If my math is correct, Grandma Lucille would have celebrated her 102nd birthday yesterday. I still miss her tremendously, although I last saw her in 2006, when we moved from California to Oklahoma.
Having just eloped with her 20 year old grandson, I didn't know what kind of reception to expect when my brand new husband took me to meet his grandparents. Both 80 years old at the time, they were my first true glimpse into an American family, and they welcomed me with open arms. Grandma Lucille in particular, with her wide open smile and embrace instantly made me feel like I belonged. Given the fact that 57 years and a continent separated our upbringing, we should have had very little in common. But our love of family and food created memories that I will cherish forever.
Grandma was of Norwegian descent, and in fact grew up speaking the language on their farm in South Dakota. One of her favorite memories, and a tradition that she continued for her children was of making lefse, very thin pancakes make with potatoes and flour. Slathered with butter and sugar, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. There is a true art to making them, and getting the dough just right. Being Indian, and making rotis (whole wheat flatbreads) almost since I could stand upright, lefse were fairly easy for me to make. Learning how to make lefse from Grandma, and her delight when she realized that I knew exactly what she meant when she said that "the dough just needs to feel right" is hands-down my favorite memory with her.
I understand why we feel the need to memorialize people. Statues do it for some people. Grandiose poems have been written about others. We have an entire day (weekend, really) dedicated to fallen soldiers too numerous to honor individually. For Grandma Lucille, I think a fitting memorial would be to continue making memories - to pass down the art of making lefse to my daughters, to love someone because they love your family, no matter where they came from, to stay smiling until the very end no matter how many hardships you've endured, and to make a big difference in a thousand small ways. We don't have the time for anything less than that.
Making lefse, 2006