Now, first of all, you have to understand that I grew up in the 1980’s.
Which means that we had to compensate for our complete boredom (caused by a deplorable lack of technology) with other forms of entertainment.
Like smelling things.
Everything was made to be smelly in the late 80’s –
Not to be outdone by Strawberry Shortcake dolls, My Little Pony came in fruit scents…
Every Mr. Sketch marker smelled like its color…
and Scratch and Sniff stickers were ALL THE RAGE.
So, when my mom allowed me to pick out a gift from a missionary closet, I picked out a brand new package of purple smiley face stickers, complete with a scratch and sniff grape scent.
I was thrilled with those stickers. I didn’t use any of them, just kept them in their pristine 30 sticker completeness. They filled my eight year old heart with joy for two whole weeks.
Until I found the perfect place for them –
My Grandpa’s garage walls.
My grandpa’s garage was a truly special place. He had all kinds of welding gear, tools, nuts and bolts all clearly organized according to size and shape, hammers of different sizes and types ready for use in a spinning carousel, a tractor and a big white ford pickup truck…
In fact, it needed only one thing to make it perfect. It needed purple smiley face stickers that would fill the garage with the scent of sweet grape.
So, I ran around placing stickers all over the walls – behind my grandpa’s vice, above his hammer carousel, high and low and anywhere my little hands could reach. Then, I ran around scratching those stickers so that they would release their beautiful scent.
You know – sticking stickers on the walls. The kind of thing that a thoughtless child does, certain that she is bringing joy to others. One of those childish acts that mean nothing less than “I love you.” One of those thoughtless childish acts that are so annoying to busy and distracted adults.
My grandpa didn’t discover those stickers until after we had left. Left for four years, to be exact.
I returned to my grandfather’s garage as a tall, awkward, buck-toothed 12 year old girl, torn between two cultures and struggling to find her place in either.
But, my grandpa’s garage still looked exactly the same – perfectly organized tools were proudly in their places along his work bench. His tractor mower was facing the acres of fields behind his house. The Andrews sisters were crooning “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” on his tape player. Grandma’s jars of canned fruits and vegetables lined the shelves of one wall. Even the industrial grade paper towels above the sink were the same.
As my eyes wandered over my grandpa’s garage, I suddenly spotted a smiley-faced purple sticker behind the vice. And another one behind my grandpa’s hammer carousel. High and low, there were purple smiley-faced stickers everywhere. About 30 of them, to be exact.
My grandpa understood perfectly well the importance of purple smiley faced stickers. He knew that they meant “I love you.” And, he left them on his walls – a silent statement that meant nothing less than “I love you back.”
He had never moved one of those stickers. In fact, I suspect that he may have reinforced the stickers with some superior glue. Because four years is an awfully long time for a sticker to adhere to the rough plywood wall of a garage.
My grandfather died several years ago. There was no funeral, no memorial service.
My grandpa used to have many friends and neighbors who would stop by his garage with welding projects that needed to be done, pausing to reminisce about old times. But all of these friends had already passed away or were in poor health themselves.
Not many people remembered the old man who had built the children’s swing set behind the small country church twenty years before. Nobody remembered the welder who had served aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II.
My grandfather’s great achievements in life? His job promotions? His successes? Almost entirely forgotten.
His home was sold, his tools auctioned off. He couldn’t take those things with him.
What is left after a lifetime? Only the memories of a little girl.
Memories of my grandfather’s kindness – whiskery kisses in the morning before he had shaved, sharing sticks of “black jack” gum and covering our teeth with it to make grandma think that our teeth had fallen out, playing Crazy 8, catching my first (and only) fish in his stream, eating vanilla ice cream on top of cantelope…
and silly grape smiley faced stickers stuck on a garage wall. These things are my grandfather’s legacy.
Not his navy record.
Not his money.
Not his successes or achievements at work.
Not even his volunteer work.
Just grape stickers. Memories of a man who had time for a little girl.
And I wonder, what will my legacy be?
What will your legacy be? Will it be that job promotion or the money that you made? Will it be your volunteer work?
Or will it be something as simple as some grape smiley faced stickers and the kindness that you extended to a child?
Your true legacy might surprise you….