With the excessive hand sanitizing that extends to clutching a Clorox wipe as I do my quick shopping runs, my hands have started to get excessively dry. I don't normally use hand lotion, so I pulled out an older lotion that I bought on a whim when I was in Germany two years ago.
The scent is sea buckthorn, not a terribly common ingredient here but one that reminded me of my oma when I stood in front of brands I didn't recognize. She had passed almost two years previously, and it was the first time going back to our family home without her. Fortunately, and unfortunately, my grandfather had changed nothing, and it felt a bit like a tomb. It also felt like she would come around the corner at any minute.
The first time I visited them by myself, when I turned 18, my grandparents took me to a specific cafe that made nearly everything with sea buckthorn flavoring — including the afternoon cake. She remarked how much she loved the scent. On the way out, I noticed a velvet-capped bottle of sea buckthorn liquor, specifically made for adding into tea.
I did not drink tea. I did not drink alcohol. And while I was not aiming to be a tea drinker, I was, however, happy to be of age somewhere to buy alcohol, so I bought it anyway. The small bottle still sits in my kitchen as a reminder of that trip and of my oma. It's strange to buy an item based on how someone you love may have liked it, and how you hope that purchase could pull you closer to them.
My mom, who lives with me in an attached apartment and hasn't left our little compound since early March, remarked during a walk that she was glad neither of her parents had needed to deal with this new shift in the world. It would have been too much. My grandfather passed late last year, in his 80s. The family home is being sold.
My grandmother was 3 when World War II started. "She remembered what it was like not to actually have food," said my mom simply. We then speculated how just that scarring may have stimulated a desire to eat, which ultimately brought about some habits that resulted in her being overweight, and those led to diseases that ended her life.
During quarantine, I've gained weight due to stress drinking and stress eating. Unfortunately, the memes come from thorns of truth. My face has curved more into a circle, and I catch glimpses of her in the echoes of genetics. And yet, it's the stashing of food that I feel pulls me closer to her, too.
While I wouldn't say my grandparents were food hoarders, they had a pantry that still feels magical in my memory. It was nearly as big as my own normal-sized kitchen, with deep wooden shelves filled with shelf stable milk, rows of self-canned fruits and two large freezers. She would tell me when I was little it was a space for when she found good specials and bought extras. It had no frills. It was down in the basement. And it had a slight scent of earth. However, I look back and wonder how much she used that space to fend off the memories of something she experienced, of something she irrationally thought might return.
I can work off the quarantine weight gain, with time, but I think about what scars will be embedded in me, and embedded in society, from this time. What habits will remain? And will we continue to have the patience to find endurance hidden deep down, tucked away with the scent of earth?
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at [email protected] To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: HOerwin56 at Pixabay