate thanks to God’s grace and her Mama.