It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. So much has happened over the past couple of months and although I typically turn to food to comfort me through difficult times I needed a break. This post was started in August, but I was unable to finish it at the time. Now I’d like to share it with family and friends.
The name of this post – Pickled Pigs Feet – is in honor of my grandmother, Esther Jetrue Anderson Schmoker. She passed away peacefully on August 25th at the age of 87. She was a tiny woman – no more than 4’10”, yet she was the spunkiest person I have ever met. “Firecracker” was her nickname and it was truly appropriate.
I miss my grandmother and regret not being there for her more, but I know that we loved each other profoundly. And regrets are regrets are regrets.
Sitting with her at the hospital a few weeks before she passed I found myself desperate to know more about her. Obviously I wondered about her life experiences and what she was like before she became my grandmother, but what I wanted to know most at that very moment … what was her favorite food? How did I not know this? As trivial as it may seem, not knowing was so frustrating. I tried asking her, but she couldn’t remember. Alzheimer’s had crippled her mind. Hell, when I asked her if she’d ever been to Thailand (which she hadn’t), she told me that she had. I hope it was fun!
So I turned to my mother. According to her, my grandmother wasn’t picky and would eat just about anything. Including pickled pigs feet. Pickled pigs feet?! How awesome is that? And gross, which somehow triggered an early memory with my grandmother. The day that she fed me liver. Which was, I believe, the last time I ate it. Couldn’t stand the stuff!
But now I hope to try it again someday. I love food, I cook food, I write about food, but I have never given liver a second chance. And what about those pickled pigs feet? I have no clue how they taste either! All this time I thought I was the most adventurous eater in my family, but I wasn’t. My grandmother, who lived through The Depression and learned never to waste any food, was the most adventurous after all.
Esther was an amazing grandmother. If I wasn’t her favorite grandchild, she did a fantastic job of making me feel like I was. I felt cherished when I was around her and knew that she understood who I was as a person. I always wanted to stick my tongue out at my sisters and brother and say “see, she loves me best!” But I was a silly child and I know (now) that her heart was big enough to love us all equally, just in very different ways. She just had a knack for making me feel special. And my god, was she special! First to my grandfather (they are together once again). Then my mother and her brother, whom she adopted and saved from a life of terrible suffering. Then to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends and other loved ones. I will forever miss the feeling of her hands running through my hair.
It is no surprise to me that even in her death she worked a little bit of magic. Although bittersweet, it gave my family the opportunity to pull together for each other. We did this beautifully and with so much love for one other. And personally, it brought me to a point where I could let go of a few things and recognize the true importance of family.
I AM NOT HERE
Don’t stand by my grave and weep,
For I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning, hush.
For I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circle flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.
-Hopi Grief Song/Prayer