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Re - Trace

Imagination is an incredible gift from God.  Given too many, used by 
few and understood by fewer.  Imagination either grows or it dies. 
My grandma's imagination thrived and flourished for a lifetime.

Grandma saw things that her own reality of poverty and a meager 
upbringing couldn't afford her nor offer her.  Her life was always 
rich though, because she looked at life through the magnification of 

She was generous too.  Grandma shared her gift with everyone, 
including me.  She couldn't help herself, always excited about what 
she was seeing.  Pointing and asking, "Can you see the castle in the 
clouds?   Can you see it honey?" Or she would ask, "Melodie do you 
see the elephant in the sky?"

Once in awhile, not very often she would just quietly gaze into the 
sky, as if confirming what she was seeing.  Then she would say with 
the greatest admiration, "I have never seen a more beautiful leopard, 
just look at all those spots honey.  It is truly a special day! 
Honey, do you know how rare it is to see a leopard?"

She dazzled me.  In honesty, I didn't always see the things grandma 
called me to see or pointed out for me to find in the sky, but I was 
enthralled with her enthusiasm and excitement of seeing it.  And I 
suppose more importantly, I wanted to see it.  I wanted the gift.  I 
especially, wanted to see her beautiful leopard with all its spots.

I learned from Grandma that imagination isn't embraced or understood 
by all. This was the case, for my grandma. During my grandma's 
childhood, she received much ridicule because of her gift.

She was in fact an outcast.  There wasn't time for imagination in a 
poor family of fifth-teen.  Imagination was a hard thing for people 
to embrace when they were busy trying to survive.

One day my grandma shared the huge price she had paid for her gift 
from God.  Grandma looked deep in my eyes and locked on to my stare.
"My imagination was a constant sore spot with my mama."

Grandma shared that her mama was exhausted most of the time, and 
became easily frustrated, and thought everything out of the ordinary 
was 'nonsense'.

"Mama found my ways annoying and didn't want me around."  Grandma 
looked down at her lap.

My emotions stuck in my throat.  I struggled to ask, "Why grandma? 
Why didn't your mama want you around?"

Grandma said that the painful conflict between her and her mama was 
always present, especially at the family dinner table.  As a child 
grandma never got to finish a meal.  Every night she would be sent 
from the table.  Punished for her outbursts of laughter or for her 

"It was always something.   Mostly, it was always something I saw on 
my plate. I would look down at my plate, the same way I looked up at 
the clouds or the way I looked at cobwebs.  And I would always see 

Grandma now chuckled, as she took time to remember back. Recalling,"I 
would just look at the way my peas formed a pattern on my plate.  And 
I could see the shape of an owl, cat or donkey looking up at me. And 
it would make me laugh."  I would say, "See the donkey mama?  My mama just couldn't see it."

Grandma became sad and sighed, "Mama just thought I was causing 
trouble at the table and I would be sent away with no food.  And I 
would have to go upstairs in the dark with no supper.   I would just 
lay and cry."   Grandma sadly confessed, "My mama never understood 

My grandma carried her gift for a lifetime.  Her vision was different 
or should I say 'more' than others.  And I cherish all those special 
moments with my grandma when an exact cloud formation, or a completed intricate cobweb, or a plate of peas... formed a special pattern bringing forth a picture in grandma's mind.  It was clear to me, 
without grandma there to see and point these things out...that these 
remarkable sightings would of gone unnoticed and unappreciated.

It was decades later in my life when it finally happened. My beloved 
grandma had been in heaven for three years, when I saw my first 
leopard in the sky.

I gazed in astonishment at the leopard, pausing and lingering slowly 
re-tracing it.  I could hear Grandma in my mind,
"It is truly a special day when you see a leopard."

Yes, clear as day it was a leopard.  In my mind, I carefully bolded 
it's outline to verify it's existence. I completely re-traced it 
again, spots and all, exactly as it appeared in the sky clouds.

It did exist!  As I was savoring the leopard's beauty, I breathed in 
ever so deeply, tears began running down my face, as the memories of 
my grandma flooded me.

I looked up, saying aloud, "Grandma I can see your leopard!   And 
it's beautiful just like you said!  Oh,Grandma thank you so much!"

Looking up one last time at the leopard in the sky, wiping my tears 
away, I said, "I love you Grandma!"

It was indeed a special day!

~ Melodie Tilander~
©used with permission, July 29th, 2002

Music: If I Could Sing Your Love Forever"
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