Yes, my grandmother had always been a bit strange, that was true. That was one of the reasons I found her so interesting. But we had never discussed dead people contacting us before. That was stranger that the average strangeness of Grandma.
"What do you mean I met with one of the ways 'they' communicate with us?" I couldn't help but add a sceptical edge to my voice. Grandma ignored it.
"Books are quite popular message deliverers. They drop them off shelves."
I shook my head.
"No, that's just coincidence... Has to be."
"Maybe, maybe not. But keep your eyes open. The world is full of stories about communication from the other side. Surely not all of those stories can be just imagination. Ever considered there might actually BE something on the other side? And that our loved ones might want to let us know they still exist? But we won't talk about this any more, if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Actually there's something I want to show you. How about going for a walk in the garden? I need to stretch myself a bit after that big meal."
She turned with the grace of a dancer and I followed her out of the house.
We walked past Mom's beautiful flowers, towards a little brook that ran behind the low hedge defining our garden.
"I have something for you." Grandma put her hand in her jeans pocket. She took something out that glistened pale green in the sunlight, and handed it to me.
A pendant of something that looked like jade.
"It is not jade, if that's what you are thinking," Grandma read my thoughts. "It's glass. But not just any glass - it's meteorite glass from the Western Desert of Egypt. Millions of years old."
The piece of glass was in the shape of a teardrop, but not cut or polished, it just seemed to be naturally teardrop-shaped. It was mounted in a golden fitting of the same shape. I saw indentations in the gold. Something was carved on the back of the necklace. I turned it in the light in order to see better.
A female figure, depicted from the side, the hand closest to me pointing down, the other hand straight forward, with wings attached to the underside of the arms. She had something on the top of her head that vaguely resembled a chair. In front of her were two fan-like objects, Her hair and her pose were...
"Egyptian," Grandma completed the sentence I was thinking. "It is very old. It has been passed down the female family line for at least centuries, always passing to the eldest daughter. It belongs to you."
"But why doesn't mother have it then?" I had to ask, as mother was Grandma's only child.
"Well, I thought that it's better to give it to someone who appreciates ancient Egypt. Your Mum would probably never wear it. After all it depicts the goddess Isis. Or Aset, as they called her in ancient times. And your Mum is rather strict about matters of faith."
Well, that was true. I just couldn't imagine Mom ever wearing an ancient goddess around her neck. She might even have thrown a necklace like that away, or had the gold melted down for a new ring.
"How old is this?" I wondered, turning the pendant so that the sun's rays hit it from different angles.
"Ancient, I think it may be even be thousands of years old... If you look at the work it doesn't seem modern. And so - well, perhaps you'd better keep it hidden, since we don't know its full history. And even if you told someone with an interest in it that it had been passed down for generations in your family, it might be difficult to explain to officialdom that it hadn't been stolen from some ancient tomb or something."
"Why are you giving this to me now?"
"I thought it might cheer you up after Kitty's death."
The sun reflected softly from inside the green glass. I looked at the carving in the gold again.
"What do these two fans mean?" I pointed to the fans with long handles in the space between the outstretched arms of the winged goddess. "I mean, they are fans, aren't they?"
"Yes, they are. They read shuet. It means shadow. It does not make much sense. The placement in front of Isis would suggest you read it 'the shadow of Isis'. It may be this came originally from a priestess who called herself that. We will probably never know. Shuet certainly was not a real name as far as we... I know. The ancient Egyptians believed the soul consisted of many parts, and shuet was the 'shadow self' if you will. No parent would have named their child Shuet."
For a fleeting moment I wondered who the "we" were, but did not ask. Probably some of Grandma's Bohemian friends.
The pendant felt surprisingly heavy in my hand, and it was as if it made me feel the pulse in my wrist beat much more strongly than before. I felt a slight tingling sensation, or so I thought. Perhaps it was just Grandma's story.
Suddenly I thought I saw some shadowy movement at the edge of the forest not far off. Grandma must have seen it too, because she turned to stare intently in the direction of the movement.
Nothing was moving there now, and after a while we walked back towards the house. When we came closer to the porch, we could hear my parents discussing something. Or rather, someone.
"Why has she turned up now?" I heard Mom ask Dad in the living room. She was trying to keep her voice down.
"Why not?" Dad laughed so loudly that Mom shushed him.
Dad had always liked Grandma, just like I had. No talk about any difficult mother-in-law relationship there. It was as if they were chips off the same block. They understood each other's jokes and spent a long time chatting and laughing on the phone as well. Mom, on the other hand, almost never called her mother, and if Dad gave her the phone after talking to Grandma, she usually took it with a long sigh (which I am sure Grandma always heard), and her words always sounded awkward.
"She is so strange!" Mom complained. "We're just not on the same wavelength, never have been..."
"It's a good thing that she doesn't hold your differences against you then, eh? She's always cheerful, always the same," Dad chuckled. "Come on, Hun, you'll get along fine. If not, I'll keep her busy so she won't make you lose your cool. Besides, it will do Dana good. She needs cheering up. She has no close friends now that Kitty is gone. Maybe she'll get new friends in the fall, when school begins again, but right now she is pretty lonely."
Mom mumbled something under her breath.
I glanced at Grandma, wondering if she was upset by what was being said. She just grinned back at me and gave me a wink.
"You wouldn't believe we are from the same family, would you?" she whispered. "To tell you the truth, I sometimes find it hard to believe as well."
I couldn't help but grin back.
I had always wondered what my Mom really held against Grandma. She didn't hate her, but there always seemed to be something unspoken bubbling under the surface, as if Mom was somehow indebted to Grandma. I wondered if she had lent my parents some money in the past, to help them over a rough patch. That would explain it. Mom did not want to be indebted to anyone, about anything.
"Well, let's get inside before they wonder if we've disappeared," Grandma smiled, now digging in her jacket pockets - the contents of which never ceased to amaze me. "Anyone for a game of cards?" she asked with a loud voice and stepped on the porch, waving a worn packet of playing cards in the air.
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