Monday, November 19, 2007

Missing Nanna B.

There is something about coming into the holiday season that makes me sad. Pensive, introspective, quiet, withdrawn. I don't know if it has to do with all the memories that are gone and nearly faded or of the people I no longer share my life with. This year looks to be immeasurably harder than most as Joshua and I are expecting our first child and the one I would long to share the delightful news with, it not here to share in the joy.

Joshua lost his maternal grandmother last year and last season as he detailed her holiday habits and those things he would miss, the longing in my heart was so much more quickened. My maternal grandmother left over half my lifetime ago, but she breathes near me always. When I graduated from high school, when I got married, when I found out I was expecting... wouldn't she be jubilant? I have those contented memories of eating blackberries in Massachusetts, walking along the rocks in Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, and walking through the arboretum in Milwaukee. Though mostly those memories came from looking through picture books in my late youth.

But, I remember canning tomatoes, and the large containers of pickling cukes and a house-filled with the aromatics of dill and fresh garlic that came from old time-tested recipes. I remember visiting during the summer and staying in her guest suite in the dark, cool basement, tip-toeing past my parent's bed and up the shag-carpeted stairs to where Nanna was drinking her early morning coffee and reading the paper. She would set me up at the table with a bowl of cereal and milk that she bought just for us and a freshly dealt hand of cards. We played rummy mostly, and she was brilliant... I was, as a Northerner might say: "slower than molasses in January". We played in the kitchen, the porch, on the deck next to the climbing hibiscus flowers in the shadow of the huge "grandfather tree" whose limbs were low and large enough to climb on.

I wonder if now, "all grown up" and soon to have a family of my own, if she would be proud of me. If she would come to visit and hold my children the way she held me. If she would put up with Joshua's slow card dealing and if she would be my partner while playing Spades. I wonder whether she would like the way I modified her monster cookie recipe and how I never forget to make her spinach balls at Christmas and potato ana at Thanksgiving. I wonder if she would tell me how proud she was of my Mom and her tenacity to finish her classes. I wonder if she would like the wedding china I picked out that reminds me of her Christmas set. I wonder if she would notice that I love wearing scarfs the way the Russian babushkas do, because it reminds me of her. Or perhaps she saw me get married and saw the vase of white tulips set in memory of her?

I'll likely never know these answers or the thousands more that pulse through my mind when I smell that faint smell of lilac and lavender, but I know that this Thanksgiving and Christmas, when my demeanor gets quiet and the tears form, I'll think of all the years my children will get with their grandparents and all the memories they will form together and what a joy it will be.

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