She was now one of the old ones. Her vision was cloudy with blue rings wrapped around brown irises. My younger cousin will remember Granny had blue eyes not brown. She gets cold so we wrap her in thick wool blankets. Is it because the blood no longer pumps as it did in her youth? Or is it because she no longer walks around? I remember Granny skipping in the yard only to prove that she can to us kids who were just learning. She was in her 60’s then. She was pretty hip.
My mom tells me over the phone that I should come home to visit. Its getting close, she says in a whisper. I know what this means. This tells me no one is ready to say goodbye. Or let go. Granny is the anchor.
After a 10 hour trip on the Greyhound I arrive in Blind River. My mom is there with grandma sitting in her big white car. The hugging is awkward and stiff. At times I wonder how it is for kids with parents and grandparents who didn’t go to residential school. Are the hugs different? Do they hear the words, I love you all the time? In their own way, my mom and grandma show me they love me. It’s in their eyes. When they look at me, their eyes go big and watery and if I could jump in them I know I would be safe and protected, and engulfed in love. But, a decent hug would be good too.
In the morning, I wake and we talk about Granny.
Granny this, Granny that. She loved her kitchen and the joy she took to welcome family and friends into her comfort. There was always hot tea. There was always food. She took pride in cleaning fish while we all watched in awe how she navigated the knife around the belly and pulled out guts with ease. She spoke in Anishnaabemowin and taught herself English by reading the Saturday funnies. She loved blueberries.
Granny quit wearing her dentures. She was all gums now. She also didn’t remember who many of us were. She knew her children and her favourite grandchildren. There were many. But she couldn’t remember names.
That morning I made her fresh blueberry scone. It was one of her favourite treats. As I measured out the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and water I thought about her. How amazed I was always of her and how everyone gravitated to her and hung on her every word. She commanded respect with little effort. Is it because all the adults were raised by her and now, they tell their children stories about how strict she was when they were kids? And I often wonder why kids these days don’t have the same kind of respect for their elders these days?
I stick my hands into the batter and squish the ingredients together, gentle not rough. Granny loved cooking for her family. The meals she made were always delicious. With every bite you would taste years of being a mother and grandmother, and the unspoken love and devotion she had for us all. The batter sticks to my fingers like glue so I add a bit more flour. It comes together so easily. I remember sleeping with Granny in her bed some weekends. I always thought it was a reward to sleep next to her and hear her snore and fart in her sleep. The dough is ready and now its time for the blueberries.
I clean the berries from any loose leaves or sticks. There were so many summers that I spent picking blueberries with my cousins with big ideas in our heads. I knew she loved baking blueberry pies and sold them at the baseball diamond on the reserve. She’d send me over one pie at a time and I would come back with 5 bucks for each one. When I’d drop them off the canteen worker, probably my cousin, she always looked excited and said that Granny made the best blueberry pies. As I picked those berries I knew she would be turning them into the best pies ever. I would spend time searching for the patches with the biggest and plumpest berries, just for her.
As the berries get folded into the dough, they burst into blues and purples like tie die t-shirts. This is art. I wonder if this is what Granny thought when she cooked or baked? She must of because she was so fond of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Or was she passing on our connection to our Anishnaabe food supply? I grease the pan and put the loaf in the oven.
I sit with my mom and grandma, we drink tea and wait for the scone to finish baking. At some point, the air fills with baking blueberries. We look at each other and blink back tears. There are no words for us to speak. Just our eyes reaching to each other, looking for something tangible to go with that familiar smell that travels through time around this kitchen table.
The timer goes off. We wake back to reality. We all traveled somewhere just now with that blueberry aroma. There are many stories waiting to be told. One day to remind us of who we are because of Granny. The loaf is ready. I wrap it in a tea towel to keep it warm till we get to Granny’s house on the reserve.