We visited you today, like we often do when we’re home. Its spring break this time, so the cherry trees that line the Tacoma streets are starting to blossom in shades of pastel pink and bright white. I count them now, as I did when I was little and thought they looked like ballerinas swathed in layers of fluffy tulle. Soon, they will be dotted with little green, unripe cherries, and then, in a few short months, the branches will be heavy with the sweet, red fruit.
The promise of cherries reminds of something much more sweet, although certainly more artificial. Cherry popsicles. In the middle of the hot summer, you could get them from the ice cream truck two for a dollar. You spoiled us and would always buy some when the jingling truck passed your house. We would sit on the little stoop, pigtailed and barefooted, eating the popsicles with sticky, cherry smiles on our faces.
I still remember the feeling of your deft fingers weaving my hair into smooth, perfect braids. Sometimes you would thread ribbons in, but only for special occasions, and once you even put green and red ones in to match the embroidery of the Ukrainian blouse and apron I wore to share our heritage with my fourth grade class. I felt so proud that day—and not just because I got to wear a beautiful outfit. My heart swelled with pride and love when I recalled the story of our family’s past, the story of how you learned English, as my class listened intently.
I must have been six or seven when you first taught us how to thread a need and pull it in and out of fabric. Our first project was a potholder. Gaby and I hemmed the edges, fumbling with the needle in our small hands. You used your sewing machine on the middle part, fixing our childlike mistakes. I was so proud when I presented mom with the final project. We still have those potholders; they’re a faded floral beige now, but they still have their place in our tea towel drawer, and sometimes, we still use them.
I remember this and so much more. I remember the thick, sweet braids of kolach, the mangoes hidden in your pocket, and playing with the shiny knickknacks on your coffee table.
I’ll remember these memories, even when you don’t.
I remember them, even when the Alzheimer’s wins.
I remember them when you forget the date and year.
I remember them when you don’t know my name or who I am.
I remember them now, and I’ll keep on remembering. I will remember the hard times and the wonderful times, the stories of rural Canada, and the sweet, small memories.
I’ll remember for you, Grandma. I love you.