I’m in a contemplative mood today.
I found a book at a thrift store called At Grandmother’s Table, edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley. It’s not a terribly old book. It was published in 2000. It’s a collection of stories written by granddaughters as they remember their grandmothers. Each contributor wrote a memory/story and ended with a fond recipe from her grandmother.
I probably don’t need any more recipes, but I’m open to things that have provided fond memories for a generation that remains behind after two prior are gone.
It brings me to Goodnight. What would she write about her grandmother’s table? What would her fondest recipe be? Will her resilience ever even allow her a moment, softened by tenderness, to find something good in our time together.
I suspect so. I don’t live my days with her hoping for that. We just live. I cook, I clean, I work, I help her with her homework, I take care of her when she’s sick, wake up in the middle of the night to knit, and I don’t bake cookies often enough (according to her.)
She recently asked me, “Gram, do you ever wish you could be just a normal Gram?”
Gram: Nah. That kind of wish is like planting a potato seed and expecting a sunflower to grow. I like potatoes and I like sunflowers, but we can’t mix up their purposes. Do you ever wish I was a normal Gram?
GN: Ya-ah! All the time. That would mean that you would bake me cookies and spoil me and Mama would still be here.
Of course. But in the meantime, we take one day at a time at our table. She does her homework there. I correct her math there. We play ping-pong at the table once in a while. We have a regular Sunday meeting there to review our schedule for each new week. We have ‘Grandma Summer School at the table – except on Field Trip Fridays. I set her lunchbox there, ready for her to take to school. On winter evenings, our table is softly lit with candle light as we try to cozy into a season that can drag on and on. Sometimes I even serve a meal that she may wish to remember after she’s tip-toed on a few more stepping-stones in her life.
I can only write about my table from my vantage point, not hers. I know that I use my good dishes plenty often for just the two of us because she’s special to me – not company as it would be if her mother was still with us – but special nonetheless. I know that I love to look at her as we sit across the table from one another. Her eyes sparkle as she tells me about her day at school. I know that at my table, she has my undivided attention as I listen. I know that at my table, an evening bowl of soup can feel like a feast after a long hard day at work or school. I know that at my table she will beat me at King’s Corner and I will beat her at Bananagrams. At my table, she gets the Sunday comics while I sort through the rest of the paper and as we spread out our sections, we tease each other by letting our section slightly cover the other’s. I braid her hair for school as she sits at my table. We unload our groceries from that table. We fold our laundry there, too. Socks and life can be sorted out at my table. I’m better at sorting socks than life, but I try.
Will she remember my table as the place where I pay my bills and reconcile my checkbook and ask her to be quiet while to do those tasks uninterrupted? Or will she notice that the ding she left in the wood has been rotated so it’s not staring her in the face to remind her of her mishap? Will she remember my table for what wasn’t there? Will she remember that she learned to knit there?
I don’t know. I care, but I don’t want to live for memories down the road. I want to live for today. She needs to pick and choose her own memories and they don’t solidify at thirteen. That’s good. It means we both have more time just to be ourselves.
I’ve learned something from my thrift shop book: we’re headed in the right direction for Goodnight to have fond memories of my table. The stories are sweet but in an everyday sort of way. And the recipes I’ve seen so far are that way too.
I have to keep reading though. I haven’t read any memories about gram getting off work early so she could wait an hour and a half in the school parking lot, to be the first one to pick her granddaughter up after school and head through rush hour traffic clear across the metro area to a track meet that was cancelled sometime while the gram was waiting in the car line. (Sorry, that’s my memory from today.)
I haven’t actually found any cookie recipes yet either. . . . . .