It’s quiet in my house. The sun is shining and I am sunk deeply into my couch under two vintage blankets that likely kept my great-grandmother warm on similar days as she sat in the same spot under the same roof. There are many differences, however, as I reflect fondly on how it must have been in those days, how it was for the majority of my own life and how it has come to be now.
My grandmother grew up with a house full of family. Her grandparents, maternal and paternal, her aunts, uncles and many family friends, who may as well have been family, spent their lives here. If they didn’t live here they enjoyed just as many dinners in my kitchen as those who did. I can still feel that energy surrounding me, even though the only other breathing soul here belongs to my dog. Not just the energy from the generations that were here before me, but the energy from 33 years of holiday meals I was lucky enough to experience.
My grandmother was a baker. She probably spent more hours in her kitchen than many people who have made a career out of cooking. It’s no wonder she ended up putting carpet in the kitchen. She was raised in a time where all of that which sustained a family was grown and raised right in your backyard, or at a neighbors farm within walking distance. A time where meals were the backbone of the entire day, especially during the holidays. There was no room for excuses or exceptions to not being present at the table for the meals that were the result of weeks and months of sowing and harvesting, hours of preparation over a stove by hands that poured soul into what would nourish the body and spirit. Not just the physical presence, but the connection between those who sat next to each other in appreciation of it all.
The sounds are still fresh in my mind, though not as fresh as the smell that still resides in my own soul. Sitting here right now, in this empty house, I can still smell it all just as if her meals were warming on the stove as I type. I remember it so vividly and can hear the sound of the meat cutter as my dad carved the turkey in preparation for its sacred spot in the middle of the table. As a child, my job was usually to fill the water glasses. That’s at least one thing that hasn’t changed, as we still drink the same water from the same well that was dug by hand before my grandmother was even born.
My most cherished memory? Her pumpkin pie. I have yet to eat a pumpkin pie that comes close to comparing to hers. I believe she poured her love and affection for me into every one that she made as it was my favorite from the very first bite that crossed my lips.
And now, as I sit here in silence, thinking about all of this, four years now that she has been gone from my physical life, I think I’m ready to let go of my grief for what’s been lost and try to rebuild the holidays and their traditions again. As much as I have accepted her tragic departure from this earth and have moved on in many ways, the holidays have been largely ignored. Next weekend, my children and I will spend our time in the kitchen baking cookies with her recipes, from scratch, as we listen to Christmas music on her record player, just like I used to do as a child. And as I watch my boys eyes light up when they roll out the dough with the same wooden rolling pin and create their cookies with the same vintage tin cookie cutters that were used by generations before me, I will happily feel her spirit standing next to me, smiling.