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Blog Talk, Grand Maman and her Velveeta Boxes

So it’s been one year since I started this blog. I’ve enjoyed sharing my blog with my friends and discovering new bloggers. It seems the most popular posts are about food and gardening but I’m going to hold on a bit longer to see if I can bulk up the other sections as well.

I’m finding myself more connected to my hobbies since starting this blog. It’s a nice excuse to relax and think on some things. Most of all, thinking about how hobbies can be linked to our livelihood and values on life and sustainability, caring about and taking care of ourselves and others. The other day I had to take a minute and realize that my hobbies, which are the foundation of my lifestyle, are intrinsically linked to my relationship with my grand mother. I knew we were similar, but I didn’t realize to what extent until my dad was visiting one day, and seeing me wash out some old ziplock bags and hang them to dry on a string above my sink said in a somewhat amazed and serious way “wow. I’m really seeing your grand mother right now.”

My grand mother was the glue that kept my family together, sure we are fine now years later, we’re still close and the pain of loosing her has dulled a bit. But the memories are always there thankfully. She would send me letters occasionally and postcards from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia just to say how she and my grand father were doing. They eventually decided to get a computer to stay in touch with everyone and to keep the information they gathered from their food and nutritional classes in order. Once in a while I would get a disjointed email from her, and I’d reply a long letter which I’m sure delighted and also overwhelmed her. I happen to like tattoos, and whenever I’d show up with a new one, she’d look at me hard, at it, sigh deeply, take my arm to touch it and look at it closer. Then she’d sit down next to me and say “ok, what is this one about now?” She didn’t want to miss a beat, and always looked beyond her own opinions.grandmaman

Sometimes her letters included a package of dried zucchini that she made herself or sun-dried tomatoes from her garden, but always it would have some recipe she thought I would like. When I visited, I always came back with a giant ziploc of dried apple slices which I would ration until the very last slice. She also kept cool belts or skirts aside for me to take because my grunge art-school phase matched very well with her hand-made and vintage clothes.

Her food wasn’t always good though! She was a huge fan of cutting sugar, salt, vinegar, anything that seemed unhealthy, and she experimented with vegetarian dishes, for my sake, when I went vegetarian for a few years. Her “Neatloaf” is now famous in our family, as the endearing endeavor that it was. My grand mother always tried new things and sometimes they were awful, but as I grew older I stopped stuffing my pant pockets with the food I didn’t like (blue cheese mostly) and flush them down her toilet, my palate developed and I was able to become an experimenter like her, a food experimental scientist.

When she died, after a short battle with cancer it traumatized my whole family. At 86 she was active (her and my grand father once appeared on the news as the active elderly couple riding tandem bikes around town), enthusiastic about the future and the farthest from death I’ve ever seen anyone. 86 for me will always be a young age. I just can’t imagine my grand mother as “old”, she was never that. No one still misses her more than my grand father, that is for sure.

I helped clean out her house after they decided my grand father would go into a home. Being a photographer I documented the whole house making sure I didn’t forget any corner of the family home we’d spent our childhood running through, around, and hiding in. I got to the bathroom and opened the closet. I’d seen this closet opened before, I had seen the hundreds of Velveeta boxes but somehow this time they hit me hard. They were all neatly lined up on the shelves, each had a piece of paper (recycled for sure) on the end, and kept in place with an elastic band. On each paper there was an itemized list of what was in the box, and little lines that would show quantities for each. All items used up would get crossed out with pencil, and then replenished later on. I never knew objects could mean so much. I photographed the boxes in all their glory, but how could I get rid of something that epitomized her values, personality, habits, innovation? (I’d add a picture here but all my pics were analogue so I still have to digitize them all.)

Some of my friends have been losing their grand parents recently and it’s made me think of all this. I see my grand mother in so much that I do. Every time I bottle jelly or preserve salsa, when I got my food dehydrator and now my brand new pressure canner, I think of her. Every time I cut sugar out of a recipe or wash out plastic bags to reuse them there she is. I think often about how proud she would be of these little things. The big things yes of course, careers, relationships, happiness, but the little things would bring her glee. I suspect my relationship with her will keep growing as I grow older myself and become more like her, or more like a version of myself I know she would be proud of. I suspect she would like this blog and my gardening and food efforts.

So that’s all I wanted to share I suppose, call it an editorial or whatever, but I suppose this is the real inspiration for my serious hobbies, and for what I think about hobbies in general; that they help us connect with an important part of ourselves.

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