Is it weird to anyone else that one of the legacy’s of people who have passed away is their favorite foods? “Your Grandpa loved pecans. Loved cracking them. Loved eating them!” or “You know, your Grandma couldn’t get enough of that peanut butter frozen yogurt.” There’s a moment of silence for the love of jello or whatever floated their boats, and then an awkward mental decision is logged on whether or not to run out and buy all those items, or preserve them for posterity’s sake. I can understand how the living are connected to food by design, but when I die I don’t want to be remembered as the Grandma who loved Grape Nuts! While lists of grandma or grandpa’s favorite foods aren’t usually printed in obituaries, they often become canonized among surviving family members. Tears may well up over Grandma’s beef Wellington, the day she’s not there to eat it.
I remember crying over the strangest thing at my mother-in-law’s memorial service. She had raised a gentle giant of a man who became my husband, and she had praised me ceaselessly for the wife and mother role I worked so hard at. My mother-in-law never had a bad word to say about me, or anybody else for that matter. So there I was, trying to convey to those gathered at the church, how the closest thing to a negative remark she ever said to me (in an almost apologetic tone) was, “You should really cook eggs in a ceramic bowl, instead of plastic.” My words seemed too pithy and yet like the highest praise all at the same time. What could I say? The woman knew dishes! She had raised eight hungry children and had baked in and cleaned over a million dishes working at a school cafeteria. She lived a remarkable life, even though she insisted on contributing little to the world.
I got to thinking about how she taught me and so many others valuable lessons through both her life and death. Before I met Marge, I was pretty conservative in my level of decorum. Not having grown up in a large family, I was quiet and polite and well–reserved. She taught me how to relax around people and how to engage in conversations based upon nothing else except what was rolling around in my noggin. There was no better occasion, outside of the day we’d been given, to celebrate and enjoy life and lolligagging and jaw-flapping totally counted as living well! After an evening spent chatting with her on her comfortably cluttered squishy brown couch, she’d chastise me good-naturedly for getting up to do the dishes before calling it a night. “The dishes will still be there in the morning,” she’d say. Relationship was more important than duty.
I used to think that there had to be an occasion to get out the good dishes, or that I could only use the “I am Special Today” plate once a year for birthdays, but ever since Marge died I’ve un-retired my favorite yellow rose china set she gave me as a wedding gift. We eat off of them all the time, because I’ve learned that each day we’ve been given is reason enough to celebrate. I especially think of her when we have lemon bars, because those were one of her specialties. And yes, I carry a torch for her peanut butter yogurt too. Maybe it wouldn’t be so weird if those I’ll leave behind would remember me whenever they prepare a bowl of Grape Nuts. Hmmm, this is living! It’s because of Marge that I’ve decided to live with beautiful dirty dishes in my sink every night until the morning dawns. Marge, her favorite foods, and her gold-rimmed dishes are a few of my favorite things.