Gina Tiano

I lug the faded blue suitcase with the once-gold inscription Lady Baltimore on the front down from the attic. Grandmother’s dusty valise is a coffer of trinkets holding memories with the capacity to take me back to childhood days.

I wait until the house is empty and then oil and carefully open the lock on each side of the suitcase. A musty smell escapes, reminding me of my grandmother’s closet. I rummage through the treasure and find school pictures, old diaries filled with tales of girlish crushes, my senior prom corsage, and a candy cat taken from my birthday cake when I was nine. Opening a small box, I discover a fragile wishbone wrapped in plastic with a note inscribed, “Wishbone from Thanksgiving turkey 1977 Grandma Snyder was there.”

Grandma Snyder, my mother’s mother, was a gentle woman with bright blue eyes and a smile that warmed my heart. She was badly crippled from rheumatoid arthritis, and as a child, I couldn’t have known how much she suffered. It must have been difficult for her to keep up the housework: cooking cleaning, washing and hanging laundry on the line, picking and preserving peaches from her tree. She was always busy.

I remember whenever my sister and I visited Grandma, she would sing us to sleep at night with songs like, “I’m forever blowing bubbles,” and “Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone…” I would awaken every morning to the chime of Grandma’s grand old clock, its tone as deep and rich as Grandfather’s voice.

At sunup, Grandma prepared sausage, toast and oatmeal for our breakfast. My sister and I made sausage sandwiches and added brown sugar and milk to our oatmeal. Afterwards we helped wash and dry the dishes.

I hold the yellow bone in my hand, turning it over and over and feeling its sharp brittle edges with my thumb. I think about that Thanksgiving 1977. I was 13. Grandfather had already passed away from pancreatic cancer, and Grandmother was visiting for the holidays.

My sister and I jumped out of bed on Thanksgiving Day and headed to the living room to watch Macys’ Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the parade was over, we relinquished our spot on the sofa to Dad for a day of football-watching.

Mother and Grandma had begun their day much earlier. They awoke at dawn to begin cooking the holiday feast. I remember watching Mom’s delicate fingers crumble the cornbread she had baked the night before into a large bowl to make stuffing.

Grandma prepared the crusts for the fresh mincemeat and pumpkin pies. I volunteered to mix the whipped topping; I tasted the cold, sweet cream with my finger when no one was looking. After the turkey had been baking for some time, the pies, bread and sweet potatoes took their positions around it, like a chorus line encompassing a soloist. The sweet aroma of food swept through the house and out the open windows into the neighborhood where it mixed with the smells of other households. We could hear the laughter of children playing ball in the neighbor’s yard.

By the time the feast was ready, my sister and I sat at the table, napkins in laps and tummies aching. We called Dad away from the TV and gave thanks to the Lord before digging in. Our Dachshund, Doxie, sat on the floor nearby, tail wagging, waiting to see if someone might accidentally drop a bite.

None of us knew it then, but that holiday past was a special day. It was the last holiday we would dine together with our Grandma Snyder. She passed away that next September.

As 2008 draws to a close, take a moment to tell your dear ones how much they mean to you. It can be as simple as saying, “I love you.” You never know if you’ll ever get another chance.

Happy New Year, dear Readers, from Spouser, Mindy, Cheech pup, all our kitties and me!