I saw my family yesterday. My cousin and his wife christened their son, Logan, and so the entire family turned out to share in the celebration. I come from a rather colorful lot, as you can probably imagine by now; our family tree is made up a hodgepodge of eccentrics, eclectics, and at times, even the slightly insane, and as a result our family gatherings tend to be loud and colorful, with a "I wonder what will happen next?" type of spirit. Yesterday, for instance, within the course of just a few hours, my cousin, Kevin, saved a woman's life (Heimlich), I got to smell my grandmother once again, and I came home with a squash the size of a baseball bat.
I never thought I would smell my grandmother again--after all, she died over a year ago--but after Kevin dislodged a wedge of bread from a young woman's esophagus, lunch was served, and the festivities were over, we stopped by my childhood home. This is the home where my grandmother lived, where we all lived at one point or another, but which now belongs to my cousin Mark, and his wife, Mati. I had not been there in a few years, so it was bittersweet to be in the place that was so much my grandmother. Every Easter dinner was celebrated in that home; I cannot step foot into the yard without thinking of our annual egg hunts, or into her dining room without remembering the ham, kielbasi, pierogi, the horseradish and hot mustard, the paska bread. But it was not just seeing the house, and touching the familiar banisters and doorknobs, but it was smelling it that really got to me. Mati asked me as I walked up the stairs to the attic "Do you smell her?" and oh my God, I did; she was everywhere.
My heart ached.
Later we went out into the garden--the garden where my grandmother had her tomato plants and peppers and cucumbers each and every year--and I saw that the tradition had been passed down. For everywhere my eye fell, there were melons, and pumpkins, and squash, and eggplant, and tomatoes. My niece Maureen plucked a warm cherry tomato off the vine and popped it into her mouth as we rummaged through the tangle of vines for the last of summer's bounty. My heart lightened, because I knew my grandmother was still with us. She was there in her house and her yard, and her garden. And she was there with us as we stood barefoot in the warm sun on a beautiful September afternoon, playing baseball with a preposterously large Opo Squash, laughing like children at both the lunacy, and joy of the moment.