Of muddy boots, cricket calls, and grandma’s love

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.

Grandma love

4 thoughts on “Of muddy boots, cricket calls, and grandma’s love

  1. Sheila Rubino July 6, 2012 / 11:57 pm

    Amazing that you would write about your grandmother. After coming home from camp I hit an emotional wall. My grandma is the one I wished I could share the things I experienced at the Young Lives camp because was the only family member that truly enjoyed hearing about the important things in my life. Thanks for sharing your love and memories of your grandmother.

    • ckirgiss July 10, 2012 / 11:24 am

      I think Grandmas hold a very special and sacred place in most people’s lives, no matter how old we get. In fact, maybe that place gets more special and more sacred with time. A few days after posting this entry, I added a photo of my grandma and me from long, long ago. It makes me smile.

  2. Vicki August 7, 2012 / 6:05 am

    I really loved your grandmother too. She was my mother-in-law and also very dear to me. We also spent a lot of years together and she taught me many things too– how to smile a lot, how to paint walls, how to quilt, make soap, butcher chickens, render lard for the flakiest pie crusts and can peaches and pears quickly before they turned bad. She taught me the importance of eating enough good food when one is pregnant, how to be a good neighbor, how to make rice pudding almost as good as hers, how to make homemade tomato soup from fresh tomatoes and milk (plus a little cream). She taught me how to bid without fear at auctions. My refrigerator and freezer looks like hers. She raised a wonderful son to manhood who learned how to be generous, love well and is not afraid of babies (probably because he was carried around so much by his three lovely sisters and then carried you around so much). I miss her a lot, too.

    • ckirgiss August 7, 2012 / 9:57 am

      Oh Vicki…this made me cry. I missed her even when she was alive because I didn’t get to see her often enough or long enough. I don’t suppose we ever really appreciate or fully understand the legacy and love of some people until they are gone. But someday I will tell her myself how much she means to me. And now I am crying again….

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