Fog encased the house and a certain dampness in the early morning air seemed almost palatable. If I shut my eyes hard enough the ocean seemed much closer than three hundred miles. Little pangs quickly prick me, reminding me of my Grandma. It isn’t too often, but when they come it hurts. A foggy morning reminiscent of a recent trip, a recipe I want to share with her, or memories I want to remember, all make it seem that she is just visiting France and will be back soon, not sitting in a wooden box in our closet.
Rain beat down viciously and the wind swept from the ocean inland. Waves crashed on the sand and seagulls circled the air overhead. There are so many little things I remember from that walk almost a year ago. The way Ben ran in the sand, the color of the sky, the pictures that we took. But it is a few certain memories that feel like yesterday. How we were walking in a line, Tera, Dad, Grandma, and I, and I grabbed grandma’s hand, all covered in a thin woolen glove. The way I wondered if it was weird to hold her hand, if she would mind. I murmured something about my hands being cold and clasped my hand into hers, warm and delicate. How I felt somewhat awkward but enjoyed every moment. Just writing about it I can feel the wind in my hair again, the sand crushing between my toes and grandma’s hand in mine.
A few months after she passed away, I received some Bon Appetit magazines. One of my favorite things at Grandma’s house was to sit on the grey couch and read the spread of food magazines on her table. Bon Appettit was one of her favorite. She would pull articles out for me on bread baking or recipes I would enjoy. For my eleventh birthday, a few months after we were home from France, my present was a French bread baking book and a recipe clipped from the Sacramento Bee, of which my Grandma was a religious reader, of apple-lavender muffins as we had been in Provance. Memories like getting up at six on Thanksgiving morning and peeling potatoes for a new recipe she had found to go along with the turkey or breaking open a pomegranate from her backyard. Within the last month I have begun cooking much more and a few times came across recipes I almost printed to send to her. I wanted to call her up and tell her how delicious the carrot fries were, with just a touch of olive oil and some herbs de provance and ask if she had ever used brown butter for cookies.
Sitting cross legged on the floor and tearing paper doesn’t sound like a promising start. This simple act however started what ended in Avingnon. I try to go back to my memory as a ten year old, remember what was right and what happened. It is so foggy though, harder to see through than the clouded windows on the barge on the Sien. That first day however, my mom, dad, grandma and myself sat leafing through recent GoAhead tours magazines. Which country would I like to go to? What a huge decision, incredible and frightening, to give a ten year old! By the end of the day, I decided on France or Spain, and ultimately on France- because of the food. We traveled across the ocean, with Grandma giving my little frame the aisle seat to stretch out, had our passports stamped, and arrived in Paris. Little memories float to the surface, like using a French ATM, or eating pizza with a fork, or watching BBC while writing in our journals. There is so much more that I just cannot recall. Something about a play gym and an accordion player on a park overlooking the Mediterranean. A cup of coffee and a big chocolate croissant mingle with vague memories of a Vivaldi concert up spiral stairs. What happened next? I want to ask questions, talk about it, retrieve them from the little box in my brain. There is nobody else I can explain the hunt for the chocolate shop, or the spice market, or ask how good the bread in Avingnon really was.
As I am starting to get older, I think I would have become friends with Grandma, that our relationship would have shifted a little. I could see us swapping recipes or cooking together, maybe even taking a trip to France. When I could drive, I knew I would go on long Sunday drives up to Greagle and passing through Sierraville. That was all decided when I was around nine. We would have lunch at Wild Plum or maybe end up going to Lake Tahoe instead. We would pack pasties, her favorite Cornish food, and then come back and soak in the hot tub. Maybe chase down new recipes, or a new restaurant in Monterey, or some garden in Sacramento. For now though, I’m off to make lavender muffins and remember the beach with a warm, gloved hand.