Grandma’s House (Redux)

Nail holes where the pictures hung
The shelves and window bare
The back-porch swing's been taken down
Oh, the summers I spent there
We sweep each upstairs bedroom one last time
And gently shut the door
As memories slip through cracks in floorboards
gone forevermore
And oh too soon the dusk descends
On this last day we'll ever spend.

Over the river and through the woods
to grandmothers house we'd go
My dad knew the way in his new Chevrolet
To the sweetest love I know
Over the river and through the woods
How much longer now
To the love that waits there
Thick in the air
It's all at Grandma's house*

One of things I associate most with my grandmother's house is food. Not just my grandfather's bread, or the garden full of tomatoes and strawberries, but more basic things like the stash of coconut macaroons my grandfather kept hidden in the microwave cart.

And of course, there was pasta. My grandmother hated cooking as it was tied so much to working in her father's restaurant (she called it “forced labor” more than once), but when she was in the mood to make spaghetti or lasagne, she'd spend hours making the sauce – the gravy as she called it – from scratch.

Christmas and Thanksgiving included the usual trappings of turkey and stuffing, but there was always a pan of lasagne, “just in case,” and I shouldn't have to explain the close relationship we both have with cannoli.

Obviously we didn't just eat when we were together. We did crosswords, went swimming and shopping, took walks, but she always said that the kitchen was the soul of the house, and the first thing ANYONE ever heard when entering her home was, “Do you want a little something to eat?”

The ” little something” could be anything from coffee and stella d'oro anisette cookies, to home-made raviolli.

She began giving things away before my grandfather died, having us (rather morbidly, I thought) write our names on things we wanted. It was her way of ensuring everyone was happy, no one would bicker over things. Mostly it worked. Mostly, my house is filled with things of hers, of my mother's, family things.

But the time I'm closest to her, the time when I feel her cool soothing presence most, is when I'm in the kitchen, stirring tomato sauce.

Baked ziti, anyone?

*”Grandma's House,” Dierdre Flint

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