It was the cell night of the cinnamon toast dessert.
Brenda had gone away that morning for an annual girls weekend away, and we were looking after our granddaughters, Tippy and Tori, until their dad came to pick them up the next day.
They always look forward to cell group dinner when they come upstairs and join the party each week! They help me get ready, join in the banter around the table, eat appreciatively and disappear downstairs again to play, once dessert is over.
With Brenda away, I popped downstairs to check on them after I'd said goodbye to everyone but Susan. She was staying for a few more precious moments and our ritual "second cup" of de-caff coffee before going home.
The girls, who are normally very independent, self reliant and happy in each other's company, looked a tiny bit lonely.
"Come upstairs, you don't have to stay down here you know," I said, and promised them a few chapters read out loud from Hey World, Here I Am! by Jean Little, after "Grandma Susan" and I finished our coffee.Their eyes sparkled at the thought.
Susan and I were deep in conversation on the couch, when we heard rustling and muffled giggles. It was the girls, hiding around the corner, waiting for our very long coffee to be over.
"We thought we'd been replaced," Torie said, laughing--the spot beside me on the couch belonged to them, after all.
"Hey," I said to Susan, "would you like to join us for one of the stories before you go? " and she said she'd love to.
Tippy chose her favourite story so far, Mr. Entwhistle, about a young, inexperienced and not very smart substitute teacher who picks on poor, unsuspecting Kate who inadvertently ignores a command he gives, and sets about "making an example" of her. It is so well written; the girls love the drama, being inside Kate's head as she makes a decision not to run away or fight back and thereby wins a battle she couldn't have won any other way. The teacher backs down, realizing he has made a mistake and she allows him to save face.
We all enjoyed it mightily again, including Grandma Susan, who was reminded of her own misbegotten youth and prompted to tell a story about a substitute teacher whom she brought to tears. Thus began the tale of Gertrude Zaharchuk.
The teacher was taking roll call when she came to Susan. She asked her name, and Susan, feigning reluctance, said, "They always laugh at my name."
"What is it dear?" asked the teacher.
"Gertrude Zaharchuk," said Susan, as the class collapsed into gales of laughter.
Susan buried her head in her arms on the desk. Her shoulders were shaking, not with tears as the poor teacher thought, but with laughter."
The mortified teacher thought that she was the cause of poor "Gertrude's" humiliation and tried to restore order to the class, while comforting the naughty Susan.
The girls' eyes were wide with delicious horror at the escapade as they giggled with delight.
Grandma Susan, satisfied with the rousing response to her story, basking in glory, rose to take her leave, and was followed to the front door by the still laughing girls, calling out, "Goodnight Gertrude!"
"That'll be Grandma Gertrude to you," said Susan.