Monday, February 14, 2011

I Didn't Mean to Cry on Valentine's Day

First, it was Smashing Pumpkins. 

They were blaring 1979 in my ears as I drove across town on my menial errands and the music rattled around in my memory.  Nostalgia swelled up inside me, pulling me in strange directions; I thought of my grandma, which is completely odd: never in my life would I have associated her with Smashing Pumpkins.  Not for any reason.  Yet, there she was, hugging me in her warm soft way, wafting her powdery, fabric-softened scent across my cheeks. 

Then, it was the Chinese restaurant.

Not the Chinese restaurant, just a random building on the side of a busy thoroughfare as I passed.  Not the Chinese restaurant my grandma took me to for a special date when I was an awkward pre-teen.  That one was all the way across town and we had both been excited to try it.  It was brand new, sparklingly decorated and hidden away in the corner of a strip-mall.  I discovered a delicious plate of nuclear-yellow rice noodles at that restaurant.  Grandma and I read along the outside edge of the red-and-white paper place mats all about the Chinese Zodiac characters and what they meant for our futures.  I'm sure there was endless happiness involved. 

Next, it was an old lady.

She sang quietly to herself as she perused the canned fruit in the grocery store.  She sang without minding who heard -- maybe without even noticing the song's escape from her mouth.  And I wanted to rush over to her and tell her about my grandma, who sang along with every task.  Laundry, dishes, cooking, gardening, vacuuming, and probably grocery shopping. Songs were in her house and in her heart, and they were beautiful.  So happy and cheerful, even in the gloomiest of circumstances. 

Last, it was 4th Street. 

Long after 1979 had faded away into the recesses of the radio station's signal, I had a task to accomplish on 4th Street.  My hair was tickling my cheeks; windows down on a day so sunny that the snow can't help but meltingly surrender.  At grandma's block, it was all too much.  Valentine's day, the day of love, and all these overwhelming memories sat themselves upon my chest and began heaving.  Rather, I began heaving. 

I don't cry for my grandma these days.  I miss her, but it's a happy missing: a remember-the-way-she missing.  A wish-I-could-tell-her missing.  But today, with the song and the restaurant and the old lady and the road and the sunny day, it all overpowered me.  I cried and cried, just me and my carful of groceries.  Just me and the sunshine and the dripping piles of too-bright snow.

And then, because it felt right, I stopped at the tortilla shop and bought two-dozen fluffy flour tortillas.  Because my grandma knew how to appreciate an authentic tortilla, and if she'd been at home today -- perched on her porch with hot coffee in a pearly-peach coffee cup and saucer -- I'd have taken her some tortillas, too, and we'd have hugged like it was going out of style. 

She probably would have sang to me as I walked across the porch and into her expectant arms: If I knew you were comin' I'd'a baked a cake -- How d'you do? How d'you do? How d'you do?!


  1. Oh, Sarah, this was such a beautiful piece on the power real love has over us. Such wonderful memories and brilliant story telling. I wish I could hug you like it's going out of style right now.

  2. In tears, too.

    Happy Valentines day Sarah- no more tears shed please. (hugs!)

    And I'm sorry this comment wasn't more elegant or strung along in a different way. It just came straight from my heart.

  3. What an amazing story. You are so talented. Thank you for sharing this. She would be so proud of you. In fact, I'm betting she IS proud of you!

  4. So... prepare for a super-personal comment, right here on the ol' Internet:

    This is exactly where I'm at right now. My grandpa is fading fast. The cancer is everywhere and he isn't recognizing some people and we can all tell - it's almost time. As I've entered the grieving process, sometimes the most unrelated things can make me think of him, and I'll be crying too as I drive... unable to explain to my kids why Mommy is sad. I already miss him, and he isn't even gone yet.

  5. oh, this is so heartfelt. so Real. even though moments like these make us cry, they are so, so necessary. when i experience these moments, i feel like my grandma is whispering to my soul. my emotions bubble over, but i am so thankful that they do.

  6. Lenae - I understand that missing before they're even gone mentality. It's so expectant that it's terrifying and sad all at the same time. Hugs, friend.

    Sarah - I felt like that, too -- like my grandma was telling me something important that day and I needed to listen. To feel her. It was needed.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?