musings and ramblings: bread crumbs and spilled wine

It is a beautiful day here, one of those early spring days that throws me into a fit of nostalgia. I sit in the sun, letting it wash over my frozen white skin; the thaw is finally starting. I let my memories melt as well, bleeding into each other, taking me down forgotten roads and out-of-the way alleys.

Five years ago on a day like this you would have found me in my car, driving over to see my grandma, Virginia. She loved these kind of days, seeing them as a time to finally get out of the house after being trapped inside all winter long. She would be waiting for me at the front door, clutching her worn-out black purse and talking quietly to herself, her front porch smelling faintly like Pantene products and black coffee. It would be hard work getting her down the front steps – her arthritic hands clinging as best they could to my coat jacket, her frail legs stepping slowly, one at a time. But we would manage it and drive away, the sun beckoning to us, Louis Prima and Keely Smith swinging for us. She would tap her crippled hands on her knees, clicking her tongue to the music, momentarily forgetting her pain. As the car whizzed past rows of bare trees reaching to the blue sky, I was sure her thoughts were drifting back to dance floors she had cleaned up in her youth: days of sassy heels, high balls, and lines of suitors. She was always moving.

Our drives usually took us to her neighborhood coffeehouse, and she would wait in the car while I purchased iced mochas and chocolate glazed doughnuts. Back in the car I would break the doughnut for her, setting pieces in a napkin on her lap. She would look away, embarrassed to see her food in fragments, unable to grab the whole. Greedily we’d sip and eat while I drove, laughing at our child-like love for the bittersweet goodness coating our fingers. We’d take our time around several of the 10,000 lakes, passing the same houses we always passed, and she’d make the comments she’d always make. I’d nod, and agree, ‘yes, what a huge property!’ and ‘that is an ugly color to paint a house’ and ‘I don’t know how they keep all those windows clean.’ I wondered what she was really thinking, if she was still dancing in her mind, flitting from memory to memory, waltzing over secrets she couldn’t share. But we’d drive on, her knotted hands brushing doughnut bits to the floor, her tongue clicking gracefully to the music.

These drives were the only time we really shared a meal together. There were plenty of holiday dinners and lunches out-to-eat, but Virginia was not able to sit at the table. She was constantly darting from one room to the next, warming things, sneaking drinks in the bedroom, hiding her hands from us. She was always moving. We would shout at her ‘Sit down! Eat!’ but she insisted she wasn’t hungry, she didn’t need someone to cut her meat. There were just so many things to check on, fires to keep burning, things to keep silent. But the moments in the moving car were different, a place for her to sit and let her crumbs fall where they may.

After four years of life without her, I sometimes imagine one more meal with her, one at her long dining room table. I would cook her a feast, pour her some wine. I would serve her there, there at the table her ancestors ate at. As we talked I would be undaunted, bringing to the table the silence kept all these years. When she would try to move from her chair, frantically resisting the rise inside her, I’d say, gently, ‘Please. Just sit down and eat with me.’ I would pat her hands, unafraid of the crooked, shaking fingers, and I would cut her meat. She would be embarrassed, awkwardly bringing her fork to her mouth, but she would eat there, near me. And as her hands moved towards her face, that cover of resignation that clung to her, kept her, would fall to our laps, crashing like white lightening, sinking to a heap. We would grasp it, use it as a cloth to wipe our mouths and hands, soaking up all our stains and splatter. As we dabbed our lips they would be loosed, and there she would finally speak, the years surfacing, spilling out onto the table. We would make it through the dark hours, we would make it to the morning. And when we would finally rise, that napkin of remorse, the stained bundle that grasped at our laps, would fall to the floor. Our feet would tread on it as we left the table, and there it would lay, among our broken bread crumbs and spilled wine. We would leave behind those fragments, our traces of communion, walking arm in arm into the new morning sun.

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know
Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
Step forward
You can stay right here
You don’t have to go

Your tender heart—
This world’s gonna rip it wide open
It ain’t gonna be pretty
But you’re not alone

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
I should know
Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just wanna hold you
And let the rest go

-Over the Rhine ‘All My Favorite People’

  • Reply
    Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I stopped by because I love “food” blogs and found myself full of emotions. This is the first time a food related blog has ever made me cry. It’s heart warming to know there are still humans out there that can recognize emotions and pay tribute to them. I’m sure Grandma is proud .

