My girls, daughter and Grand, got my favorites for Easter, white hydrangeas with bonus chick. Happy Easter!
In decades past, we carried Grandma’s gravy and barbeque sauce home on the plane. I still take food home after family visits, but it’s easier now because I drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles with a cooler in my trunk.
Holiday mornings always include Mimosas and bacon – in a quiche or with eggs, or snatched from the platter before it’s cooled. This year, my daughter and granddaughter surprised me with a batch of biscuits made with bacon grease. Best biscuits ever.
We Southern-born cooks put bacon grease in just about everything except dessert. We add it to breads. We sauce our vegetables with it. Gravy? Not possible without a roux that begins with bacon grease. Sometimes it’s bacon grease and butter creamed together, but the bacon grease is crucial.
My people kept bacon grease in a tin can near the stove. I keep mine in a jar in the fridge, and that’s the only part of the equation that’s changed. Bacon grease is the prize ingredient. We buy bacon just to render it, so we can own the drippings. As our holiday visit was ending, I remembered that the bacon grease jar in my fridge at home was almost empty, and made a note to stop at the market to buy several pounds of whatever bacon was on sale.
While packing to come home, I heard whispering and giggling from the other room and then my granddaughter appeared with a big grin, both hands hidden behind her back. She held out a gift “from Mom and me” – a small, round container with a red bow on the lid, filled with bacon grease. The last gift of the season is, so far, top of the list of Best Gifts Ever.
Watching the weather is a favorite hobby of mine. I don’t generally get my weather reports from television, but I might as well be one of those people we see in comedies, who fixate on the Weather Channel and sit there for hours, soaking up data about places they’ve never been, never intend to go, and if they did go there, they wouldn’t know anyone. Those people are portrayed as coots. (One definition of a coot: simple-minded.) A weather fanatic will say to no one in particular, “I knew it. I knew that system was gonna come in early.”
Except for not watching the Weather Channel (tornadoes and hurricanes are exceptions that demand TV coverage) I may be one of those people.
I check the Weather Channel’s website several times a day for places where friends and relatives live. Every trip for me begins with www.weather.com where I can fill in the name of any city and see what’s predicted for the next ten days.
It might be an inherited trait, since my country born-and-bred father had a set of weather instruments on the back porch and glanced at them several times a day, always remarking out loud on what he saw there. He often disputed what the dials told him, and he was always right. He could feel changes in his bones.
Something about working out in the fields as a boy and his own deep respect for nature had permanently tuned him in to the time for sowing and the time for reaping. His instincts often did not agree with the calendar. He’d wake up and announce that he was going out to our vegetable garden. “I better go pull up the radishes and the collards before the sun hits ’em again.” And this while rain was still falling. He knew when a big change was coming.
I don’t have the knack he did for predicting imminent change, but I’m always hopeful about it. Our problems may stick around, but at least we can count on the weather to change. When my diagnosis is boredom, just watching the weather offers promise.
One reason I love my part of Northern California (and envy New Englanders) is that the weather plays tricks on the forecasters. Mother and Father Nature send along surprises for us several times a month. We’ll get rain when the sky was clear a minute ago. Big winds arrive high up in the treetops, when the lower limbs don’t even know it yet. Fog rolls in and out, but not always on the schedule we expect. I’m disappointed when the fog fails to appear. Like the redwood trees in the back yard, I rely on absorbing fog through my pores.
I like being surprised by the weather. Keeping the family’s weather-watching tradition alive (my brother does this too) the first thing I do when the day arrives is go see what the weather is like outside, and I do it again before sleeping. It seems I’ve been making my own notations out loud to no one in particular, without realizing it. (Another definition of “coot” might be “predictable.”)
I haven’t been a grandmother all that long and sometimes I forget a small person is nearby. They’re always listening, aren’t they? One recent morning while I was visiting at her house, I opened the drapes and stood there for a minute with my coffee cup. From the little girl who’d snuck up behind me I heard,
“Hammy, you forgot to say ‘It’s a beautiful day.'”
Generations of weather-watchers later, we’ve added one more.
Ó Anita Garner
Either “The sky is falling” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Both points of view are evenly represented among my nearest and dearest. Most days I fall into the silver lining category, which means of course I’m destined to spend much of my time with people who are always dodging chunks of the sky.
I like grey skies. I live in Northern California in a fog belt and I am (perversely, some say) not a fan of summer. I count the days until the season changes to autumn, which brings the chance of showers.
My only grandchild lives in sunny Southern California, so I spend a lot of time there. A few weeks ago, the four-year-old and I stepped outside her house and walked right into an unexpected June rain shower. She stopped and turned her face up, and as her new sundress got good and soaked she said,
“I love the rain. Free water coming down.”
That’s my girl.
