When I was little, my grandmother kept the moon in a glass on her bedside table. She kept her teeth in another glass right next to it.
I always wondered what would happen if she mixed them up, and put the moon in with the fizzy tablet that cleaned her teeth. Would it wipe away all the craters? Chase away the mares and level the Archimedes mountains?
But she never mixed the glasses.
I asked her once, why she trapped the moon that way. She told me that after my grandfather left this world, she was lonely. During the day, she had friends and neighbors to visit with, and family to talk to on the phone. But in the deep, darkness after bedtime, she missed having someone right there, with their head on the pillow next to hers, to share her thoughts with.
“But don’t people miss the moon, when you have it in the glass?” I’d asked.
“Oh, no,” she said. “Because the moon isn’t just the moon; it’s the quiet listener we all need from time to time. I have the moon in this glass, and we talk, and then the moon goes to the next person who needs it, and I drink the moon-water.” She paused and smiled at me, and her teeth were shiny in her mouth, in a way they never were in the glass. “The moon-water is what makes it possible. Your grandfather used to snatch the moon from the sky when we was away at war, and keep it in his canteen.”
“He did. He sent me a drawing of it, once. I think it’s in the bottom drawer of my bureau.”
I went to the bottom drawer, the one where my grandmother kept her treasures and found the manila envelope of my grandfather’s drawings. We never found the picture of the moon in his canteen, but we flipped through pages showing the anatomy of flowers and insects in textbook detail, and a sketch he drew of my grandmother when they were young and newly married. He’d written La Signora della Luna in the top margin. It meant “Lady of the Moon.”
“Would the moon listen to me, if I needed to?”
“Maybe.” My grandmother rarely gave definitive answers. “If the mood was right and you asked politely.”
Of course, I resolved to ask.
I tried and tried – constantly that summer, and less frequently as the years turned and I grew older. In time, I forgot all about the moon being in my grandmother’s water-glass, and when I did remember, I assumed it was a trick of the light, a reflection shining through her window.
But after she left this world to go be with my grandfather again, I found the thick, heavy glass in a box of things to be donated, and I asked my mother if I could have it.
“I guess so,” she said, puzzlement in her voice. “But it’s just one glass. We were never sure, but we think she took it from the Officer’s Club dining room.”
That didn’t surprise me. My grandmother had many mysterious acquisitions among her belongings: a tiny milk pitcher from a favorite bed and breakfast, one purple satin shoe, a pair of gold bracelets that didn’t seem big enough for even her tiny wrists, yet somehow, magically, she managed to wear. A stray glass was nothing by comparison.
Except that I knew the secret.
Alone at home, a year and a day after the funeral, I filled that glass with water and put it on my bedside table. I wasn’t even thinking about a possible lunar visitation. I just remembered that it had been hers.
That night, I dreamed of my grandmother, not the way she’d been in the last years before her death, but vibrant and relatively young the way she’d been when I was little. Her cheeks were barely lined then, and her eyes were bright and shining. She didn’t speak to me, but I felt the edge of the bed dip when she sat down, and I smiled at the touch of her cool fingers on my forehead.
I woke up to dim light, certain that I could detect her rose-scented perfume in my room. Reaching for the water glass on my table, I froze. Because instead of just water, the moon was there, just floating as if it belonged there instead of the sky.
Moon-water doesn’t taste any different from plain old drinking water, I discovered later. But drinking it makes you feel lighter inside. It’s as if gravity isn’t pulling on you quite as hard as it should.
And the moon… well, it’s an excellent listener. It never talks back, of course, but the next morning I always wake up with an answer to whatever problem I had told it about.
I bet if I had a lover who could draw, instead of one who played music, he’d call me the Lady of the Moon, now, and I guess that’s how it should be. I don’t have a granddaughter to pass my legacy to, but one of my nieces has the soul of a dreamer. Maybe I’ll ask her what she sees in the glass, next time she spends the night.
My grandmother used to keep the moon in a glass of water on her bedside table. Now it’s my turn.
#Written for the October 2021 #Creativefest. Prompt: Moon.