my grandmother shuffled into the kitchen, lucid and awake as could be, and asked what i was making. truth be told, i wasn't making anything. i had just finished making a cheese and tomato omelette for my lady friend, and was currently on a batch of grilled cheese for the snack bag for the long drive home, but i knew exactly what she was asking. "what are you going to make for me?" of course, the only reasonable answer: "the world."
upon finishing the grilled cheese, i re-greased the pan, scrambled the eggs, and made a straight up cheese omelette with no tomatoes. no nightshades for the grandmother. she's mostly vegetarian, mostly on a specific diet of some plants that grow in some places at some times, mostly organic, mostly susceptible to anything excessively tasty, regardless of how far it deviates from her regimen.
an omelette would be fine.
i made the omelette and served it with water and a napkin and a fork, no bread, as my grandmother is also mostly wheat-free. she sat and ate while i completely neglected her in order to pack the car, get the little girls squared away, and generally make the exodus.
now, there is a tradition in my family, the filipino side, of giving "ice cream money" to those departing on a long trip. what the exchange really entails, however, is ever-increasingly-crafty methods of depositing the funds in the vehicle or on the person of the departing party, so that said funds may not be rejected. pants have been ripped. pockets have been pulled. crumpled up twenties, thrown out of car windows in clouds of driveway dust. it's tradition. i did it to my brother after our last trip to the states, and he was well out of range by the time he finally found it. ha.
after i got everything all packed up, i rounded up my girls, and we began our goodbyes. my grandmother rose quickly from her chair, shuffled quickly to her room, and re-emerged with a piece of paper she was coyly trying to slip into the pocket of my jacket. i would have none of it. she tried my oldest daughter. then my lady friend. then me again. i finally surrendered and shoved it, begrudgingly, into my pocket. instantly, i forgot about it. it was ice cream money. and she had won.
christmas came at an odd time this year. work ended but two days before christmas day, and the last payday i would get, and that i so direly needed, was the day before that. it was to be a whirlwind of last-minute prep. and then christmas came and went. i bought nothing of boxing week blowouts. i didn't set foot in any mall. and still, by new year's, i was broke. i came to my parents' christmas celebration with a few dollars in my account, and a plan to use the credit card for gas money. that plan blew to bits when i couldn't remember the PIN i made myself forget in order to thwart just such a stupid plan. i get paid again in 49 minutes. but the past two weeks have been a little long, a little tight.
normally, i try, out of pride and independence and self-righteous aspirations, to reject monetary favours, particularly those from family members. i paid for university (and will continue to do so for the next couple decades). i can't buy a house because i have two beautiful expensive children in canada's expensive city and i started the family thing before i could afford it and we eat food that we pay extra to have less stuff in it. i wrestle away from the ice cream money. i smile very much, blush, and say thank you when i get ridiculous cheques or sums of cash in birthday cards. i'm terrible at saying thank you, and money makes me even worse.
when my grandmother slipped the cheque into my pocket, i had surrendered. i surrendered that pseudo pride because i couldn't afford not to. i didn't wrestle away; the lady is old and the mudroom was chock full of dicy footing. i said thank you and left it at that. then one of my girls probably said something outrageous and we all laughed and got in the car and drove for hours back to the city.
that night, i found the ice cream money. the amount made me blush. i was shocked. i probably held my breath, gasped, and re-read the numbers. not a huge amount by most people's standards, but a huge amount by ice cream stand standards, and a massive amount by the weight lifted from my shoulders for the next week. i'd be able to buy groceries. if the girls asked for a certain dinner, i'd be able to afford the ingredients. i could pay any duty on packages yet to arrive, post-holiday. i could mail the gifts i had forgotten to send, pre-holiday.
i have no idea why the ice cream money was so much. i have no idea why i took it. i have no idea why i'm writing this much about it. something clicked then, and i'm holding onto it. the extreme generosity of an old lady to a grateful young man. a new year. starting over. better this time.
feed the hungry. clothe the naked. my grandmother is really into jesus, and all the theoretical things aside, she truly personifies his main and most important message: be generous to others (they probably really need it).
happy new year.