For the First Time

IN ANY CASE, OF all the giants who held up my world, Naya [Buechner's maternal grandmother] was perhaps chief, and when I knew she was coming to Georgetown for a visit that day, I wanted to greet her properly. So what I did at the age of six was prepare her a feast. All I could find in the icebox that seemed suitable were some cold string beans that had seen better days with the butter on them long since gone to wax, and they were what I brought out to her in that fateful garden. I do not remember what she said then exactly, but it was an aside spoken to my parents or whatever grown-ups happened to be around to the effect that she did not usually eat much at three o'clock in the afternoon or whatever it was, let alone the cold string beans of another age, but that she would see what she could do for propriety's sake. Whatever it was, she said it drily, wittily, the way she said everything, never dreaming for a moment that I would either hear or understand, but I did hear, and what I came to understand for the first time in my life, I suspect—why else should I remember it?—was that the people you love have two sides to them. One is the side they love you back with, and the other is the side that, even when they do not mean to, they can sting you with like a wasp. It was the first ominous scratching in the walls, the first telltale crack in the foundation of the one home which perhaps any child has when you come right down to it, and that is the people he loves.

-Originally published in The Sacred Journey

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