Don’t Bring Roses to the Churchyard



Today would have been my Nana’s 95th birthday.


If I close my eyes I can see her entire apartment. The plush, swivel, baby blue armchair near the television. The dozens of photos and cards lined up along the top of the miniature organ. The bathroom smelling of rose soap. The half dry geraniums leaning about the window above the kitchen sink.

This is not the room where my grandmother lived out the last few years of her life, or the house she had before, which I cannot remember. It is the apartment where she moved after my grandfather died. The place I went for sleepovers and holiday visits. It is the apartment that I still pass occasionally in my car, craning my neck to see if the new tenants have their lights on.

In this apartment she had exactly three children’s movies on VHS: a video of the Ringling Brothers Circus, the Muppets Christmas Carol, and a Looney Toons cartoon medley. I would sit under a knobby pastel afghan, watching TV with my sister, drinking cokes and sneaking extra peppermint patties from the glass candy dish beside the couch.

She never drank milk, but she always had some in the fridge with a tin of ovaltine in the cupboard. Her dining room table was the only place I ever drank ovaltine – I would not even know where to buy it now – stirring the swirls of powder round and round in her brown plastic tumblers. Of course, she bought the milk and ovaltine for me.

She was allergic to roses, but not any other flowers. At least that is what she said… a little puzzling given the rose soap affinity. But every time we brought her flowers we were careful to specify “No Roses!” to the florist, or to pull the rose-stems out of a grocery store bunch.

I should have showed her my wedding dress. For ten months, it hung wrapped in plastic and tissue at the back of the closet and I did not show it to her.

I wonder if I parked outside her apartment tomorrow, climbed the gray-carpeted stairs and knocked on her door what I would find. Would there be buttery green beans on the table, the local news blaring from the other room, and her enormous tabby cat glowering at me from under a chair?

Here is the recipe for her sandtart cookies… I don’t think she will mind if I share:

  • 3/4 Pound of Butter
  • 1 and 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 and 1/4 cup Flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecans

Cream the butter & sugar & vanilla, then add the eggs and mix. Next stir in the flour. Roll and cut into squares. Cover with sugar and cinnamon and place slivered pecan on top. Bake at 325 for approximately 10 minutes.