Eighteen years. I shake my head, the sand of time drained so quick. Eighteen years since a lady I loved with my whole heart, left this earth. Above all, this woman lavished me with unconditional love. She showed me joy in simple things, taught me to cook, and certainly to think of others. She baked Banana Walnut Cookies. I’m blessed to forever call her Grandma.
I’m a sentimental sap so I give her credit for that too. I gaze at fluffy white blossoms dotting the pussy willow bush in my yard. As a result, I grin ear to ear. Memories of snipping Grandma’s backyard branches certainly invade my thoughts.
“Cut here, Grandma, this one is perfect!”
“Okay, but it’s the last one, or you’ll need a bucket to carry them all.” We walked side by side towards the house. She placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
I arrived at school a few minutes early and handed the bounty to my teacher. “Miss Sullivan, I have a bunch of pussy willows for you. My Grandma and I cut them ourselves.”
She clapped her hands while the corners of her mouth lifted, “Thank you, Kim, they’re lovely.”
Miss Sullivan rummaged in the cupboard until she found the perfect vase. Together, she and I arranged the branches and placed them on the corner of her desk. I stared at the beautiful stems all day, knowing Grandma and I shared our happiness with another.
I laugh while my mind wanders to the day my son skipped home from kindergarten to present me with his prized artwork. Imagine twigs glued on construction paper with small clumps of rolled cotton balls extending from each. His words not forgotten, “Mom, I have some wussy pillows for you.” I love wussy pillows.
Now, my eyes scan the living room to find Grandma’s vase filled with my own branches displayed each Spring. A Tradition? Maybe. Love continues always? Certainly.
Pops of red, yellow, and orange burst from the earth announcing the rebirth of the land. Winter doldrums disappear in a flash. These precious blossoms transport me to the days when I gathered bouquets of tulips from the patch lining Grandma’s driveway.
“Grandma, can I cut some tulips for my teacher?”
“You sure can, darling. Why don’t you cut a bunch for your mom too.”
“That’s a great idea, she’ll love them.”
She handed me the scissors. “Carry them with the blades pointed down.”
I skipped down the driveway eye spying the best buds and stopped in my tracks. Grandma planted new bulbs last fall, and now, the white tulips edged in red stole my breath. I made a mental note to cut a few of them too.
I thrust the tulips towards her. “Here they are.”
“Okay, let’s wrap them so they stay fresh.”
I knew the drill and saturated paper towels with water. She wrapped the stems and folded the towels in half. Then she repeated the task with foil to create a makeshift vase.
“Mom, I have a surprise for you,” My hand came from behind my back to reveal the hidden bounty.
“Well, aren’t they pretty! Thank you.”
My teacher adored the bundle of sunshine on her desk too.
Years later, my children shared tulips from our yard to carry on the sunshine tradition. And lilacs. Same story, different flower, except we hammered the stems to allow them to greedily drink and stay fresh longer.
We bonded during family game night each Saturday. Card games like Crazy Eights, Kings in the Corner, Pokeno, and Tripoley remain favorites. Forced to eat (whoa to me) cream puffs, kolaches, plum dumplings, and streusel, I give Grandma credit for my sweet tooth also.
“Can I stay overnight and go to church with you?” I asked while hopping on one foot.
“You’re always welcome,” she said with a grin, knowing full well my pajamas and church clothes just happened to be in my bag.
Served With Love
Meals eaten in Grandma’s dining room were served on her rather worn Franciscan Desert Rose dishes. Blessed to inherit these dishes, I hold them dear to my heart. I pause to take a deep breath of love each time I see them. To me, they’re more than material possessions. My mind’s eye sees her making Italian dressing in the salad bowl, serving pork roast on the platter, and allowing me to sip coffee from the cups.
Today marks eighteen years since receiving her heavenly wings. A day that once caused so much pain now causes my heart to flutter. I add a sprig of greenery to her salad bowl and step back to admire the tribute adorning the top of my cupboards. A heavenly sight indeed.
Grandma’s Cookie Jar
As I unpack the last of the dishes, I unveil a glass jar with a worn screw-top lid. A simple wire basket holds the jar in midair, allowing it to rock on a teeter-totter type frame. This jar, always filled with goodies, sat on Grandma’s counter. Today, it found its new home on my kitchen shelf.
One of my favorite, Banana Walnut Cookies, most frequently filled the jar. What a perfect day to whip up a batch. I rummage in her wooden box and find the recipe, shared by Norn the card notes, in my Grandma’s handwriting. I’d like to share the recipe.
Banana Walnut Cookies
Gather the ingredients while preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine:
- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1 egg, well beaten
- 1 cup ripened bananas, mashed (about 2-3 bananas)
Sift together and slowly add:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Drop banana walnut cookie dough by teaspoonfuls, onto ungreased cookie sheets, two inches apart so they have room to expand.
Finally, push a walnut halve onto each cookie.
Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
Cool. At least wait until the banana walnut cookies are warm before tasting.
As the house fills with the fragrance of comfort, I remove the first batch from the oven. My mouth waters. Using Grandma’s spatula, I then lift each cookie to a cooling rack. I grab one – okay, two – long before they’re cooled. Then I sit at the counter with a mug of coffee, consequently gazing at her dish display. I take a nibble and let my eyes close. Peace and love and memories dance. As a result, I realize Grandma’s love will always be with this sentimental sap.