I made an over easy egg for breakfast today, as I do any morning I have time.
Just like grandma.
She likes hers so runny the whites still have a little jiggle. With it, she has a slice of toast with Earth Balance butter and local honey from a brown clay jar labeled honey and perpetually sticky. When I was young she drank coffee. C.O. In a heavy, cream colored mug with cobalt blue Japanese print. It seems only a few years ago she switched to chamomile tea, but time is complex, a blink and an eternity, that it was actually more like 15 years ago.
But that is who she is. Long red finger nails, holding the mug with only a slight tremor when she presses her thumb on the top of the handle, sitting in a house coat in her plush orange rocking chair, feet crossed on the footstool, trading stories in the paper with my grandpa. Many of them not news at all, but playfully made up on the spot. Soon she’ll get up to do her chores, to talk to the plants.
That is who she is. Well loved dancing heels on the shoe rack in her closet below hot and baby pink, royal blue and vibrant red clothes. Shoes saved from former Friday nights out at the Safari. I’ve seen the pictures. Remember their New Year’s Eve trips to Little America to polka to the sounds of their favorite band leader. She was glamorous. A forest green sequin dress in her closet and then in mine. A fur coat. Bell sleeves and tall boots in a photograph. I believe that was the dress she sewed herself, the arms too tight.
That is who she is. Homemade spaghetti sauce, fried chicken, white rolls, and applesauce made with real apples sliced and simmered with cinnamon and sugar, cottage cheese, a full cookie jar. She is rows of canned peaches, pears, cherries, a spoonful of ice cream standing in the light of the freezer at night.
That is who she is. The rhythm of her bare feet back and forth on the concrete patio, rocking the swing back and forth. We sit in the afternoon, swinging and talking, grandpa out working in the roses. We like it here in the shade. I am not a sun bunny, she says. Me either, Grandma. Grandma’s girl.
That is who she is. Pink curlers in black hair, faint scent of Skin So Soft, a tube of lipstick in the bathroom drawer, the kitchen drawer, the coat pocket, the purse. She chooses shades of deep pink, red.
How can you do it without a mirror, grandma?
Well, I know where my lips are.
She is not ready for the day until her earrings are in, bright gems like rubies or sapphires, or dangling delicate ones. It is Young and the Restless at 11am, a nail file by her blue rocking chair.
It is the same rhythm of her feet on the wooden deck of the cabin, or on the splintery wood on the swing in the yard. Come on, let’s go swing.
This is where she tells the stories of her early life. An orphan, a mother who died and a father who left and the chain of homes she lived in. The love and foundation of a woman named Mama Della, the hate of a woman in Texas and the subsequent lifelong disdain for cornbread, the eventual permanent home in eastern Colorado, making meals she didn’t know how to, a step brother named Pete, an aunt name Maude, Uncle John. There is the boy named Kenneth Dale, who passed by her classroom door one day, I am going to marry that one. She did. At 17. And then there was a war and a daughter and years apart. There was another daughter and a son, the family of her own.
Her stories often include the phrase, You know what thoughts do, teasing, like she was giving a cautionary tale. No, grandma, what do they do? We’d ask and she’d hold out and say, one day I’ll tell you.
Now thoughts are broken or completely lost. Transformation right in front of us.
There probably is no concrete answer. But I still hope that maybe one day we’ll find the anecdote scratched down on a piece of paper like the little notes she would leave for Grandpa to find. What thoughts do.
We know what’s deep down, etched in like fingerprints. Love and sacrifice, resilience and investment. To her belongs the sounds of Patsy Cline, the lid of the cookie jar, the smell of cinnamon Trident gum, the playful slap on grandpa’s arm when he teased her and she’d laugh, “Oh ho, Dale. It is not,” three kisses out the door, love you much, rummy, pit pats and tut-ens, the way she would wind into singing a song, let’s dance.
That is who she is.