Thursday, August 11, 2005

From Gram's Corner Cupboard

Thinking about my grandmother, as I did in yesterday’s post, reminded me of an essay I wrote some years ago. I decided to post it here so I’ll know where it is. Maybe it will stir some memories for someone else.

Almost anyone else would have thrown it away. In fact, I nearly missed seeing it as I sorted through a box of things from my grandmother’s house. It was just a little cellophane packet containing three unused paper coasters. Why had she saved them? They were of quilted white paper, about three inches square, with scalloped edges. Embossed in red were a house, a tree, and a cheerful folk-art couple, along with these words:

Come in the evening
Or come in the morning
Come when you’re looked for
Or come without warning.

Yes, almost anyone else would have thrown them away. I nearly did. Then I reconsidered, thinking that the coasters would be like a little part of my grandmother in my home. I could use them, perhaps, when a special friend came over for tea. Or maybe I would just display them in my corner cupboard as a bit of memorabilia. Whatever I did, I knew I would not choose to throw them in the trash. I wondered why they reminded me so strongly of Gram.

Why indeed? Maybe it’s because just those few words, embossed in red, tell one a great deal about my grandmother. She was a truly hospitable person who loved company -- the more, the better. As I gazed at the little paper coasters, so many memories returned. The huge family feasts of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Sunday dinners, back when all of the cousins were so much younger, and grownups ate in the dining room, kids in the kitchen. The steamy summer days of childhood, when I would enter her big, cool house on an errand, and she’d take iced tea from the refrigerator for me. Summer afternoons, when relatives or friends came to call, and she’d invite them to “step out onto the piazza”. The roomy porch would be lined with folks in rocking chairs, just visiting and enjoying the breezes that always seemed to blow there.

How wonderful to have all these memories of my grandmother’s hospitality! But I remember, too, other times. On a Saturday or Sunday, Gram would often bake one of her light, fluffy cakes or a batch of her famous chocolate cookies with the shiny white icing. And then on Monday, she might call and offer some of the cookies or part of the cake to my mother, for us kids to snack on. It wasn’t until years later that I saw the pattern in all of this. On the weekends, she always hoped that some of the family -- from near or far -- would drop in for a visit. Sometimes they did. And she was prepared with her freshly frosted cake or her full cookie tin. But often -- probably more often than not -- nobody came. Now I look back and my heart aches a little when I think of the times I could have gone but didn’t.

But, in a way, it’s not too late. Though she has been gone for many years now, I am still learning from my grandmother. I thought of her just now as I arranged two comfortable rockers on my front porch. And I know why I didn’t throw that little cellophane packet away.

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