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Family Life's Short Story Contest Winner

Congratulations to Our Winner, Holly Cummings!


By Holly Cummings

In the late 1950s, going to Grandma’s house was a real treat for my younger brother and me. She welcomed us with open arms, always, but we went for our own selfish reasons, as only kids will do. She would make large batches of peanut brittle every year for the holidays. She stored them in holiday tins, telling no one where she hid them. We kids would try to find those tins on our visits and hadn’t succeeded so far.

However, one Pentecostal Sunday, Grandma was having a tea party with her church ladies when we stumbled upon something in the attic! That particular Sunday, we were playing quietly, going through old trunks and boxes, listening to the loud chatter below. It was great fun prowling around finding old hats, photos, dresses, magazines, and anything western. 

My brother had on his cowboy hat and was shooting pretend pistols at me or other things he picked as targets. Aiming at me, he tripped over an old, stained linen tablecloth. It was wadded up with some boxes in the corner. My brother tugged at the cloth, revealing three holiday tins. WOW! We found the peanut brittle! Smiles lit up our faces. 

Quickly, my brother opened one tin, emitting a sweet aroma. We looked at the wax paper linings, seeing golden pieces peeking out. Licking our lips, we grabbed the tasty chunks to pop into our mouths. With gusto, we chewed the heavenly candy, as it melted on our tongues. We dove in for more when my brother slipped on a loose floor tile. He moved it back in place only to find an old stovepipe hole in the floor. In the semidarkness, the light from below filled our eyes, as we looked down. To our surprise, there sat Grandma in her living room. My brother and I looked at each other in wonderment. We leaned in and listened for a few moments but lost interest, for it wasn’t a world we knew. We wanted more candy!

Reaching for more peanut brittle, something fell on my brother. In a knee-jerk reaction, he flung it at me, causing a large dust cloud to cover me. I sneezed twice and found something on the floor at my feet. There lay Grandma’s old, faded whalebone corset with pink rosettes, garters, and dozens of hooks and eyes. My grandma was from the Victorian era, and this was her uniform for dressing daily. I remember hugging her, feeling those stiff stays at her waist. She always wore one up to her late 60s until she gave it up for her job at a doctor’s office. She wanted comfort and flexibility. 

Repulsed, in a split second, my brother grabbed the corset and stuffed it down the hole! We both watched in slow motion as it glided down to Grandma’s lap. Flustered then embarrassed, holding her unmentionable, Grandma looked up, as we ducked back. We clamped our mouths shut trying not to laugh. Suddenly, all the ladies went quiet; teacups hushed. Then, tittering to themselves, the ladies quietly left. The next sound was, “Get down here NOW!”

Cautiously, we peeked around the doorway, looking down seeing Grandpa at the bottom of the stairs with his hands on his hips glaring up at us. We were in trouble. Our grandpa chewed tobacco, so with stained lips and teeth, wagging his finger near our noses, we suffered some spittle and scolding words. We had embarrassed Grandma! In the end, he confided he was going to tell our father what had happened. OH, NOT HIM! We were doomed.

Slowly, we made our way home, for we lived next door. We had no time to make up a story or find an escape route. When we entered the house, our mother said, “Go sit in the living room.” So, we waited for the dreaded car to come up the driveway. 

Dad, shouldering his golf clubs, would enter the house heading for the kitchen. Mom usually made a special dinner on Sundays. When Dad got the story, he called, “Kids come here.” Sweating with pounding hearts, we walked slowly into the kitchen to face the inevitable scene. 

Dad was at the table, smoking a cigarette. He was blowing little smoke rings while our mother mashed potatoes at the kitchen sink. Astonishingly, Dad began laughing loudly then chuckling over the whole affair. My brother and I looked at each other in disbelief. “What is this?” Dad still laughing some more said, “Go outside and play until time to eat.” We scrambled to the door, wondering what had just happened. At supper, Mom and Dad just smiled at each other and didn’t say a word about our stunt.

As a matter of fact, Grandma became quite popular for a while in her ladies’ group but was a good sport about all of it. Our father enjoyed a little joke on his mother and made sure our story came up, to our chagrin, at future holiday meals. A week later, Grandpa sealed up the hole in the ceiling. He bought a black and white television, the first in the family, and that became our new pastime. No more candy hunts ever again.

Thank You to All Who Shared Short Stories With Us!

We received an entertaining assortment of thoughtful, well written submissions that covered a variety of topics, and we appreciated reading each one. We truly enjoyed “visiting” the succinct worlds you created, which inspired us to feel a wide array of emotions.