Life after death: Open doors and messy kitchens
By Lauren Green
Illustration by Jennifer Hart
Back in the ’80s, my grandmother Marilyn taught me how to make a pie crust. Actually, she made the pie crust and I watched. I was mesmerized by her hands: scooping here, pinching there and all messy with flour. Granny did not measure ingredients. I remember her saying that she knew it was ready when it felt right.
She died on the last day of September. I was at the airport on my way to see her when I got the call from my dad. She was nearly 94 years old and in the hospital recuperating from a recent fall. Even given her age and injury, my family was stunned by the news. Later that same night at my parents’ house, before the breakfast casseroles, potpies and doughnuts started arriving from friends, I found my mom busy in the kitchen counting out teaspoons of various ingredients for a salad dressing. Unlike my grandmother, my mom is a measurer.
She’s a wonderful cook, and so was my grandmother, but that’s where their culinary similitude ends. My grandmother cooked with intuition, adding a little here, removing a bit there, feeling her way along. My mom, on the other hand, works with laser precision. A sudsy pile of cups, tablespoons and teaspoons fills her sink after she works her way through a recipe.
As for me, I haven’t been much interested in cooking at all lately, measured or not. You see, five days before my grandmother died, we put down our sweet yellow Lab, Macy. In her last hours with us, Macy sat on a blanket under a shady spot in our backyard. She looked beautiful, but the moment was incredibly heartbreaking. She had given so much to our family. In her youth, Macy was a runner, bolting out of our front door any time it cracked open. So, in addition to providing 14 years of unconditional, tail-wagging love, she also gets credit for introducing us to countless neighbors led back to our home after her front-yard escapades.
“BUYING A PREPARED PIE CRUST MADE WITH MASS PRODUCTION IN MIND IS A LOT EASIER THAN ASSEMBLING ONE WITH MY OWN HANDS. AND OF COURSE, GOING OUT OF MY FRONT DOOR AND INTERACTING FACE -TO-FACE HOLDS A LOT MORE RISK THAN LOGGING IN CONVERSING BEHIND A SCREEN”
During times of compounded grief like this, I suspect many of you find comfort in cooking. But in my case, these back-to-back losses have shuttered my kitchen up tight. I’m sure I’ll find my way back, especially once the tastes and smells of the holidays hit full force. When that time comes, I hope my return to cooking finds me a little more loosened up. Like Granny, I’d like to try my hand at freewheeling the assembly of a pie crust. I’d like to work toward being less tied to an inked-in directive and more attuned to what’s in hand. My grandmother did it; surely I can too. She endured wars, epidemics, tragic loss, political divides and even sugar rations. She lived with far more uncertainties than I do now, yet she managed to feel her way through them all.
While I’m at it, I’d like to loosen up Macy-style too. When out of state for my grandmother’s funeral, I engaged in several conversations centered around Southlake and Texas. It seems we are quite the national news story of late. I take pride in where I live, and opening the door to such scrutiny is uncomfortable, especially given the weight of those behemoth iron designs so prevalent around here as gateways into our homes.
Channeling the spirit of my clever Labrador, I think I’d like to try my hand at pushing a few doors open and running off-leash for a while. Fast and free and with no agenda, I’d like to find others who are out and about playing, interacting, debating, questioning and, above all, listening. I bet I’ll find a few new friends, trusting them well enough to bring them home, just like Macy did time and time again.
I admit, loosening up probably won’t prove to be as stress-free as it sounds. Buying a prepared pie crust made with mass production in mind is a lot easier than assembling one with my own hands. And of course, going out my front door and interacting face-to-face holds a lot more risk than logging in and conversing behind a screen. But in a nod to Marilyn and Macy, I know I’ll be ready to try.
The door is wide open, and it just feels right.
Lauren Green, a native of Kentucky, has lived in Southlake with her husband and two children for 13 years. In addition to her work at home, she’s also an active volunteer in the community.