My dear grandma, Cecile, passed away a couple of weeks ago. She left such a mark on my life. At five feet tall, she prodded through her yard and barnyard wearing work boots, tending to plants, chickens, and everything in between. She wore her gray hair wild and free. She was stubborn as a mule. She had a soft spot for border collies and persnickety cats. She processed her own chickens up until old age. She woke each morning before the birds and always had a perculator of coffee on the stove top and a rocking chair to sway in. I grew up spending Sunday afternoons sitting at the foot of her kitchen hearth, listening to the adults in my family catch up on the week's happenings speaking in Cajun, their French dialect. I tried to understand, but mostly I didn't.
Losing my grandma is like losing the very last straw of childhood. There is now a finality to those early years of my life. All of those family dinners under their backyard oak trees. The Magnolia tree I loved to climb and how my grandma use to hang her shade plants from its limbs. The cistern faucets were we'd help ourselves to drinking water and to fill up basins to wash dishes outside in the afternoon after a big family dinner. The turkeys gobbling and the kids gobbling back. The mama cow and her calf. The pastures and their tall grasses. The feel of St. Augustine under barefeet. Roller skating down her driveway. Holly berries in coke bottles as noise makers. Hiding beneath the hedges and the feel of the cool, damp earth on our feet as we'd squat and whisper.
On the way back to Louisiana, I read through a stack of letters grandma had written to me over the years. She wrote exactly the way she spoke, so re-reading them was like having little conversations with her. She embraced the simple moments in life and was a no-fuss, no-drama, kind of woman. She loved to bird watch and had a special fondness for bluebirds. Her heart was big and good.
In between reading her letters, we stopped a couple of times along the roadside to pick some wild grasses for her. I think she would have liked them.
Today was my little one's first day of kindergarten.