my grandmother was pure Navajo…she met my grandfather during WWII when he decided to take a walk outside a party held for servicemen at an estate out west. she was not at the party…she was only one of the help…working in the kitchen as a cook (the same estate my great-grandmother also worked at). several years after that party, my grandmother married and followed my grandfather back east, and they lived just outside of Syracuse for many happy years.

my grandmother had both a will of iron and the softness of sifted flour. she was so many contradictions actually…fierce pride but a great deal of compassion for others and timidity… 

in my mind i can picture her still, standing over her baking table at their farmhouse on Green Lake…kneading dough into bread, breaking beans in two and effortlessly spinning swirls of frosting upon a cake…and making my grandfather feel like he was always in all ways something special…a look and a smile…a whisper in his ear…lil notes in his pockets

recipes came instictively to her, though she claims that her own mother had the true gift. i remember stories of their life on the estate (they lived in a modest apartment above a  garage on the property so that my great-grandmother was always accessible for impromptu party preparations).

there was always a bit of melancholy in her voice as she told of her past. i dont think it was regret…just a sense of settle for back then there were little expectations of women…and even less expectations for Navajo women. in fact, as grandpa told it, it was many years after they were married that she would dare to raise her eyes to meet those of another on the street or in a store.

my grandparents raised me. drilled in me the importance of school…and eventually college. me having the opportunity to pursue a college degree meant everything to them…

me? i just wish i had memorized more of those recipes…looking back on it…i wish i had watched more closely. it just seems to me that those things that came naturally to her would have served me better.

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