I Remember Grandma

I remember Grandma Karason,
a most loving soul,
the first person I ever knew who went to Heaven,
I remember that I’ve never grown comfortable with her leaving so suddenly
without a final good bye
I remember walking up the gray front-porch steps on Long Street
how she stood at her screen door
how the tears sparkled in her eyes like bits of magic
when she greeted us hello or wished us good bye
I remember her short, stout arms, made strong and sure by years of taxing labor,
reaching out to us in joy and comfort
and her songlike voice caressing us with her immigrant Hungarian tongue:
“Lány” for me     “Fiú” for my brothers–
special words bestowed like papal blessings
I remember the look she gave my father,
(head always cocked delicately to one side)
like he was an answer to a special prayer
I remember her hugs that always carried a bit of her kitchen when she drew us close

I remember that kitchen–like no other anywhere on my earth–
her kingdom–where she cooked and baked us Hungarian dishes
I was sure were really meant as gifts for the angels
I remember her working the retes dough until it looked as thin and lithe as linen                 and her carefully forming it into a dough tablecloth
before she’d cut it up for strudel
I remember poppy seeds and front-yard cherries
chicken paprikash and stuffed cabbage
I remember a Singer treadle sewing machine,
its place by the wall at the entrance to her kitchen,
and watching her work fabric under the pressure foot as she pedaled
I remember how she’d purse her mouth so her lips disappeared
to make the material move just the way it needed to go
I remember her house was “the old country” dark and heavy
the sun only shining when she was in a room

I remember her waist-length, wavy salt and pepper hair
braided and coiled around the top of     her head
like a crown every day
and hair pins–loads and loads of hair pins
and the blue tin (with the silver butterfly on the lid) that she kept them in
I remember her sturdy, black, perforated Red Cross shoes
and stories about her father, the shoemaker
I remember the whispered secret that he died in Auschwitz for being Catholic, too
I remember the fragrance from the lily of the valley that ringed her house in the springtime and         permeated her home with its bloom
I remember a tipped navy blue hat on her head
with a bouquet of white fabric flowers pinned to the front
delicately dancing up and down in rhythm to her minuscule movements
I remember the dull, definite thud of her body whenever Grandpa pushed her
against the wall in anger and frustration
I remember her asleep in her (one comfortable) living-room chair,
her hands folded, remarkably at rest
the slip of a serene smile
and Hop-Along-Cassidy in the background

I remember the feeling of melancholy
and the importance of prayer,
family, good food, faith,
love, forgiveness, grace
and simple joy . . .

She would not want me to forget.

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