It was 4:45 on Monday afternoon when the phone call came. It wasn’t something shocking or unexpected . . . there had been forewarning. She was ready for the next chapter to open.
Still, to get that call that my cousin Grace Louise had passed on, I was caught without breath for a moment. Her words were alive in my mind. I had just been working on a chapter of the cookbook over the weekend that is based on our family cookbook, circa 1981. I had just been writing about Grace Louise, and other cousins.
Let me back up.
As a child, it was a yearly event. My family and I would pack into my grandmother’s station wagon and head north to the Cape (Cape Cod, that is). Each year, we would stay in the same blue motel across the street from the ferry landing. The Hyannis Holiday Motel. Each year, we would have breakfast at the dive across the street. And I would beg to swim in the motel pool (I love swimming . . . always have). But the point of the weekend trip wasn’t to check out the harbor or eat at the Hearth N Kettle (another yearly stop). The purpose of the trip was to attend our annual family reunion at Grace Louise’s home.
Our family reunion. It was a spectacular event. Family would fly in from the far reaches for the one day event. And my grandmother would be in her glory, surrounded by her beloved cousins. They were all close in age and had grown up together, living in the same house together from time to time. They were the epitome of close-knit. It was like they all really came alive together, sharing memories and stories of times past. And then there was the food . . . oh the wonderful food. Lobsters would be brought in, fresh off the boat, from Maine. And there would be hamburgers, hot dogs, salads . . . oh, the buffet seemed endless.
Grace Louise would make these adorable favors for everyone. One year, it was little clear jars with blue lids. A label read something to the effect of “Cape Cod air.” There were satchels and little pillows . . . I kept many of the favors for years and years (and think I might still have a few kicking around the beach house).
I was pretty young – maybe 10 or so – the last time we went. I think that was the year that I spent what seemed like hours playing volleyball with the cousins. Amid the sweat and exhausting, was the fun. It was so much fun.
It’s been ages since I last saw Grace Louise – at least 13 years (it was probably at my grandmother’s funeral, but I am not certain). In recent years, her memory began to fail, followed by her body. She was ready. It was her time.
How could I not take a moment of pause when I heard she was gone? My grandmother adored her and I adored my grandmother. You see the progression. I remember Grace Louise as a bouyant, happy, vibrant woman. That’s what she will be always be to me.
People come into our lives, and they slip away. But memories of your family built in childhood are precious and priceless because family is what you always have.