Invite your grandson to have lunch with you. Tell him to bring his girlfriend. Your daughter has told you about her, warned you to keep your opinions on her dark skin to yourself because it’s his choice and she’s a lovely girl and he’s happy, Mum, but you’ll be the judge of that. He will suggest going out for lunch, or bringing it with him. Refuse firmly. You may not be able to do everything you once did, but you can still manage lunch.
- A week before you expect them, buy the good frozen peas and carrots, frozen crumbed chicken nuggets, and instant potatoes that will be your lunch. Only the Sara Lee Strawberry Shortcake will do for dessert. Don’t settle for the cheaper brands. They never taste the same.
- Dig out your lace tablecloth. The good one that you keep for special occasions. It will be at the very back of your cupboard. Under all the precious things that still remain — the things your illness didn’t steal from you, the things you carried through war and separation and worse. Spread it over the table the day before the lunch date to give the wrinkles time to wriggle their way out. Don’t eat at the table before they arrive; you want to keep it clean.
- Look for your good crystal jug. First impressions are important, and you care what she thinks of you. You’ll have some trouble locating it. It will be at the very back of the cupboard, behind the lace tablecloth and the lace antimacassars. This girl doesn’t drink the sickly sweet cordial that’s your go-to despite your diabetes. Fill the jug with water from the tap and chill it in the fridge at least a day ahead. Forget to cover the jug. The water will take on all the flavours that hover in your sparse fridge like ghosts of meals past, but the girl will be too polite to comment. She will drink the water regardless.
- Just before they come over, boil the peas and carrots in the aluminium saucepan you’ve had for years. You don’t do much cooking anymore, and that small saucepan is the perfect size for the meals you still make. When your grandson and his girlfriend come around again, you’ll make sauerkraut in that pan for them, the way your own mother used to make it for you when you were a child, the way you taught your daughter to make it.
- In the toaster oven in the corner of the kitchen near the sink, heat the nuggets. Careful not to burn them. Your pension doesn’t stretch to replacing food, and you don’t want to start a fire. You still have terrible memories of the last time a fireman had to carry you out of your home, when you’d been in a manic state, when you’d decided to tear and burn all the photographs and books you’d so carefully collected. You’ll never get back all those memories of your family, of the home you left in Latvia, the friends you’d made in Germany and Poland, all the mementos of your daughter’s childhood. When you’re done cooking the nuggets, put the plates you’ll use for lunch into the oven. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as eating off a warm plate.
- Boil the electric kettle. The less you use the stove, the better. Once the kettle is boiled, find the other aluminium saucepan, the slightly bigger one. Tip the contents of the potato mix into the saucepan and stir in the boiled water. Fluff it as much as you can, then add a little milk, butter, and salt. Taste it and add a little more salt. It always needs more salt.
- As you hear your grandson’s car pulling into the parking space at your apartment, take the Sara Lee Strawberry Shortcake out of the freezer. There’ll be enough time through lunch and conversation for it to defrost. Light another cigarette with the one that’s burning down in the ashtray. This replacement will sit next to its predecessor until you’re ready for it.
Written for YeahWrite’s Nonfiction #367 grid. Click the badge to read other entries. Don’t forget to comment and vote while you’re there!