What Rye Bread Says About My Past
Posted on July 31, 2012
I’ve been in the habit, lately, of having nothing in the morning for breakfast, but a piece of rye bread and a coffee. If someone were to see me painted from within a story, I think this detail would say a lot.
“Every morning, the woman ate one slice of rye bread and sipped on a coffee.”
It says volumes. Rye bread. It’s something a New Yorker eats like its a religion – rye bread and bialys and bagels. For example, Wifesy hates rye bread. Clearly, she is not from New York. She has introduced me to the breakfast burrito. This also says a great deal about her origins. It indicates her Californian roots. To me, a breakfast burrito is Mexican for breakfast. (Ew.) But, it’s growing on me, like everything else in sunny-landia is.
As I was thinking about my morning ritual, it reminded me of my Great Grandmother. My parents had me, their first child, later in life than was considered the norm back in the 70s. So, my great grandparents were very old. I barely remember my Great Grandfather, only stories told to me by others and a hazy, mental picture of him that comes and goes. My Great Grandmother, however, I can see very clearly. I wonder if my brother, born 5 years after me, can remember either of them at all.
I remember my great grandmother’s morning ritual and the entire layout of her apartment. She was really full of life and seemingly a joy to everyone who knew her. She knew strange things like the unknown verses to, “Take me out to the ball game.” She knew the story part, the girl who goes on the date with the guy to the ball game. Recordings exist of her singing the little known verses and then the rest of the family joining in at the part that everyone knows.
I was 4 or 5 when I spent a weekend alone with my great grandmother. I remember being dropped of at her apartment in the Bronx. Normally, I cried my eyes out when my parents left me anywhere, but not at my great grandmother’s. Even at 4, I found her and her apartment so interesting. I also found her so calming. I think kids (like pets) sense energy.
The apartment wasn’t a house like my parents had, and therefore cool by its very exotic nature. Great Grandma placed me at the kitchen table and put a bowl of cornflakes in front of me to eat. I started eating them when Great Grandma did the strangest thing. She stood over at the stove, placed one hand on the front of the appliance, and started moving up and down. She was exercising! I thought it was so odd because no one in my family did that. At least not at the stove, while I ate cornflakes!
I only remember snippets of things from there on out. For example, her living room was sunken and I remember loving that. It was, as if, the the living room were a cozy little cave. At night, Great Grandma and I slept in the same bed. Great Grandpa must’ve been passed away by then. I asked Great Grandma for a pillow and she said, “I don’t sleep with pillows. They’re not good for your neck.” She then explained to me how pillows cause an unnatural curve at the top of your spine. I don’t know where she got this from, but the little me loved it. It was like Great Grandma and I were on a research team for science. We were on a quest to prove the horror of pillows and we were going to prove it to the whole goddermned world.
I also remember the way Great Grandma dressed. She wore “outfits,” dresses and things. I don’t think she ever wore a pair of jeans and rarely (if ever) pants. She wore blouses with bows that tied in the front and great-looking heels. She always looked so fantastic and put together. I remember that very clearly about her.
Years ago, I was sitting in my parents house with my own grandmother. She was very old. It was probably only a few years before she also passed. I was sitting with my legs crossed in a pair of my favorite heels when my grandmother said, “My mother would’ve loved those shoes.”
And I knew in a moment exactly what she meant. There was something timeless and classy about these particular shoes. Surely, Great Grandma would’ve loved them.
It’s oddly thrilling how your beginnings speak through you with or without your awareness of it.
Life is oddly wonderful that way.
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