My grandma Betty was married to a Finn. The Finn side of the family held a small reunion in Denver last weekend, since some out-of-state relatives were going to be in town. During the meal, my mom's cousin played a sound recording made in the early 60's (I think...) I got to hear my great grandfather's voice for the first time, and hear some of my mom's cousins who were, of course, much younger then. It felt a little surreal, but it was very cool.
After the event had ended and we were gathering our stuff and heading out, my mom's sister, who (along with her husband) had moved back to their hometown a few years ago to help look out for my grandma, approached me with a small black purse. It had a little butterfly embroidered on the side, and I recognized it immediately. It was grandma Betty's purse. She told me that she had figured Rylan might like to have it. Inside was grandma's coin purse, a couple of lip balms, a head scarf and a rain cap. I glanced at the items, and felt a wave of sadness wash over me. My aunt got teary too and said that the six-month mark of grandma's passing had just come and gone a couple of days ago - and she was right... it didn't even occur to me that it had already been that long. It seems like just yesterday.
We packed up, and while everyone else left the community event center, we reparked in front of an adjacent playground and I let the kids play for awhile to burn off some energy. It was a beautiful fall afternoon. Owen repeatedly launched his toy tractor off of the slide. Colin followed suit with his little orange VW Bug. Rylan and Owen tussled over the tractor. Aaaand it was time to go. We loaded back into the car, and Rylan got into her seat and began digging into the little purse. I was buckling in Colin, who sits in front of Rylan, and Rylan thrusted the plastic rain cap towards my face. "Mama, what's this?" I answered, "That was grandma's rain cap to protect her hair from the rain. See? (I begin to open it up) It goes on like..." And then my knees buckle. I literally had to hold onto the side of Colin's seat in order not to keel over. And then I started to sob uncontrollably.
As I had opened the cap, the scent of my grandma, as clear as day, as if she were standing right next to me, sent a jolt right through me. My body reacted before my mind did. My heart ached. My lungs hurt. I felt worse than when I heard the sad news that she had passed. I felt worse than I did at the funeral. I felt worse than the moment when I placed my hand on her casket for one last goodbye. Because six months have passed and the finality of it all hurts so very much... she really is.... gone.
A little bit of baby powder..
A little bit of floral...
A little bit of arthritic cream..
After we got home, I put the rain cap and the head scarf into a ziploc bag and placed them with my other treasures. The small glass container shaped like a strawberry that was my great-grandmother Stella's. The pink and white beaded necklace that my aunt Janet gave me when I was little. A B&W picture of my grandpa Orin standing by a gigantic sunflower. A lock of baby hair from each of my children. The ashes from Kai and Yuki, my huskies. All of the items are a visual, tangible memory. Yet, I think this latest edition evoked the most powerful, emotional recall I have ever experienced.
Okay, enough sadness... I need to leave you with a laugh and a smile.
Speaking of ashes, I remember the time I climbed Aurthur's Rock with Abby and Yuki, the day before Thanksgiving, 2004. It was also Kai's birthday and she would have turned 14. There was snow on the ground, and it was cold and windy. I tossed some of Kai's ashes (she had passed away five months before) into the breeze. And it blew right back into my face. That is a memory that has smell and taste associated with it. The cremated remains of my dog... did not taste very good. But it did actually make me laugh. I smiled and took a picture of myself, my old girl Yuki, and my new puppy Abby. I added that picture to my profile on eHarmony, which I had just joined the week before. I wanted more pictures of me on there, showing me doing the things I loved to do. Because I had 'met' someone. His name was Dean.
It's amazing... the memory-journey sights, sounds and smells can take us on