Sunday, December 15, 2013

memory

My moms dad - Pappy Ferry - was one of the greatest story tellers of all time. I am not just saying that because he was my grandfather, but because his stories were always engaging, mostly honest, usually funny, sometimes sad, and often exaggerated. Yet they made you want to retell the them to everyone you knew. It didn't matter what topic you brought up to him, he had an experience or story to tell about his life that related. He could remember dates of events as if it happened the day before and people's names that he may have only met once. Every detail of his life made an permanent imprint on his memory - it was incredible.

The problem - my memory isn't nearly as sharp. In fact, I often think my brain is on the verge of Alzheimer's.

So with that, I really need to start writing down the memories I have of loved ones lost. At the rate I am going, I will forget all of the details of my life by the time my future children and grandchildren are around asking me what I wore to prom, stories about my first job, and where Mr. B and I went on our first date. It was Chili's right? And then a movie? One with Adam Sandler. What was the name? Reign On Me? Err...Reign Over Me? Yeah, it was awful, that's all I remember. So bad, it was the only movie we ever walked out on. Ever. Anyway, I digress. The point is, I want Mr. B to have something to read to me when my mind is old and I really do have Alzheimer's. Ya know, Notebook style.

***

My brother text me recently and said, "Ever eat an orange and think of California? I just did." My brother and I rarely share lengthy dialogue over the phone and our text history is full of random thoughts. This particular text wasn't any more random than the others he has sent, but the timing couldn't have been better. I had just purchased a bag of orange cuties on Sunday and everyday this week Mr. B has asked me to peel two for his lunch. He claims he doesn't know how to peel them, but I blame his ignorance on laziness. Being the nice wife that I am, I do it - but it's mostly because oranges make me think of more than California. They make me think of my Pappy Steinbugl. My dads dad, not the story teller I mentioned above.

We spent the Christmas of my fifth grade year in California. My dad's second cousin lives in a gorgeous house just north of San Diego, where we stayed for two weeks. We hugged Goofy in Disneyland, waved to the pandas at the San Diego Zoo, rode the old-school elevator at Hotel Del Coronado and dipped our toes in the freezing cold Pacific. Despite all of those happy places, one simple memory from that trip stands out from the others - picking oranges with my grandfather. The row of orange trees was only a short walk from the house and we visited that row a few times over that two week stay. We'd take a bag with us and fill it with blood oranges - an orange variety with a crimson flesh. He would peel one for us to eat on our walk back and then reward us with another when we made it back to the house.

Grandparents go hand-in-hand. I can't think of one without the other. So while I have been thinking a lot of my grandfather this week, I've also been thinking about my grandma as well. She was a short Italian woman - 4'11" to be exact - who loved the color purple and kept a hanky tucked in her watch band. She drank cherry 7-UP with a straw and always had raisin cookies in her cookie jar. She had a gentle heart, yet wasn't afraid to discipline us when we were misbehaving. In her words, "I will give you a baccalà if you don't shape up."

In my mind, baccalà meant giving us a spank on the butt with the wooden spoon she kept next to the stove.

Well 27 years later, I decided to google it and learned something she never shared with us. Baccalà is Italian for dried salt cod, known in English as clipfish. In the old days, in Italian households, this dried out flattened fish was often used as a paddle for spankings.

A fish!! What! Grammy never told us the paddle she threatened to spank us with was going to be a cold, hard fish.

I am wishing all of my grandparents were here today - one to share stories with, one to eat oranges with and one to share the meanings behind all of the other Italian words she used.

Instead, all I have are memories of them. Memories I am fortunate to have and happy to share. Isn't it funny the things your brain chooses to remember?

Grammy and Pappy Steinbugl
2007

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