When I moved away for college, I moved into an apartment. It was a cute little place close to campus. I rode my bike across the street and then across campus most days. Moving into an apartment meant that I got to open my "hope" chest and use all the pretty dishes that I had been collecting over the years. Along with all the dishes, I took with me some hand-me-downs from family and friends to fill the cupboards of my apartment.
One of those hand-me-downs was a hand mixer that once belonged to Grandma O. My Grandma O was a fabulous baker. I never once remember going to her house and finding the cookie jar empty. She made homemade rolls for special occasions that were melt in your mouth good. Her apple pie was outstanding. Grandma O wasn't good at verbalizing her feelings for people. She wasn't an overly warm woman but I believe that Grandma O showed her love with food. She baked, she cooked, she fed her family and friends and that is how she told us she loved us.
This afternoon, I pulled out Grandma O's mixer. I had fresh lemons from my lemon tree and was determined to make a lemon meringue pie. In college I had successfully made pies using that mixer, that turned out beautifully, with no weeping or shrinking or anything. They tasted mighty good too. Of course when I moved back home after college, the recipe I used to make those fantastic lemon meringue pies got lost in the shuffle. I have tried to make that pie again, several times, with little success. My Food Network magazine arrived Wednesday with an easier recipe, I had a fresh lemons, the kitchen was empty, I had the time and so it was time to try again.
I squeezed those fresh lemons (I should have taken a picture of my lemons...the rind is at least an inch thick. They look like softballs.) and mixed together the ingredients for the base of the pie. When ready, I poured it into the waiting shell (store-bought because while I have inherited a little bit of Grandma O's baking genes, I fail at pie dough. FAIL.) I then pulled down Grandma O's mixer, ready to tackle the meringue.
Upon putting the first beater in, I noticed that it wobbled a little. The connection between the shaft and the beater blade seemed a little tenuous. The next beater was a little more solid but when I put the second beater in, I noticed the two beaters came together too closely. I tested it once outside the egg whites and they clanked together. No good! I pulled them out, switched places and tried again. A little less clanky, so I decided to give it a try. Into the egg whites the beaters went. I switched the mixer on and smoke started to come out of the motor, the beaters clanked together and then stopped, jammed together. I looked at Grandma O's mixer and realized, the end had come. There was no fixing this. I pulled the cord from the socket, tried to eject the beaters to no avail. I then pushed and pulled until they came apart. The one tenuous beater was now even more wobbly. The era of this hand mixer had come to an end.
I washed the beaters, dried them, put them back into their rightful place on the mixer, loving wrapped the cord around the mixer and took it out to the recycling bin for their future ride to their final resting place. It's just a hand mixer and yet, I will admit to feeling a little teary at the end of our time together. They will be replaced by another hand mixer. An updated one with a bigger motor. But that mixer won't have the memories attached. When I pull it out of the cupboard, I will no longer think of Grandma O and the wonderful things she made with that mixer.
As I started to write this post thinking about Grandma O and her baking, the dates started connecting and suddenly the tears that came weren't because of a silly hand mixer dying after, gosh, 40+ years of use. 22 years ago this week, Grandma and Grandpa O celebrated their 50th
wedding anniversary. We had a grand party, a dinner of course, at a
favorite restaurant of theirs with family and friends surrounding them,
celebrating their lives together. That night Grandma O went to sleep
and didn't wake up.
Over the years, I have come to believe that grief meanders in ever widening circles. The first days, months and years, we cycle through our emotions, feeling the loss of those we loved in an immediate and profound ways over and over again. As the years go on, the circles of emotions become wider, with longer times between the waves of sorrow. Little things will trigger our emotions and the grief will return, maybe less intense, maybe just as intense as when we first felt the grief. For me today it was an electric hand mixer, an inheritance from a Grandmother who left earth years too soon. I grieve, not just the loss of her presence, amazing baking and cooking skills, but the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter that was just beginning to form after years of relationship "misses".
It wasn't just a hand mixer, it was a memory catcher; a reminder of someone I loved and the way she loved me in return.