Tag Archives: Memory

Heart

“Something strange and rather extraordinary . . .” my mind says. I was poised to avoid writing by trolling the internet, opened my computer, and poof – word processing program loaded.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma.

“Come out here.” My husband calls to me from the backyard. I’ve been huddled in the house avoiding . . . just avoiding.

“What?” I yell back from the door.

“You’ve got to come out and see this.” He calls back.

Everything is soggy, the patio stones shining damp from lingering mist. I give in to my curiosity, slip into my ugly blue rubber shoes, and shuffle out to meet my husband by the garden boxes that effuse last season’s dry bent stems like a tired sigh. “So . . .what?” I reply as I cock my head to look up at his face. He grins broadly and steps aside waving his arm like a magician revealing the trick. There below the crabapple tree the surprise bursts into view. He wraps a gentle arm around my shoulder, “I thought you would enjoy seeing this yourself.” The full, warm, squeezing-heart memories spill in and my eyes mist over. “Yes,” taking a deep breath, I absorb the moment, “grandma loved bleeding heart.” The flowers drip in glorious pink arcs over the feathery leaves.

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Just like comfort food for the mind, memories, especially those of certain special people calm all the turmoil around us. The memories of my mother’s mother do this for me. I can reach back in my mind, walk up to her front door and smell her tortillas greeting me even before I open it. Stepping in to her neat little living room, TV on a soap opera or 1950’s comedy or baseball (if grandpa was watching), the moist warmth of the air saturated with what was cooking just around the corner. I can hear her voice inviting me in for a “little taquito” – fresh tortilla filled with beans that have been simmering all day in a garlicy brine. I would always opt for a tortilla hot off the stove bathed in butter. I can’t describe the fluffy-soft goodness of her flour tortillas, a treat that I have never experienced elsewhere, and to my great sadness have never been able to replicate. I see her hands – they were small but strong, making tortillas; kneading little balls of masa (tortilla dough); “whack, whack” the sound of her rolling pin (made from the handle of a broomstick) forming each ball into a perfect circle; flip, flip, flip the dough circle tosses over each palm in a little dance before landing on the hot cast iron comal.

Sometimes my heart reaches out to the universe and calls to her, wanting to reach out and feel the strength from her hands. In their movement the rhythm of her struggles – through times of war and loss and uncertainty, and her ultimate success – holding her great-grandchildren in her lap.

Her voice parts the clouds and warms my heart – I can hear her chatter in Spanish, it was always so when she spoke to my grandpa or had rumors to share with my mom. The litany of Spanish and a single phrase that I could understand. “She wasn’t wearing a girdle!” tattling to my mother about what she saw at the Legion dance; it makes me laugh every time I think of it. Her way of saying just what was on her mind – something I inherited much to the chagrin of my loved ones.

Looking out over my yard, I rock in my garden swing and sense her presence near. My heart reaches out to her again and asks her opinion of what I’ve done.

“It’s very pretty mi hija.”

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O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie

The rain stopped just long enough for the family to gather in a tidy half-circle around the hole. The remnant parts of the age-old ceremony were completed with the punctuated thump of dropped handfuls of dirt. We solemnly turned and moved off in different directions and back into the rhythm of individual lives.

So the good-bye is performed over and over again.

Later, I expressed my sentiments to my beloved husband in my usual manner without any sense of decorum, “Don’t plant me up there when I die.” This, of course, was in reference to the local cemetery.

He responded with some indignation, “So, what am I SUPPOSE to do with you?”

“Just put me up by my dog.” This has been my patent request from the day my dear golden dog was buried on the mountain outside of Laramie. However, the U.S. Government would likely frown upon the practice of interring human remains on the same plot of land (no matter how remote.) I did suggest at one time that my cremains could be scattered there, my husband was not a fan of this idea; “But where will we go to visit you?” He is tethered to the idea of visiting a grave marker, flowers in hand, where he can pray and speak, in some way, to the deceased.

This sounds to me much more like an eternity of solitary confinement than spiritual peace. As I told my sister, “If I can actually hear you when I’m in the grave, then I have a lot more problems than being dead.” She swiftly commented, “You have never been a conventional person.”

It’s possible that what bothers me more is considering a stone on a hill the place of memory. Really, what is it that the marker conveys? A few sentimental words, a start and end date, maybe some ornamentation. Most of this depends on finances, and even the best memorials wear away in time. Are the stone and the grave the memory?

Much more, I believe, is all of the life that is signified by the little dash placed in between the dates. That line should be so much more. The line is where the life breathed, smiled, and giggled. The line is where the first words were spoken to the delight of “mama” and “dada”. That tiny line represents everything from an aversion to peas as a child to making pea soup as a poor college student. A tiny line is a life that touched other lives in home and church and school. That little line signifies a life that made new life, nurtured it, and then let it go. The line is uproarious laughter, silliness, sorrow, and tears. It is story after story from countless souls.

So, I don’t really think that a dash between two dates or even a single granite stone on a hill is enough to tell the story. The single location doesn’t account for dust in the pages of human history, but it contains a literary encyclopedia of a life to those whom it touched. What should be the memorial? Where is it kept?

The physical remains all weather away and eventually become something else, soil, a leaf, a goat . . . nature recycles. Remembrance is kept in word and song; this is where the memorial exists.

So when I go on, I want those who’ve known me to take a trek to where we made a memory together, linger there, breathe the air, reflect, and then write it down. If it was a good memory, share it in joy. If it was a hurtful memory, share it in truth and learning or burn it and leave it to be recycled into something beautiful.