Memories from my youth:
I spent many weekends at my grandparents’ house in Glenwood, Missouri (so far north that it’s almost in Iowa), where I slept on the couch because I was scared of the ghosts I was sure were up there — my cousin had convinced me she had once seen one of the taxidermied turkeys turn its head and look at her, which didn’t add to my desire to go up there. But my grandmother never complained that she had to make up a pallet for me on the living room couch and that I was far more underfoot there than I would have been upstairs, especially when there was a cushion-and-sheet fort thrown into the mix. Instead, I’d settle in beneath my covers and watch TV with her long after my grandfather had gone off to bed.
I remember my grandmother sometimes telling me stories as I fell asleep, in the wee hours of my youth. The first I recall was the harrowing tale of Chicken Little and the falling sky.
I remember going to church with her on Sundays after sneaking in an episode of Tom Bakker Doctor Who reruns on PBS.
I remember that at some summer lunches in my later youth, my grandmother would answer the phone and have to dart away from the meal she had cooked because she also worked as an EMT on the ambulance.
Speaking of food: I remember summer lunches, and holiday dinners, and so much food piled on the table that you’d think there were fifty of us about to sit down to eat. My grandmother had two stoves and for holidays both would be covered in skillets and pots, all steaming with delicious scents and radiating warmth.
I remember her prayers of thanks before every meal.
I remember hot summer days on the porch watching (and sometimes helping — but likely mucking it up) her and my mother snap bean pods. And then there was the canning, and the freezing, and the homemade candies, and …
… bread pudding. Mmmmm, bread pudding. I’ve had a lot of bread pudding from a lot of different places, but my grandmother’s bread pudding was actually pudding-like, rather than cake-like, which so many seem to be. Tasty? You betcha. I try to make a version as good as hers. It won first place once at a thing, even. But it isn’t quite up to par. Maybe because I have so many memories of my grandmother’s kitchen associated with hers.
I remember looking at slide show images of a trip my grandparents took to Carlsbad Caverns.
I remember my grandmother smiling.
When my grandmother, Juanita Lonis, passed away last week, she was 96. I’d always thought she’d make it to 110 at least, and still be going strong when she got there. Still reading romance novels by the armload, still puttering about with the flowers on the front porch, still making cookies at Christmastime.
There were so many things about her that I’m sure I didn’t know. And I should. We should all know all that we can about the lives of those we love; the things that made them who they were. But I did get to spend a week with her before she went, and I can’t say how glad I am to have done so. We weren’t sure, you see. While driving across the country from my new home in the Pacific Northwest, I wasn’t certain that the phone wouldn’t ring and my mother would be on the other end telling me that Nanny — as I called her — had passed.
But even though her death was not unexpected there still come moments during the day when it seems that, yeah, maybe the sky is falling.
And I remember.
I remember that what Chicken Little eventually found out was that the sky was still up there, still blue, still promising a fine, fine day to come.