People have been asking me how my holidays went. It’s a common small talk question, and one that probably I should just answer with a quick “fine” or “wonderful, how about yours?” But I have been feeling like being honest, so I say, well, my grandmother died two days after Christmas, and I went to her funeral on New Year’s Day. That same day I also got news that Eve’s daycare temporarily closed for a few weeks. So it’s been a bit of a roller coaster.
I don’t mean to be a downer, but I guess I just want to be real with people. There were a few days of the holidays that were restful. I enjoyed time with family. But there were two funerals to attend, a lot of driving in between, and then the stress of finding daycare coverage for the first three weeks (maybe more) of the new year. I have been trying to look for the good in all this, instead of dwelling on the stress and sadness. First of all, our dear grandmother lived a long, rich, full life, and was healthy right up until her quick, peaceful death. Her funerals were a wonderful time of sharing with family and hearing all the testimonies of a life well lived. I enjoyed putting together the little remembrance that we presented at her funerals. Since then I have been thinking of more memories I wish that I had added. Both of them are food-related, which I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about. I’ve always been a foodie, even as a little kid.
I remember going strawberry picking with our family and Grandma when I was little–I’m thinking maybe I was 9 or 10. We went to that place in Hornell that has since closed–Schultz’s, I think. I came across a beautiful strawberry–picture-perfect, a gorgeous shade of red, just the right shape. Look, I said to Grandma, it’s so perfect, I just have to eat it right now! And, hedonist that I was/am, I did. But as I was eating it, Grandma said, when I come across those perfect ones, I pick them and save them for preserving, and eating later. I eat the imperfect ones as I’m picking.
It’s normal as a child to be self-centered and impulsive (I want the best, right now!), but that little conversation stuck with me, as a window into a world I hadn’t quite thought of–where you delay gratification and put others before yourself. That was Grandma, always thinking ahead and saving the perfect strawberries for someone else.
The second memory I have is of a road trip somewhere. I was in college, and Grandma and I were in a car together. I’m not sure exactly where we were going but I remember we were eating hard pretzels. This is a family snack that I often have to explain to others. The real hard pretzels, the big ones with rock salt that you break your teeth on. I think we were eating Weges but I’m not sure. Anyway, Grandma bit into one, and said with a satisfying sigh, Yes. I do like a good fresh hard pretzel.
I could have pulled the car over and hugged her right then. It was rare to hear her express pleasure in food like that, and I was so glad to find someone else that recognized the goodness of a fresh hard pretzel. So many people can’t tell when a hard pretzel goes stale. See, they absorb moisture so easily, and an experienced hard pretzel eater can tell at the first bite if the pretzels are truly fresh, or if they have been exposed to air for too long. The crunch is not as crunchy, do you know what I mean? I was beyond thrilled to find a kindred spirit in Grandma.
I am holding on to these memories, and reading old emails from her as the days go by, savoring all the time we had with her. Have you had more memories of her to share, sisters?
I have also been surprised that finding daycare for Eve has not been as hard as expected. Sure, it’s no fun, calling on all your back-up daycare people and begging, but it turns out, I do have a community of friends here that are willing to help. I also have a wonderful big sister who came to cover the first two days. Thank you, Janna! It was so great to have you here. Between family and friends, it looks like I have two weeks of coverage, and likely more if I need it. What a relief.
So the lesson so far in 2016 is that I will survive! I will carry the memories of Grandma with me. I am hoping to carry forward her way of loving everyone with an unconditional, nonjudgmental kind of love. She was so inspiring in that way. I am also grateful for the community we have built here in Ithaca, and how it supports our family. I want to continue building this kind of community (inspired by Grandma’s way of loving) that carries and sustains others.
Wishing you all a good start to your new year. Sending love.