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  • This is Grandpa’s gift to us.

    A home built nearly eighty years ago, with white-washed planks and burgundy shutters.

    A wooden table, long as the family sitting around it is large. Covered with ethnic recipes that have been in the family for one hundred years. Loose cabbage rolls, with billowing rice, beef and barley; local sheepshead mushrooms seasoned just-so; fresh dandelion salad, tart by nature; tiny, buttered Cornish hens, one for each guest; for dessert, kruschiki and nut rolls made without exact measurements, just through the memory of a ninety-five-year-old matriarch’s wrinkled hands.

    A warm welcome, “Hi Toots!” and Polish pretzels always kept on hand. Hummingbirds fed with dyed sweet sugar, yellow finches invited to sit on the clothesline, garden poppyseeds baked into rolls. Avocado-colored kitchen cabinets, purple velvet duvets, off-white vanities, and pink fluffy bathmats. Rugs made of braided plastic bags, color-by-number framed paintings from 1952, Christmas cards from five years ago still magnetically tied to the fridge. A shrine to all the resourcefulness of the past; where love thrives in the veins of kin.

    A conversation, sprinkled with laughs, love, and the utmost joy. Spurred by foolishness, messy eaters, children’s ponderings, nostalgia, and the thick summer heat. A grandfather clock chimes in the background, another clock moments later. Three altogether, each set at different times, their chimes distinct and separate, paying homage to Grandpa’s handiwork.

    A night of cards, where competitiveness and snacks abound. We’re old enough to stay up and play Canasta with the adults now. Endless midnight laughter, uncontrollable in the early morning hours. Popped buttons and unbuckled belts. Artificial butter puffs, potato chips, Aunt Pat’s fruit salad and a three pound bag of peanut M&M’s.

    An expansive backyard kept groomed by the next-door neighbor, who insists on a payment of Polish pretzels only. A yard blooming with dill, poppies, birch, and daisies. Heavy summer air scented by floral blossoms, bonfires and freshly-cut grass.

    A workshop, left as it was when Grandpa passed away of black lung and other diseases—the unfortunate results of a lifetime spent as a coal miner in rural Ohio. The lathe, saws, chisels, spare wood, all kept as he liked it. Clocks and cabinets, stairs and stools, chairs and coffee tables: reminders of a lifetime and retirement well spent, well worked for.

    A summer night with cousins, the bonfire set up on the sloping back hill. Fireflies buzzing lazily in the summer night sky, tricking us as if they were shooting stars from the corner of our eyes. Celebratory sparklers ignite and create silhouettes in front of the fire’s flames. S’mores prepared perfectly alongside the shifting sunburst embers, sticky marshmallow unparalleled to the stickiness of this hot night. Eyes gaze upwards at the millions of stars, more vibrant and numerous than any of us had seen before. The International Space Station whizzes across the deep blue night, dazzling us.

    This is Grandpa’s gift to us.

    Thank you, Grandpa. We would have loved to meet you.
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