A Birthday Trip for My Grandmother’s 93rd!
Over the past few years, with my mother sick, my father gone, little ones who get colds often, and my grandmother frequently in the hospital, I have not had much opportunity to visit her at home. Driving down, I was awash in memories. I could hear my grandfather’s voice saying, “Hey, Bobby girl, let’s go get a hot dog all the way, just don’t tell your grandmother,” as I drove past the hot dog place. I could feel the rush of cool and excitement of entering the gelato store when my grandmother and I would take an after dinner walk on hot, humid nights, and the cool breeze that ushered us home as the sun began to set. The streets so familiar, I was transported to the back of my parents' station wagon eagerly anticipating our arrival, starring out the window and soaking in the surroundings of her neighborhood. The driveway, where we sat waiting for my nearly 80 year old grandmother to get home from work in her sports car so we could go to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. The garage with it’s damp coolness, and the bring-bring of my grandfather’s phone that he had out there. I can still hear him answering and smell the oil from his recent work on his car. The small strip of garden to the left of the garage where my grandmother and I would plant and pick tomatoes, basil, and hot peppers before going inside to make tomato salad for dinner in her shallow white corning wares, then stringing the peppers onto our needles to dry for the winter. The brick stoop, that was both cool and sweltering in the heat of summer, where I would help my great grandmother “clean” string beans on so many a summer afternoon. The back door where we always went in, where my grandmother has hung the stained glass flower I bought her so many years ago, “always in my prayers” reads the pot. The kitchen that has cooked the vast majority of my favorite meals ever. The oven that so often hid the Thanksgiving chestnuts until it was almost too late and my grandmother would chase after us as we filed down the stairs, “The chestnuts, wait, come back, I forgot the chestnuts!” The small pantry where my grandmother kept Ovaltine, crackers, tea, cookies, and her amazing, pop-up address book. The cut glass candy dish where I would sneak Andees candies and jelly filled pillow mints. It still sits upon the cabinet stereo that always played music of her era, amid the numerous picture frames, now full of children’s faces from the next generation. The china cabinet where I learned to gently take out and put back wine glasses and day dreamed about my wedding while starring up at the porcelain bride and groom figures on either side of the top. The tiny, pink bathroom that still smells of fancy powders with satin puffs on top of them, fragrant bubble bathes, and Jeanne Natee toiletries. The fancy porcelain pump with the pink flowers on the front, that always held flowery hand cream for after you washed your hands. The little door in the cabinet under the sink, behind which my grandmother still stashes the day’s laundry, which was always washed that day to keep from cluttering up the place. The tiny S shaped hook that locked the cellar door, behind which I would carefully descend the black and white tile stairs to play in the cool cellar with my paper dolls or make a surprise dish for the family in the summer kitchen in cooler weather. So many, many, thousand of memories and childish day dreams are contained in that house. My grandmother has been the rock of our family, my constant, my North Star and grounding gravity. She has been my best friend, and my inspiration. I have always loved her, even when I didn’t appreciate her. She is so integral a part of my life that I can scarcely think of a single event that doesn’t hold memory of her. It was an honor to get to visit with my children and share a birthday cake for one of the greatest and strongest women I have ever known. When I grow up, I want to be just like her! Happy birthday, Mama!! I wish you many more years of happiness and health, strength and good cheer. I am who I am today because of you, so in the Italian tradition, I am finally ready to admit, all the honor of what I have and what I am goes to you. Salud!