Happy Monday, friends. Thank you for your patience with my unexpected absence last week. My grandma passed away on Thursday, and my whole family has been suspended in grief. This is our first major loss; we don't know quite what to do with ourselves. So we spent the weekend rambling about the Reno ranch house my dad grew up in, reluctant to leave my now-solo grandpa as well as the countless bittersweet reminders of my grandma, her many passions, and the special ability she had to make all who crossed her threshold feel at home.
Grandma is all around us here. Her flair for entertaining resides in the cupboards that store her porcelain place settings, specialized serveware (olive forks! asparagus tongs!), and heirloom embroidered table linens. Her green thumb thrives in the rose bushes, tomato plants, and fruit trees that so generously yield their backyard bounty. Her cheeky humor winks from the collection of UC Berkeley bear paraphernalia that pays homage both to her alma mater and to her teasing rivalry with my Stanford grad grandpa.
Memories of my own unique relationship with Grandma are everywhere too. At night I lay my head on the same pink flowered pillowcase she reserved for my childhood visits. When I opened a kitchen drawer and discovered a pack of striped bendy straws, I could almost taste the Hershey's Syrup and milk she used to serve me. As I sit at the friendly old piano and stumble through a Kuhlau sonatina, her distinctive handwriting marks every page of sheet music. Best of all, a sniff from the bottle of Estee Lauder White Linen on her vanity instantly transports me into her arms for a hug.
I'm here in Reno through Wednesday, enjoying a bit more time my dad and his father. Tonight we'll drive to Tahoe to watch the sunset, one of Grandma's summer favorites. Tomorrow, we'll whip up a pancake breakfast using the secret family recipe. And on my return to Los Angeles, I'll bring with me one of Grandma's most precious gifts: the lesson that while happiness comes from making our homes for ourselves, the truest joy lies in making them for others. For in our short time here on earth, every olive fork is an expression of love; every bendy straw a token of our affection; and every perfumed hug a piece of ourselves that lives on long after we have gone.