It felt good to sink into everyday life this morning.
With a beautiful candle lit, a cup of coffee nearby and three snoozing canines around me and my favorite chair, I picked up pencil and journal to write. These days my journal is filled with short stories of ancestors — some told me by aunts and uncles, while others come from reading old newspaper articles. At yesterday’s funeral, I invited my mother’s oldest brother to recount tales of his youth and memories of his grandparents; he seemed glad to share that which he could still recall. Uncle Bob’s stories now fill two pages of my journal.
Having lunch with Aunt Jo — whose funeral we gathered at yesterday — has been hovering at the top of my list since Daddy died. Just three weeks ago I told her, “I want to get together for lunch with you real soon.” Unfortunately, I didn’t make it happen; and now the opportunity is gone. But I’m grateful for the scraps of stories she spoke of Sunday evening, and those, of course, take up a page and a half of my journal.
All this gathering of family history has me realizing — family is more than sharing common bloodlines. Two weeks ago, I picked up the phone to talk to a second cousin who I didn’t know existed until running across him in research. My Greek grandfather’s younger sister, Anna — who died three days after my father was born — left three children. Neither my father nor grandfather ever mentioned them — but it certainly helps explain those trips my young parents took to Vermont, during their early days of marriage.
Amazingly, all three second cousins — born in the mid-1920s — are still alive. I called the youngest one, John, who is now 85. Once John recovered from his surprise, he invited me to send up a copy of my research, with a promise to answer whatever questions he could. I’m still working on the package I promised to send him — hopefully, it will be gone by week’s end.
After finishing today’s morning pages, I made a slice of toast. The smell of toast always reminds me of grandparents — either my Greek grandfather or my maternal grandmother. Today it was both.
As far as I know, Granny always had a piece of toast covered with jelly for breakfast. ‘Toast and Jell,” she called it. As a young school girl, it was what I often had myself — not because it was my favorite — but because it’s what my Greek grandfather could make me in a hurry before school. The toast was always burnt around the edges but generous with butter. Real butter not margarine — so the bread was always a little smushed from Papa’s effort to spread cold butter over it. Papa always served it to me with a cup of strong black coffee. Greek-style, I suppose.
I don’t know if my new-found cousins from Vermont grew up with toast for breakfast or not. And if they did, whether it was burnt around the edges or covered with jelly. And it’s not important for me to know — it certainly won’t make my list of questions that my second cousin John so graciously offered to answer. But possessing these unimportant facts is something one just owns about family. And this morning, when my teeth crunched into a bit of crispy slightly black around the edges toast, slathered with soft yogurt margarine but no jell, I remembered my grandparents. And gave thanks.