Her kitchen has this sort of warm glow about it that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. I see the wood paneling in the kitchen. The dinosaur mugs we always used. The shot glasses filled with saline that I used as a contacts case on more than one occasion when I forgot my case. I see the kitchen table, with the wrap-around bench that we always stuffed too many people into and then had to crawl under the table to get out. I can smell the vinegar for painting Easter eggs. I can taste the cream cheese frosting on the graham crackers. I feel the warmth of the cake donuts with chocolate frosting she always kept in the freezer and re-heated for us in the morning. I can hear her making me get out of bed by telling me she was going to eat the last one, tickling my ears. I can feel the warm well water in the sink. I can hear the rattling of the miniature cereal boxes: Apple Jacks, Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Krispies as we turned the lazy susan.
I'm in the basement at their house, my feet on the cold floor or dangling from a squishy bar stool. I can feel the sand for the shuffleboard table crawling underneath my fingernails. I see the stockings for me and the other grandkids, hand-stitched names hanging from the fireplace, my fingers squeezing the outside to try to guess what they were holding. I see my parents' and aunts' and uncles' stockings hanging on the coat rack, long and stretched with names of spouses haphazardly stitched on. I hear my grandma laughing as her kids pulled Spam out of their stockings--she laughed, but always closed her mouth to smile. I can feel the smooth plastic of the decals we used to decorate the giant window in the basement for the season: Easter eggs, or a manger scene. I hear the ripping and crinkling of the wrapping paper. I can smell the straw for the manger scene in the fireplace. I can smell the Swedish meatballs mixed with the sweetness of the desserts. I see Grandma sitting next to Grandpa, surrounded by balls of wrapping paper and squealing kids, peeking over her glasses at the latest photo calendar they received. I hear the voices of my cousins reading the Nativity story from the Bible. I can hear the cacophony of my family singing Christmas carols.
And then I'm in the family room...the lofted wood ceiling, the globes, the couches full of plaid and patterned blankets. I hear the player piano playing Christmas songs, or songs from Aladdin. I can feel the carpet and hear the talking computer from 1992 playing Hangman saying, "Guess...the....word." I see the onion bin full of books and Tiddly Winks. I see the curlers in her hair, her glasses, he button-down shirts, the hearing aids she hated...but mostly, I see her with Grandpa. Always with Grandpa. Grandpa in his chair, working on a crossword or watching Jeopardy, Grandma on the couch looking out the window, or bringing us ice cream. She always had ice cream.
I'm in the backyard, Grandma in her matching bright purple sweatpants and windbreaker with tennis shoes. I can hear it swishing as she walks and I reach up to hold her hand. We walk in the woods behind their house, leaves crunching, the scent of fall in the air. We always walked to the outdoor fireplace and climbed all over it, scraping up our knees and elbows. I see her hanging her laundry on the line, and then using the laundry line to hang the pinata. I don't know why we had so many pinatas, but I can hear the whack of the wiffle bat and the candy raining down onto the grass. I feel my fingers getting stepped on. I can hear her yelling at Grandpa when he gave too many hints during the Easter Egg Hunt. I can hear the rattling of the plastic eggs...we waited for silence, because that meant there was a two-dollar bill inside. I see her sitting on a lawn chair on the driveway, next to Grandpa.
I see her hands holding all 24 cards of her Pinochle hand. I see the rings on them. I see them holding the tiny hands of my cousins. I see them cooking, scrubbing, working. I see them writing birthday cards and appointments on the calendar.
I think of later when I held her hand to steady her out of the church, onto the lawn, into the sunshine...instead of her holding mine to walk through the woods. And then, just last week, when I took her hand to my belly to feel the baby move, rubbing circles back and forth on the back of her hand with my thumb while she lay in her hospital bed, the machines whirring and clicking. I put her hand down, and she lifted it back up, so I kept it there on my belly for another twenty minutes. And then I kissed her forehead, and I left. And the next day, she left.
When I think of my grandma, the first thing I think of is warmth. I hope I can always feel it.