I’ve been thinking about grandmothers lately.

My grandmother, Queenie, would read to us each night when we would visit, all those years ago. She would read to us from one book. Only one book. Always this book.

WHAT IS BROWN? From Hailstones And Halibut Bones, 1961

Queenie loved this book. She knew all the poems about the different colors by heart. The book would often lay open on the bed, unused, as she turned down the lights, tidied the dresser, closed the shutters and pulled up our covers. Reciting the words all the while in her gravelly, sing-song voice. She liked to tell me that I was Brown (and I usually was, on my summer vacation – my sister once described me as a “healthy brown nut” – the anomaly in an otherwise fair-skinned family) so I liked that poem a lot. Her words were so low, so slow and calming. And we would fall asleep as Queenie told us about the colors, night after night.

When I opened the book today, I realized it STILL smells like my grandparents’ house. Took me straight back. Straight to the low light on the bedside table, the white shutters and knobbly blankets, to my little sister’s sleeping face 30 years ago, to Queenie quietly moving around the room. sigh. Crazy sad nostalgia.

Brown is a freckle   Brown is a mole.  Brown is the earth   When you dig a hole.  Brown is the hair on many a head   Brown is chocolate and gingerbread.  Brown is a feeling   You get inside   When wondering makes   Your mind grow wide.  Brown is a shoe and a good glove – Brown is as comfortable as love.

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