“There’s still some left. You have to eat. You’re still growing up.”
A visit to my grandmother’s house always followed a certain routine. We entered through the back door and she would be nowhere to be found. We’d go into the garden and find her on her knees somewhere between the potato plants. All gardening activies were immediately put on hold because we must have been starving and dehydrated. We followed her back into the house on the garden path that had colorful violets on both sides. Once inside, she rushed into the pantry and came back with as many bottles of lemonade as she could carry. We called her “kleine oma” (little grandma) but that petite woman could sure carry a lot of food. She served us lemonade in glasses with our favorite childhood cartoons on them. The glasses were former mustard jars and I’m convinced she ate kilos of mustard just to make sure all of us could drink with the Smurfs. As soon as everyone was settled, out came the baked goods. What’s true for Shakespeare’s sorrows in Hamlet also goes for grandma’s cookies: When they come they come not single spies, but in batallions. We had to be brave and eat them all.
For years, grandma’s house was our favorite place to go after school. The lemonade with a frog on the bottle, the unlimited television time, the games of hide and seek between the apple trees, the slightly burnt but crispy sausage she served with mashed potatoes, her made up songs and the jokes she never ran out of,… Grandma never got old.
And then she did.
Her aging process started with genuinely not remembering how many glasses of lemonade we had. When I was a kid, I made her promise she would try to live a hundred. She didn’t make it, but she made it up to 90 years and that’s already a hell of a job. I am grateful for every one of them.
Every year around the beginning of November, we honour our loved ones. In the catholic tradition of All Saint’s Day, my family visits their graves, brings flowers and makes time for a moment of reflection. As a kid, the thing that got me through the day was the promise of pancakes. There’s nothing I more believe in than our family gathering around food.
Last Friday I brought flowers to my grandma. My version of silent reflection is moving them around ten times to make sure it looks esthetically pleasing. It’s tradition because I can’t help myself. As an avid gardner, I’m sure my grandma understands. After my visit, I went to my parents’ house and made pancakes. Too many of course. There are still some left. We have to eat. We’re still growing up.