Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sour cream and onion

I’m always amazed at the power of our senses to transport us to a different time and place.

On a recent grocery run, I grabbed a bag of Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion chips. I haven’t bought them in years. Nowhere on the bag did it indicate they had recently added memories to the recipe.

It was just a normal afternoon. There was nothing remarkable about it, and that’s usually when something extraordinary happens. A few chips sounded like a great mid-day snack. As that first chip hit my tongue, I was gone.

Suddenly, I was six years old, sitting at a light brown card table in my Grandma’s living room. I was munching on a few chips while Granny, as I call her, was in the kitchen making a bowl of bean dip. The Rangers were playing a Saturday afternoon game on the TV. A game of Yahtzee was spread out on the table in front of me.

Granny walks in with the bowl of bean dip and a small plate with sliced cheese. She always spoiled me. My favorite meal at her house was chips, bean dip and cheese. Real healthy.

That one little taste of a chip brought back memories I hadn’t experienced in years. Even as I write this, I still marvel at the wonderful memories, while still being sad they will never happen again.

My brother and I would rotate spending the night with her on Fridays. She lived in a small mobile home just outside Snyder, in West Texas.

I am reminded of how much fun we used to have, but especially the little details. I remember the sound of the heater in the winter. Being a mobile home, the heat came through vents in the floor. I used to love laying by those vents, soaking up the heat. I remember watching ball games with her while she introduced me to games like Wahoo and dominoes. Always on the rickety little card table.

The porch outside was surrounded by black metal railing that seemed a little to wobbly to actually stop someone from falling off. Down the cold concrete stairs was the large circular driveway with small dips in it. When it rained, the dips would fill up and become vast oceans for my G.I. Joes to fight around.

Then, there was my first bb gun. Granny would take me to shoot cans out near the woods. I became the first grandson to shoot her when one rogue bb ricocheted off a can and hit her in the shin. She never let me forget that.

I remember her small blue car, I think it was a Chevrolet, and the trips to town we would go on. On one of those trips to the local K-Mart, she bought me a small Hot Wheels car. It was an army vehicle with moving missles and everything. I felt so special because she spent all her “silver money” on it. I think it was a grand total of seventy five cents, but I felt like royalty because she had given everything she had in her coin purse.

In the grand scheme of things, a very small part of my life was spent at Granny’s, but it continues to influence me even today.

Today Granny lives in an assisted living center in Weatherford. Her health seems to get worse week by week, and we’re not sure how long she will remain with us. When I see her now, she often mistakes me for my Dad. She doesn’t remember much, but one thing she always tells me is about the fact that Cody and I always stayed with her and “never forgot who’s turn it was to spend the night.”

They say within three generations no one will remember you. As I think of my Granny, that makes me very sad that if I don’t do something, my kids and their kids after them will know nothing of this great woman and the influence she had on my life. It’s our job to make sure no one forgets the great ones. And Granny truly is one of the great ones.

All that from a stupid little chip.

Note: I had to take a break half-way through writing this. During that break we visited my parents who informed me that my aunt and uncle are selling their land. That land was where Granny’s house was, and where I have so many memories. I’m going to take my boys and visit it one last time before it leaves the family. It’s funny how all this comes back at once, but I feel sad that a piece of my childhood will only exist in my memories.

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