Ó Anita Garner 2009
When my granddaughter was born four years ago, I put photos of her into every kind of photo-saving device – albums, scrapbooks, Grandma’s brag book, refrigerator magnet frames, etc. Trouble was, I took so many photos and received so many, that they started getting ahead of me. When I want to show someone how she’s grown, most often I go for the jpg’s on the computer and attach them to an email. It’s an extra step to update wallet photos and to continue buying albums to put on the bookshelf, so I stopped.
Now I have hundreds of pictures on my computer. Lord help me if this thing ever crashes. I’m thinking I’ll get another flash drive and transfer them. Maybe if, as soon as I put them onto my computer, I also save them to flash drive, I’ll be protected.
My little girl was visiting me recently and she likes to watch the Windows Slideshow Screensaver. One day I left the computer for a while and when I returned, I found her standing in the doorway reciting, as if for an unseen audience:
“My birthday party. Skyla’s birthday. School. Mommy. Abba. Me and Hammy (that’s me).”
And on and on. When pictures of her as an infant pop up, she adds a story from her imagination about what said baby in the photo was thinking, i.e. “That baby wants to ride my scooter.” She knows the picture is of her, but she enjoys making up her “That baby” stories.
I don’t know how the sequence of slides is determined, but it seems like we get the same ones over and over for a few days and then up comes one we haven’t seen before. I suspect when I add to my endless jpg’s from another source, they reshuffle. I recently put in a bunch of vintage pictures. The little one was standing behind me when a new one came up and she asked “Who’s that?” I told her that is her great-grandmother, that the lady in the photo onscreen is my mommy. Then I showed her a picture of my parents together.
Next time I found her in the doorway narrating the slideshow, she had assimilated these people (who passed away before she was born) into her performance. She said, like a tour guide, “That’s Hammy’s mommy. That’s Hammy’s Abba.” Then as I walked by, she paused. It must be a work in progress, and she wasn’t ready to reveal it yet. Soon she’ll come up with something interesting about them and I’ll be eager to hear it. That’s something no mere photo album can offer.
Ó Anita Garner 2009
Near my house there’s a footbridge over Corte Madera Creek, where I say hello to the duck families. The ducks appear whenever they feel like it at different levels on the water, depending on the rain. Some move right along without stopping. Some swim in slow circles under the bridge, obviously accustomed to passersby, and some glide to a strand of rocks that’s exposed in the creek, where they waddle around for a while. Some days the ducks aren’t there at all and I wait in vain, wondering why they’re not anywhere near as interested in us as we are in them.
The bridge curves up slightly in the middle, like the ones in storybook illustrations. I stop at the very center, in the best duck-watching spot. Coming toward me on the path is a young boy with a white-haired lady close behind. He’s small, with a mop of dark hair and a handsome face highlighted by Harry Potter glasses in a bright color, with a professorial band around the back to hold them in place.
He speaks up like a person very much at home in the world. He says hello and takes a spot next to me at the railing. I move over a bit so he can have the center. I mention I haven’t seen any ducks today.
He says, “My name is Oscar. The ducks were here earlier.” He adds, in a wistful voice, “Maybe they’ll come back later.” He brightens and announces, “We’re having burritos for lunch.”
The woman with the pretty white hair approaches and the three of us watch the water.
Oscar says, “We’re eating at the burrito place because they’re so big. It’s hard to walk home with them.”
The lady nods, “That’s right.”
“Grandson?” I ask.
“Yes,” she smiles and Oscar says,
“Granny, we better get going.”
He turns back to reassure me. “Maybe the ducks will be here when we come back.”
For a second I’m puzzled at why such a young boy with a pleasant smile is so serious today. It occurs to me that he’s repeating answers he’s heard in response to questions he must have asked many times. Can we go see the ducks? Can we eat at a table outside today? Will the ducks be there when we come back? Can we have one of the big burritos?
My granddaughter, who’s three, has questions every time we ask her to go get her shoes. She’s learning that the world can be complicated. Just because you set out on a walk with your grandma to see the ducks, that doesn’t mean the ducks will always be there. Just because you like to eat at a table outside, where the birds will pester you for part of your lunch, that doesn’t mean an outside table will always be open.
I ask the departing Granny, “Does Oscar live close to you?” She says yes, just across the bay in Berkeley. I tell her how lucky she is and add, in the way that all fairly new grandmas do when talking to strangers, how much I miss the little girl who lives a few hundred miles away. She says, “Yes, I am lucky,” and she makes a circle with her arms, “Oscar is close enough to get my arms around him a couple of days a week.”
Normally this would make me sad, but not today. Next weekend is Easter and my girl is coming to visit. The first thing we’ll do is put on our walking shoes and go looking for ducks.
Ó By Anita Garner 2008