sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

March 8, 2016

posted by soe 3:17 am

Dear Gramma,

Today would have been your 95th birthday.

In your memory, I’ve made some cranberry bread. In my own unique way, I managed to leave out the sugar. I didn’t catch it until after I’d put the batter in the pan, because I was being good and hadn’t licked my fingers until then. I thought you’d have been proud — until I tasted the dough. I’d known something was off — I’d checked the wet ingredient list several times because it had seemed too thick, but those were correct. It was that sole tricky dry ingredient tucked between the stuff I was supposed to sift and the wet ingredients that I’d combined. So I scraped the entire thing back into the bowl and poured in the sugar and then stood there trying to get the sugar to mix in thoroughly and laughed. You would have, too, because it was such an important ingredient to leave out. And because I could imagine you laughing about it with me, I started to cry.

I know, I know. You’ve been gone almost a year, and by now you’d have hoped I’d have gotten past this stage. So, of course, I cried harder, because you’d have been impatient and fed up with my sentimentality, and I cried because I knew that, too.

A year ago, I called you from a hotel in Budapest to wish you a happy birthday. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about — probably how much snow was still on the ground in Connecticut and what Mum had made for your birthday dinner and then about what Rudi and I had seen so far. You always asked me what exciting things I’d been up to, declaring that you counted on me (and, I assume, Josh, since I’d guess you probably said the same thing to him) to do exciting things to tell you about.

So, let me tell you: I took this afternoon off from work to spend some time with Rudi before he heads out on a two-week road trip. (Yes, that is a long time. Yes, I am going to miss having him cook for me, but I’ll muddle through.) We walked down to look at the garden; it’s probably time for me to head out and start digging up the plot and get my peas in. (Yes, I remember your telling me that your father would plant his peas and his potatoes on Good Friday.) Maybe this weekend. Then we walked over to Georgetown and stopped at this cafe to buy cupcakes and hot drinks, and we took them down to the park by the river. There’s a spot where the steps go right down into the Potomac, and people were feeding the ducks, and a guy kept throwing sticks into the water for his dog to chase, and the rowing teams were out in their sculls practicing on the river. (Yes, I think Josh did do crew for a while in school.) And it was sunny and pleasant out and we sat there watching it all until the sun got low in the sky and the rowing teams went back to their boathouses and the dog and his person went home, and then we went home, too. So, no, I guess that wasn’t very exciting after all, was it?

I realized the other day that I don’t remember the last conversations we had. I assured Josh last year that time was kind and that we’d forget those last couple horrid conversations where you were out of it, and, for me at least, that’s been true. But I’ve lost any specifics of the good ones before that, probably in part because our conversations took much of the same shape every week, so they all blend into a whole pattern, rather than any one standing out on its own. So even though I can fill in your end of the conversation as if you were here, I’d still love it if you were the one saying your lines instead of my reciting them for you.

I would have poured one out for you today, but you wouldn’t have had any patience for that kind of waste. So, instead, I’ll leave a teaspoon or so of tea at the bottom of my mug when I get to the end of my cup. Despite the fact that you spent 60 years drinking tea made from tea bags, you still left a mouthful behind from your days as a girl drinking loose-leaf tea. We all thought it was weird, but now it’s just another one of those things that made you you.

I love you, Gramma, and I miss you. Happy birthday. I’m going to go eat a piece of cranberry bread for you.


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