Welcoming 2016

Hi sisters.

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 can't bear to take this card down. It will probably stay on our fridge for awhile.
Grandma gave this to Eve when she was at our house for Eve’s one year birthday party in November. It will probably stay on our fridge for awhile.

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.

Grandma holding Miriam at Bruce and Rose's wedding, January 2010
Grandma holding Miriam at Bruce and Rose’s wedding, January 2010

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.

Four generations with baby Miriam on my lap
Four generations of pretzel lovers

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.

Rachel

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4 thoughts on “Welcoming 2016

  1. Very nice post, Rachel. It is interesting what we remember. You were fortunate to have many good memories of your grandmother Faith. I have so few of my grandparents. None at all of my father’s parents who died before I was born, and very few of my mother’s parents, and none of them very warm. The strawberry place was probably Stutzman’s in Arkport. We picked there a lot when you were young.

  2. Wow, it must be amazing to have someone with “unconditional, nonjudgmental” love in your family… I don’t think “nonjudgmental” has ever been applied to anyone in my family, on either side. 🙂

  3. That is definitely a lot to happen over the holidays and into the new year! You are making the best of it, I think. I am sorry about your grandmother passing, and am sending you and your family so much love. I remember not fully understanding the hard pretzels, then one day I ate enough of one to realize how good they are and I remember having a craving for one later! Food is a vibrant part of life and memories, and I love hearing about your memories of your grandma relating to food experiences. Your posts inspire me! I love you, Rach.

  4. Your food memories reminded me of the time that you and Janna and I drove Grandma from Pennsylvania to New York after Grandpa’s funeral. We had no water in the car and she was very thirsty, so we stopped at a gas station to buy a bottle of water for her. As she unscrewed it, she remarked, ‘this is the first time I’ve ever bought bottled water’. That amazed me at the time, to think of making it over 80 years without buying a bottle of water! Even though I try not to buy it, I’ve succumbed now and then. I often think of her when I’m considering a small purchase, like a candy bar or a bottle of soda, and remember that little savings add up over time.

    I have a hard time talking about her in the past tense, it doesn’t seem real she isn’t here anymore. I’ll miss her so much! I feel inspired by that time to be more patient and loving to those around me, as I remember her being.

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