  • Reply
    Teddi Carbonneau
    Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for this lovely post. You brought back dear memories of my Gram and me. They don’t make women like that any more. They lived through things we can’t imagine. She lived for our family, and would do anything for us, but she would also never go out the front door without primping in front of the mirror and having some lipstick on. I miss her.

  • Reply
    Jodi Drennan
    Friday, April 14, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    I have never read your writing before. Just beautiful.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    I’m holding dear to two loved ones who are ailing right now. I can’t thank you enough for these beautiful words.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    What a beautiful relationship you had with your grandmother and this made me long for mine. It is always nice to know and have wonderful memories of times spent together.

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    Kelsey @ Appeasing a Food Geek
    Monday, April 10, 2017 at 6:20 am

    This is so beautiful Sarah! Thank you for sharing such a personal post–your writing always reaches in and touches my soul (that sounds incredibly sappy, but so true!). xoxo

  • Reply
    Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Well this post broke me. Your writing is spare and evocative. Those photos. left me snuffling into my handkerchief (yes i use those), it is a theme that lies underneath everyday isn’t it, longing, nostalgia, at some point you can never return home yes? The building is gone, the parents are gone, the coffee is cold, and yet they exist in your mind fully formed. Anyway I am rambling. Thank you for this post.

  • Reply
    Nancy B
    Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 6:59 am

    What a beautiful tribute. It reminded me of Saturday mornings I spent with my gramma and definitely brought a few tears to my eyes

  • Reply
    Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    You write so beautifully.

  • Reply
    Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 9:36 am

    This is beautiful, thank you! I lost my Grandma Virginia the end of last year, and I’m so grateful for all the memories I have of her. This brought them all rapidly flooding back.

  • Reply
    Friday, April 7, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I love this. It makes me want to treasure the time I have with my grandmothers now.

  • Reply
    Taste of France
    Friday, April 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

    I am bawling my head off. Thank you for such a sensitive, personal and yet universal post. Human.
    I recently lost my mom and dad within weeks of each other, ages 90 and 85. My dad lost his abilities more than my mom did–he shook too much to get much food into his mouth, and he became unable to walk. Eventually he was bedridden, with a feeding tube, but his mind was still bright and he continued to hope for a cure. He was not interested in palliative care or accepting death. He wanted to live. My mom was the opposite. She started having seizures, mostly unseen so we weren’t even sure, and became a bit incontinent, which HORRIFIED her. She still had her mind, too, which meant she was acutely aware of the embarassments and loss of independence. Our instincts are to do everything for them, but that is just a further humiliation (unless they have dementia and aren’t aware of it). It’s a delicate dance to arrange for things to be within their diminishing capabilities, to keep up the façade for those who have spent their lives getting things done and taking care of us.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 1:12 am

    You have a lovely way with words. Thanks for sharing.

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    Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Hello, came across your blog from Naturally Ella. This is the first post I read on your site and it is just beautiful and haunting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Megan Pence
    Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Sarah – this is just beautiful. She was definitely a wonderful person. My great grandmother was the same for me – the connection just couldn’t be broken. It’s been four years without her as well and it’s never been the same. Thanks for sharing your love of her with us. It means so much.

  • Reply
    my little celebration
    Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Sarah, this is just wonderful. What a beautifully drawn portrait of your grandmother as she was. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed it to the last word.

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    Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    This is such a beautiful reflection, and I enjoyed sharing in your story.

  • Reply
    Rachel W
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    You are an excellent writer. I pop in for the recipes, but I stay for the prose.

  • Reply
    Elaina @ Flavour
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Admittedly, I’m completely choked up by your beautiful post…you have an amazing way with words that truly soothe the soul. My dear, you are incredibly talented. What a story about your beautiful grandmother…such wonderful memories you have. Love! xo

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Insight into your memories is a sign of maturity.
    Love reading this.

  • Reply
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    That last line killed me. In a good way. Love you.

  • Reply
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    This post is beautiful – the change in weather has got me thinking about life too, and I loved reading your memories.

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Monday, March 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I love this, you have such a way with words and it was a beautiful portrait.

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