In case you haven’t heard, it’s too hot to breathe across much of the US. That, plus the fact that my grocery store is no longer stocking one of my favorite snack foods, has pretty much killed today for me.
Except for this: the heavy heat, plus the sound of evening crickets, plus the faintly pinkish tinge of the sunset, plus the dried mud that I had to dig/smack out of my work-boot soles (it’s been there since May so was especially stubborn, with all of its stray grass clippings impishly poking out from the edges as though daring me to try and remove them), plus the smell of an old book I recently picked up at a junk shop, plus the smell of outside (cut grass and dryness and weeds and the field across the way), plus post-travel refrigerator reality (a lot of stuff but nothing to eat) all converged – collided, really – into a tangled mass of stuff that reminded me of my grandmother, which has pretty much resurrected today for me.
Technically, I’m old enough to be a grandmother myself (which is too weird to even contemplate). Certainly, I’m old enough to be past the granddaughter season of life.
But the fact remains that I will always be Viola’s granddaughter, and certain things will always remind me of her. Certain smells. Certain sounds. Certain words. Certain people.
Except for the first three years of my life, I lived several states away from her and saw her only several times a year. Still, she taught me lots of things, like how to braid, how to knit, how to manually beat egg whites into frenzied peaks, how to polish Grandpa’s Sunday boots, how to wash and dry dishes by hand, how to sift flour, how to skim fat off the milk, how to hang clothes to dry, how to save things (ALL things), and how to use an embroidery hoop.
I rarely utilize any of these skills in my daily life.
She also taught me how to pry dry mud out of boot soles using a combination of hard smacks on the cement and the rigid, rounded tip of a dinner knife. This is a useful skill indeed.
So tonight, when I headed outside with my month’s-old muddy-soled boots (and a dinner knife), I thought of her. And when I breathed in the hot, grassy, dusky, pinkish, crickety air – air that smells and sounds and feels almost Nebraskan – I could almost hear her voice and her laugh though they’ve been silent for many years now. What an unexpected, surprising, and sweet gift.
And I caught my breath with both sadness and joy, for I miss her dearly because I loved her much.
Such is the mystery of memory. Such is the power of a grandmother. Such is the grace of God.