The day Grandpa Harry died, Nana was already a bit forgetful, to say the least.

    When the guests left after Grandpa’s funeral lunch, Nana asked Mark—my husband—what was he still doing in the house.  Mark didn’t say anything—he never does, anyway.  So Nana shooed him out.  “Tracy’s not ready to date you,” she said, tossing him a random jacket from a peg and closing the front door.

    Mark stared at me from outside the window, falling snow settling fast on his curly black hair.

    Patience, honey, I thought.  Patience with Nana for throwing you out of the house, patience with my family.  Patience with me for being a wreck every time I came back from seeing Grandpa at the hospital.  For every time I just wanted to sleep instead of being with you.  Patience, honey.

    Mark whirled his forefinger telling me he would take a walk around the park.  I nodded and turned to face Nana, prepared to remind her for the hundredth time that Mark and I had married two years ago.  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    Nana had rolled up the flowery pink sleeves of her “funeral” shirt. With wiggly fingers she swung the loose meat of her arm. “Look. My skin might be old,” she said, then tapped her temple twice, “but my brain is as good as new.”  She caught my wrist and pulled me to the hall.

    We passed the kitchen, and I caught a glimpse of Mom while she and Dad cleaned up after the guests.  The sight of her red-rimmed eyes made want to cry, even though I believed Grandpa was in a better place right now.

    Nana jerked her chin toward my parents, “Don’t tell them, but…” She covered her mouth and giggled like a five-year-old.  “All the fuss, the party, the big lunch, and everything, and they forgot to sing happy birthday to Grandpa Harry!”

    “Oh, Nana.” I bent over to kiss her dyed brown hair, only a strip of white roots running along the center of her scalp.  “I love you.” Forgetful as she was, she still managed to make my day.

    Nana kept on shuffling her little feet down the hall, always pulling at my wrist. “That boy outside.  Handsome, isn’t he?  His face reminds me of Harry when he was young.  I’ll bet if you marry him you’ll have cute babies with your caramel hair and his green eyes.” She led me to my parent’s bathroom, then locked us inside.  Closing the toilet lid, she said, “Sit here while I look for …” She turned to rummage in a drawer. “Ah! This.”

    I sat on the toilet, and looked at Nana’s crooked hand waving Dad’s razor.

    “Why the razor, Nana?”

    “You’ll see.  Take off those ugly jeans of yours.”

    I smiled.  “Okay, Nana.  What are you up to?”

    She gave me a mischievous grin; more wrinkles furrowed by the corners of her blue eyes.  “I’ll shave your legs,” she said, and waved Dad’s razor some more.  Something about that smile, about her impish look, made me play along.  God only knew how long I would have Nana by my side before she joined Grandpa.

    I pulled my jeans off while Nana hopped into the shower to look for Dad’s shaving cream.  I wondered what was going on inside that crazy little head of hers.  I sat down on the toilet again and propped my feet against the cold tiles of the wall.  Nana emerged from the shower with cream already lathered in her hands.  She sat on the edge of the shower and spread the cream on my legs, a white coat that tickled my skin.

    “So, Nana, why do you want my legs shaven, anyway?”

    She blushed.  “You’ll find out when that handsome boy waiting outside takes you out.”

    “That guy you shooed out to the snow was…” I couldn’t bring myself to say “my husband.” Nana was happy in oblivion—a little girl painting my legs like they were long sheets of paper.  “That boy is called Mark, Nana.  I’ve known him for a while.”

    “Mark,” she echoed, bobbing her head.  “So, are you going to the cinema? See ‘Sabrina’, perhaps?”

    “Sabrina, the movie with Harrison Ford?”

    “No, with Audrey Hepburn!” Nana frowned as if I’d just insulted her. Then she finished applying the cream and started shaving my legs, pale brown streaks at the razor’s wake.  “Sabrina was such a lovely movie.  I went with Harry to see it.” She sighed.  “My legs were hairy that day.  Big oopsy.”

    “Oopsy” was one of Nana’s favorite words since she started watching TV every evening.  Even though I was used to hearing that expression from her, I always smiled whenever she said it.  This time I laughed, and I imagined Grandpa was laughing too, wherever he was. “What happened?” I asked.

    Her wrinkled cheeks tinged pink.  “Don’t be like me.” She concentrated on the razor, avoiding my eyes.  “You know, I didn’t want to wait until my wedding night.  And neither did Harry.” She paused, examining my skin. “But we waited, Tracy.  We were so naive.”

    I felt my eyebrows lift.  Nana talking about her wedding night? No details, please.

    But, as she shaved my other leg, she went on, “You don’t want to remain a virgin until you get married, Tracy.  Especially if you’re having a long engagement.” She looked at me.  “This is my piece of advice, now that a handsome boy’s courting you.  You don’t want to miss all the fun you could have before marrying.”

    Now it was my turn to blush.  For a second I wanted to tell her my “date” with Mark wouldn’t be just like her date with Grandpa.  That today the mall’s movie-theater featured a comedy with Jennifer Aniston instead of Audrey Hepburn.  And that Mark had seen my legs without being shaved.  But I remained silent.

    Nana turned on the faucet to rinse the razor and tap it on the sink.  She squinted at my legs.  “Did I miss any spots?”

    I shook my head.  “What does this… advice you’re giving me have to do with the cinema, and, um, hairy legs?”

    She smiled, her impish look plastered on her face again.  “Harry wanted to feel my thighs at the cinema, but I wouldn’t let him because I hadn’t shaved.  Your silly grandfather chalked me up as a puritan and never attempted to feel anything else before our wedding… even though we both wanted to, you know.”  She chuckled.

    “Oh,” I said, and slipped my jeans on, trying not to think about Grandpa—God rest his soul—feeling Nana’s thighs.

    “Now, shoo!” said Nana, slapping my back. “You’re ready for your date.  Go fast before that poor boy freezes over in the snow.”

    I thanked Nana with a hug.  The kind of hug you give on birthdays, not at funerals.

    Then I thought about Mark.  He wouldn’t need to have patience with me tonight.  My legs were shaven, after all.

Monica Bustamante Wagner lives in La Serena, Chile with her husband and three kids.  She loves to write—especially for young adults.  If you’d like to know more about Monica, please visit her website:


My mom has a friend who really married as a virgin because of a case of hairy legs.  So as much as I’d like to say I came up with that part of the story, I didn’t.

The characterization of Nana was thanks to an aunt who recently came to visit me to Chile.  She had these wobbly arms she kept on shaking to show me she desperately needed to exercise.  And, since I loved the way she swung her loose skin, I just stared at her thinking: I want to write about it!  And I did. I just hope my aunt likes this story. 



Copyright 2009