After 95 years, my grandma moved from this life and into the next, and while expected, it is no less difficult. I’ve cried, prayed, and cried some more. I’ve called or messaged family and friends who needed to be notified. And I’ve thanked the fullness of where she is now for the values she instilled in me and the unending love she gave me.
While it’s difficult to mourn the loss of someone so great, if I were truthful I’d admit that the difficulty I’m having right now is being apart from my family and sharing in the grieving. I could share my stories and memories with my friends here in Texas but it’s not the same; I have to set up the context, describe locations, find pictures of certain items, cars, and breeds of dogs.
If I were with my family I could easily say something like, “Grandma’s cinnamon rolls at the table in Coaldale around Christmas…” and I wouldn’t even have to finish the sentence. Everyone in my family knows what every word in this sentence means, feels like, smells like, and tastes like. While my Texas friends might have a general understanding of cinnamon rolls, being with a grandma, and the feelings surrounding Christmas, to me and my family it’s different.
Our grandma made cinnamon rolls from scratch and when she would serve them the plate would be swallowed up by their size. The warmth was visible from the steam that came off of them as they were straight from the oven, and the scent of cinnamon and butter filled the house. We would get to eat them at least once when we visited, and they would be served with a tall glass of cold milk.
The table where we sat was stained dark and the table itself was thick and sturdy. At the head of the table sat my grandpa, while the rest of the family squeezed in where we could. At the height of family gatherings we would have 15-20 people around a table built for eight. But we didn’t just eat at this table – we played Skip-bo or UNO for hours on end; we planned out hunting trips while poring over topo maps; we shelled peas, shucked corn, and prepped green beans; we drew pictures, decorated Christmas ornaments, and dyed Easter eggs; the adults talked and the kids listened all around this one table.
Coaldale was where my grandparents chose to spend their retirement and they built a house in the hills, far removed from any city. When I would go to my grandparents’ I got to experience ‘country’ life: dirt roads, no traffic, and a slower pace. I would get to be in nature, too: climbing pinion trees, chasing away magpies, stalking deer, and catching lizards. The house itself was different from the houses that were crammed together in the suburbs of Denver: constructed of cut logs, their house had wood floors and ceilings, and was heated by a wood-burning fireplace, but it never felt overly ‘rustic’. My grandpa, dad, and uncles spent hours building this place and took pride in its completion. It was comfortable, warm and inviting, quiet, tranquil, and filled with scents that ranged from cooking ingredients, to my grandpa’s Old Spice after shave, to the fresh spring breezes that brought in the smells of blooming sage and pine.
Holidays were the times when, in spite of everything that may have been going on, my family would always get together; nearly every year I would spend either Christmas or Easter at my grandparents’ house. And we would go to their church – usually on the holiday itself, but if not, then soon before or after; my grandma would always give us grandkids a quarter to place in the offering plate. As a child those holidays held more than just the religious meanings for me. Christmas was filled with presents, hot chocolate, games, sledding, watching TV while laying beside the fireplace, trying to stay awake and listening for any hints as to what I’d be getting as gifts, laughter and smiles, childish fights and scuffles. The Easter weekend would be spent going to town, getting eggs and PAAS egg dying kits and then attempting to craft the best egg we possibly could (my dad usually out-doing everyone with his intricately drawn designs using markers).
All this (and so much more that cannot be described) is wrapped up in the simple and incomplete sentence, “Grandma’s cinnamon rolls at the table in Coaldale around Christmas…” I look forward to being with my family in the coming weeks so we can share in these stories and the memories they hold. Until then, I will rest on my own memory and cherish the unending gifts my grandma gave me.
much love. sheth.