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  • The first thing I do when I get to the house is run up the stairs and sneak into my grandmother's room. It's not because she's dead, and I don't sneak for any reason aside from habit. I've just been doing this since I was a kid, and it's a hard routine to break. I sneak when there's no one there to see me just like I'd sneak when she was sitting in her chair in the living room, complaining about the draft from the front door. She always knew exactly where I was headed.

    My mommom's drawers are as she left them. Small and orderly piles, they are folded rows of knits that she owned for decades, but look brand new. The drawers are nothing like mine at home, where everything is new but looks old in their tightly packed, wrinkly mounds.

    When you open her drawers a perfume whispers out: Dove soap. Estee Lauder Pleasures and Beautiful. Oil of Olay. Peppermints. When they glide open, nothing springs up at you like with my jack-in-the-box drawers. I open them all and close them again just to appreciate the ease of the motion.

    She kept her jewelry in the packaging from the store when she could, or used utensil organizers to keep the rest neat. There are hidden things, both treasures and personal tragedies. A beaded evening clutch full of the quarters she saved for Jessica. A yellowed envelope with 'Judy' written in her script, yellowed photographs from this Judy's childhood tucked inside. Adult incontinence briefs. A necklace she meant as a gift for someone but never gave. Denture glue. (She would hate that I mentioned the denture glue.)

    I'm more interested in her kerchiefs. They are kaleidoscopic and plentiful. They are small squares of silk and long sashes. They are florals, checks, plaids, and a few trippy patterns that must've been a phase. She wore them around her neck like a flight attendant. I wear them like a headband, tied off to the left side. The scarves have been migrating to my ownership over the years. "Do you like this, Sarah? Here. I never wear it." She hands it to me and I already have my eye on three more I'd like the next time. "You can have them all when I'm gone." I would always roll my eyes at that.

    She will never say those words to me again.

    I take two handfuls of the things and roll them up into a paper bag.

    .....

    When I get home, I toss the bag aside with everything else I've carried in, and forget it til a couple days later when I'm packing a suitcase. I consider some of the scarves and how perfect they will be to wear around Portland. On the plane. (...like a flight attendant) When I unroll the paper sack, the perfume of her doesn't whisper, it comes roaring, and I realize once this now-rumpled jumble meets the others in my jack-in-the-box drawers, the most precious thing I have smuggled of her will be gone.

    I breathe her in deep and wonder how any portrait could ever feel complete again without this air on it.
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