Last Thursday I went to Grandmom's house for the first time since she died. It was difficult to walk into her house knowing she wouldn’t be there, that she would never be there again. But being there helped me to realize that she’s really gone, because there is no way I would be rifling through her dresser or her closet if she were alive. Even still I felt a little weird about it.
But I am grateful that I could bring some of her things home with me—a Waterford crystal vase, a gravy boat and butter dish, some baking tins, cloth napkins, pretty kitchen towels. It felt appropriate to fill in the gaps in my kitchen with things from Grandmom’s, first because she would never want anything to go to waste, and second, because we shared a love of cooking and entertaining. I think wherever she is, she’s tickled that I have her rolling pin, muffin tins, apron and gravy ladle. Best of all I found a cookbook that was obviously well-used and loved, published in the year after she was married. I like to imagine her as a young bride, trying new recipes, learning to cook as I have, from a book.
It stung a little to find so many gifts I'd given her. The cross I had brought back from El Salvador hung right over her kitchen sink, the napkin holder from Mexico sat on the table. I was glad to see evidence of how much I loved her in her house, pleased to see that she cherished my gifts, but also saddened. I didn't want to take them, because they belong with her, but since they can't be with Grandmom, I packed them up and found places for them in my house, along with the shamrock plant I had brought her for St. Patrick’s Day this year.
The hardest moment was finding the birthday card she had already bought for me. Of course she would have bought my card a month in advance. She hadn’t signed it yet, but she was never one for writing long messages, rather selected a card to speak for her. It's yellow with white flowers and glittery touches. In the center of the front is a picture of a yellow rose, and the message: “For a wonderful granddaughter: watching you grow has been like watching a flower blossom. With every year, you’ve changed in so many beautiful ways.” The inside continues, “This just comes to let you know that one of the best things in life is and always will be having a granddaughter like you to be grateful for, to be proud of, to love.”
Bitter bittersweet, these posthumous love messages.