“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott
My grandmother’s birthday was this past Tuesday. I passed much of that day thinking about her. About her life, about my life with her…about how much she meant to me. I am quite certain that in her own way she saved me. Grandmom was my biggest cheerleader.
I spent many school-free summer days and nights at my grandparent’s house. I can still hear the squeaking of the metal springs on the back porch glider as we swayed back and forth…back and forth…back and forth…a methodic, eerie squeak, yet oddly comforting at the same time. We would sit together: me and her and my grandpop. They listened intently as I read my latest creations – often poetry, but sometimes a short story or the occasional play (of course it was all wonderful, and I was the best writer ever). At lunch we dunked saltines in our hot tea (Lipton, of course), crunched sandwiches layered with potato chips or smeared grape jelly on grilled cheeses*, and afterwards we enjoyed Breyer’s Ice-Cream out of the etched glass dishes she kept in her dining room cabinet, seemingly for just that purpose.
And in July we picked raspberries.
Whenever I eat even one raspberry, I am instantly transported back to her house on any given July day of my childhood. Pine trees shaded the backyard; shirts and pants and sheets hung from the clothesline to dry; hydrangeas bloomed a beautiful bluish-purple hue. Train tracks ran along the back edge of the property, one section of them lined by raspberry bushes. Even now, I can almost feel the dew on my feet and smell the pungent scent of pine as I crossed through the yard to get to that luscious fruit.
As early as the middle of July, but for sure by the end, those berries reached the height of perfection. She and I would each grab a bowl and head for the back of the property. I don’t recall that we talked about anything in particular as we harvested, although she did show me which berries were ready to pick and which ones still needed to ripen. I loved to pluck the particularly ripe ones straight from the bush and pop them directly into my mouth. Each bite was like eating sunshine itself. Heaven.
It took no time at all before our bowls were filled…with a few pauses here and there for sampling (just to be sure!). Many did not survive the short walk back to the house, and even fewer made it to the table later.
Anything that did survive was usually mixed into Jello for the evening’s after dinner treat. Or perhaps served with that Breyer’s Ice-Cream I mentioned earlier.
To this day I think of my grandmother with each and every raspberry I eat. Every. Time. And when I encounter an especially ripe one – one that is extra juicy and fragrant and tastes just like Sunshine itself – I know in that instant she is with me. She is there in spirit enveloping me with Love and Happiness.
There is a sense of wonder knowing a certain taste or smell – or even a touch – can take me back in time. Back to a place where my grandmother is still with me. Encouraging me. Loving me. And knowing in those moments that she has never really left me. All along, she has been right there. Right here.
And that comforts me to no end.
*“Tea and Saltines…Grilled Cheese with Grape Jelly”