She was a little stooped hunch-backed old woman, her face like that of a wrinkly monkey. And she had a creaky voice at that.
Yet she was a fairy grandmother.
Every year when we were on holiday with our aunts and uncles and our cousins, we would go on long walks. I don’t remember that we were ever bored, picking juicy blueberries, playing among the tree trunks or wading in the cold, clear streams.
But best of all was Granny. We would flock around her, begging her to tell us a story. She always consented willingly.
We would sit down in the warm sand, chewing a blade of grass, or drawing shapes between our feet with a stick, listening to her voice transporting us to the land of the fairy tales, casting her spell.
When we were walking it was more difficult to be in the right position to hear it all. The other cousins would be crowded closer to her. But as soon as she was aware that one of the little ones could not share in everything, she would make sure we would change places, so no one was left out.
I hardly remember any of the many stories she told. There must have been scores over the years.
The only story that partly comes to mind was about a bad person who had extracted a promise from a good person, which promise would be fulfilled “when the oak tree had lost all its leaves.” Since oak trees apparently don’t lose all their leaves, the good guy got away with it.
I remember being disappointed, too young to appreciate the subtlety.
But it is the only story that has stuck, for precisely that reason, I suppose.
Whenever I see oak trees in the fall now, I check their leaves, while little stooped Granny appears before me, like the magic of her fairy tales.