The purpose of Memorial Day, of course, is to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. But it's also a day that prompts many of us to think about beloved family and friends who are no longer with us. In this guest column, Jennifer Downing of Nourish reminisces about a series of special days spent with her grandmother.
Twenty years ago, I imagine a long-distance phone call between mom and grandma, making plans for my brother and I to visit. Every year in June, or so it seemed, we visited our favorite grandparents for a week. Between history-based day trips, holly hock dolls and walks to Maggio’s for candy, we went strawberry picking. The field was a short drive down Route 45 from their post-war Cape Cod and as I recall, adjacent to a trailer park. Grandma always took the effort seriously, explaining the how-to’s of the task at hand. Most important was to remember to move the flag, signifying what row had been picked and to what point. Still, the scent of tiny, local strawberries warm with the sun renews wonderfully fragrant memories. I attribute some of my passion for food to those experiences.
This month, Doug and I are celebrating our 16th anniversary. The blooming of the lilacs usually coincides with our celebration and that May many years ago they were stunning. I cut a huge bouquet to dress the dining table to welcome my grandparents. Well into their eighties, they drove from Champaign to be at our wedding. We dined on fancy hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Grandpa had beer even though his doctor said he shouldn’t. The cake was ridiculously expensive – and perfect.
Fifteen years ago this month I was pregnant with our first child due in July. My grandmother, a widow by then, and I had made plans for a weekend together and it included strawberry picking. While it would be June until the berries were ready plans were at hand. Just beginning to have more time in the kitchen I wanted to make homemade jam use a hot water bath process. Grandma bestowed the virtues of paraffin wax and freezer jam.
Last week, I was in the attic putting up winter clothes and came across a bin of our wedding keepsakes and family things. Like the pile of pictures one stumbles upon at an odd moment that brings the day to a screeching halt – so this discovery left me. Teetering on the edge of a Christmas decoration box, pile of boots and sweaters at my feet, something fluttered in my chest – the joy of nostalgia. Stuck in a pile of cards and wedding announcement clippings I found a letter from my Grandma. Light blue with a deckled edge, I received many letters upon this stationary through our years of correspondence.