When I was a little bitty girl visiting my family in East Chicago, Indiana, I relished a ritual shared with my Grandmama Jeannie Mae. I would quietly crack the door to the “blue room” and slip out taking care not to wake my little brother snoring in the twin bed across from mine. I would then employ ninja-like skill by silently navigating down the hallway avoiding the creaky boards that lived beneath the plush brown carpet.
Rounding the corner at the hall’s end, I strode confidently into the kitchen to find my grandmother sitting in her chair near the stove warming up her hot combs and preparing to style her hair for the day.
This was always a special time whenever we would visit because 5:30am belonged to just me and her. I would watch her practiced hands work those hot hair irons maneuvering them through her thick, silver grey hair which while she was still working for the bank she would style into a neat bun with expertly smoothed edges.
Another part of the ritual was being the breakfast taste tester and kitchen assistant. By the time I came around the only salt you could find in the House was “lite salt” which always seemed so very exotic to me. We never had lite salt at our house. I would sit there and ponder the existence of grandma’s exotic salt from my perch at the eat-in kitchen table while grandma put on a pot of coffee. Before too much longer in would walk my grandfather usually from outside somewhere because he too was an early riser. He’d march his 6’1″ frame into the kitchen from the back porch to claim his coffee and his “suga” from Grandma.
Their’s was one of THOSE kinds of love.
Sometimes Granddaddy would sit down at the table and read his paper while his girls worked on breakfast. Sometimes he would wander off into the living room when he sensed I needed a little more girl time with Grandma.
I loved him for that.
I will forever cherish the time in that kitchen. Making things to nourish the ones you love requires that you pour in your own love to the endeavor. I remember the last time we made bread together…
I’ll never get to cook with my grandma again, but she’ll be with me in the lessons she taught me. And you better believe that blessings will flow when two or three of we Colliers throw down in the kitchen together cause this woman taught us well and we will pass on the lessons of big love and good food to our children.
Even as she was dying, my grandma continued to teach me about the importance of how we live. Now, with her passing, all of my grandparents have joined the ancestors where I hope to meet them one day when my time on this plane is done.
I didn’t get to spend as much time with my grandparents as I would have liked, but I know in my heart that they are together again and that gives me such peace. That’s as it should be.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Lubbock, Texas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.