Yesterday we hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. I’m blessed with a husband who is a talented cook, and he took expert charge of the turkey along with several other sides. Our moms both contributed to the feast too. One of my chief tasks was setting the table, using for the first time pieces I’ve inherited from both of my grandmothers.
My mom’s mom passed away in 2002. I remember the date because it was also the day The Two Towers released to theaters. Two friends and I had been looking forward to this for months. My grandma was living in California and we were in Washington. Mom and I were home together that morning when she got the phone call. I hugged my mom, but the only thing I remember saying was something like, “You don’t need to take me to the theater.” It makes me cringe a bit now, especially because we DID end up going to see the movie.
Not long afterwards we traveled to California for her service. In those pre-iPod days, I recorded snatches of The Two Towers soundtrack on a cassette to listen to on the trip. (I guess I didn’t have a portable CD player either.) At my grandmother’s service I read a passage from the end of C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. I don’t know if my grandma liked the Narnia books or had ever read them. My memories of her are mostly second-hand, but I know she had a sharp wit and loved words. She would buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal for me when we came to visit from Hawaii. And she called me Renie, a nickname I thankfully managed to evade growing up.
For about fourteen years I had her gold and white china in storage at my parents’ house. This month it made the 2,500-mile journey to Alabama in time for Thanksgiving. My mom says it’s the first china she remembers.
The silverware we used came into my keeping only last year, when my dad’s mom passed away. Sometimes I think about texting her and remember she is gone. When I was growing up, Grandma Lu boarded horses at her property in Washington. That made her royalty in my book. Along with horses, she had a goat, two cats named Snowball and Teo, and what seemed like a vast amount of acreage to a kid who lived in an apartment in Hawaii. Visits to Washington felt like homecomings, and I was thrilled when my parents told me we would be moving back.
When we lived in Washington, grandma made a point of having me over about once a month. She would always have some activity planned: bowling or a local theater production or (my favorite) going to the racetrack, sometimes accompanied by her sister, my great Aunt Vi. It strikes me as hilarious now that I had a grandma and aunt who would take me to the track so I could salivate over the horses, while they stoically placed $2 bets on each race. (Sometimes we would split the winnings over dinner at Denny’s.)
I’m grateful that I got to spend so much time with them growing up, and I regret that I didn’t know my other grandma as well—for my mom’s sake as much as anyone else’s. But there was something healing in seeing my Grandma Lu’s silver and my Grandma Irma’s china together on our first Thanksgiving table. Yesterday morning I was very lonely for the people and places that seem to be gone forever. But right as I was standing in the kitchen struggling to pull it together, Aunt Vi texted me from Washington to say “Have a great Thanksgiving with those you love.” With those simple words she reached across all those miles and lifted up my heart. It’s what a grandma would do.