“In Apple Pie and Cinnamon Time,” new this season in my Autumn Glory gallery at “Picture it in Pen and Ink”
Remembering Grandma, with thanksgiving
“Good Morning Pamela, Sweetheart!” Grandma’s emerald and gold parakeet sang out croakily, the minute it spied me entering the sunny breakfast room.
I clapped my hands. “But…how does she know its me?” I asked wonderingly.
Grandma’s mouth twisted to a proud smile. “That’s because Bimbo learns what I teach her very quickly!”
“Morning John, morning John, morning John!” the old bird greeted my grandfather as he popped in then for a bite of toast and a quick slurp of coffee.
Papa and I laughed together. “Bimbo doesn’t forget or mistake us, but she sometimes gets stuck like a broken record!” Papa said.
I took a bite of my own breakfast, savoring the scented air around me that was Grandma’s house in the early morning. Papa’s strong dark coffee squeaking as it bubbled in the old pewter percolater. Grandma’s taste for the blackened toast, like perfumed char, that now waited atop the kitchen counter as she shooed Papa out the side door and off to work with his large metal lunch box. I sighed contentedly.
Grandma’s house, I mused, was like Alice’s Wonderland where things seemed naturally to tilt just a bit off the everyday happenings. A place where a bird talked to you and knew your name. A place where sunlight tripped lightly through the windows and danced across the table where I sat, like in a cartoon musical. A place where unusual adventures seemed ready to pop out at me anytime.
“What are we going to do today, Grandma? I asked. It was only 7 a.m. and already she was bustling around, measuring out flour here, gathering the rolling pin there. To my five-year old estimation, something was up.
“My women friends are coming to lunch and we have lots to do…,” she smiled into my eyes. “And you are going to help me!”
Soon she was guiding my hands upon the rolling pin as together we stretched the freshly made dough across a board. I watched as she sprinkled a tea cloth with water droplets, her fingers moving as airily as ballerina legs on tiptoe, then laid it across the dough. “To keep it from drying,” she explained. Then, rolling the cloth back just a touch, she began to cut little squares. “One for you, one for me,” she said.
Gently, she moved my fingers across the square piece, showing me how to flatten the edges just enough. She handed me a teaspoon with a tiny bit of seasoned ground meat mixture, helping me to place it in the center. “Then, we pinch it closed, so,” she said, “and form the dumpling for our soup.”
Quicker than I imagined, we had them all made, lined up like soldiers on cookie sheets, and baking in the oven. “When the girls get here,” Grandma said, “we will drop these into the tomato beef broth to soften…”
“Do we have a dessert?” I asked.
Grandma’s eyes twinkled. “Let me show you.” From a cabinet she pulled out a covered rectangle cake- size pan as if it held treasure. Slowly, she peeled off the cover. There, little fingers of baked pastry nestled close as golden Easter eggs. Eyes big, I breathed in the lovely aromas of nuttiness, cinnamon, sugar and spices. “What is it?” I asked softly.
“This is what we Armenians call ‘Paklava’,” she said, as if she were telling me a great secret. (Many years later, I discovered the Greeks have a similar recipe that’s name varies only by one letter.) “Now we will pour a syrup over it to soak some more,” she said. I wasn’t sure I would like this dish, but it was beautiful and fun to create together.
Finally, we had the kitchen sparkling, the table set, and a little time to spare.
“What shall we do, now, Grandma,” I asked, as she untied our aprons.
“Hmm,” she thought, looking at her watch. “It is time for Rosemary Clooney on TV. Now we shall – dance!”
“Wha-at?” I squeaked.
On went the tiny black television set in the living room. And there was Miss Clooney singing. Grandma’s hands went up into the air as she slowly began moving in circles, bending her legs here and there. Then she raised my arms in the same way and showed me how to move. I’d never seen anyone dance like this before! But it was fun!
When the show was over, we both tidied up, put on our good dresses and laid out the platters of fruit and salad to go with lunch. Soon, the breakfast room was bustling with several women all clucking and chattering like chickens on holiday. Shyly, I sat silently, to watch and listen. I liked to hear their voices and their stories. So many stories of so many things they knew about and things they were doing.
Suddenly, I had an overwhelming desire to tell them about something I could do.
“I can tell time now!” I blurted out into their conversation, like tossing a penny into a bubbling fountain.
Everyone stopped talking.
“You can?” several ladies said together.
“What time is it now?” one of them asked.
I ran into the kitchen and stared up at Grandma’s clock above her stove. Then I froze. Something was very wrong with this clock! It didn’t have numbers on it, just lines! Oh no… oh no… oh no… a voice rumbled inside me. I really did feel like Alice, tumbling down down down the hole. And I wanted to crawl in and stay there.
Slowly, I returned to the party and all their expectant smiles.
“Um… um…” I stammered. “It’s — 3:30!” I declared, just hoping.
Laughter broke like a thousand little pieces of a precious teacup fallen onto the floor and I simply stood there…feeling just as broken. And like hot water had been poured over my head and transformed my face to the color of our tomato soup.
That’s when Grandma stood up and turned me in front of her, enfolding me in her arms. “It is good to laugh, isn’t it? Because it reminds us how silly all of us can be at times!”
“Yes,” said one lady. “Sometimes the most fun is laughing at ourselves and then getting up and trying again!” She told us a story of a time when she had made a nutty mistake, and joined in as everyone laughed with her.
Grandma told a memory about the first cake she baked when she was a girl, and how it came out lopsided. “But it tasted wonderful!” she laughed.
“And today,” she went on, “we are all feasting on this delicious soup that my granddaughter helped me to make!”
“You did?” the women asked, wonderingly.
“Grandma showed me how to form the dumplings,” I said softly.
“They are the best I’ve had in a long time!” one woman exclaimed.
Grandma patted my shoulders in a way only I could feel, her fingertips telling me all was okay. I was one of them, even if they were grown ladies and I was still a little girl. That little moment of love, it was one I’d never forget.
“That’s because dumplings seasoned with love and friendship make the best soup!” Grandma twinkled.
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© Pam Depoyan
“In Apple Pie and Cinnamon Time,” portrait drawing shown above, available in my Autumn Glory at pamdepoyanblog.wordpress.com. ASK ABOUT PRINTS OR CUSTOM PORTRAITS DRAWN FROM YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOS! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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