Almost every morning, I burn a piece of toast.
Unless it can't be salvaged, I stand over the trash can and scrape off the top layer with a butter knife, aiming most of the crumbs toward the trashcan. Underneath is perfectly good toast. With butter, you would never know.
I like to put things in the oven on broil. Then children happen, and you know how this goes. I could just get a toaster. I have a toaster oven with an actual toast feature that I keep in a cabinet. Part of the reason is that I'm lazy. The oven is already right there. I think every morning, This time I won't forget. I will not burn my toast. Then I walk away to wipe someone's face or let the dog out.Cue another dying slice of carbs.
But the real secret to why I don't simply shell out $20 bucks for a toaster is that burning toast reminds me of my grandmother.
You see, by the time I got married, all of my grandparents were gone. I never met my father's father who died before I was born, and through high school, one by one, all of my elderly relatives moved from apartments to assisted living to full-on nursing homes to hospitals to funeral homes.
It's hard to know how to handle loss, especially when you're a teenager. I feel like with each death, I froze a little more. The thought of returning again for a viewing or a funeral, making polite conversation in a black dress, or seeing the mechanical wench used to lower coffins around the edge of a freshly-dug grave--these things tightened up my chest, made me close off a little more each time.
Looking back, I regret so much. I wish that I knew my grandparents now, that I could have conversations with them that I never would have when I was fifteen. I could ask them about their lives and their memories, share what my boys--their grandchildren--did today. I was too young or immature or stiff from the thought of loss to connect or have the relationships that I would have now.
My memories of Grandma League: her laugh. Her skill at tracing the smurfs from my favorite books onto transparent white paper. The way she always said, "Is that right?" when I told her something about my life. A collection of cropped gray wigs that I sometimes tried on when she wasn't looking. The curve of her bad hand, trapped in crooked fist by a stroke. Her smile, before I'd even done anything to earn it.
Like me, my grandmother burned toast.
This is not my memory--it is one my mother shared with me. Growing up, my mom knew well the sound of a knife scraping across the stiff black top of bread. I know she misses her mother more than I could. I think of this when I watch my mom playing with my boys on the rug, thinking of how she must have watched her mother play with me when I was just a girl.
Tomorrow morning, I will leave the toaster oven in the cabinet. I will think about how that gift card to Target could get me a nice toaster. And I will turn the oven on broil and walk away, letting that piece of bread blacken under the orange electric coil.
Burned toast is my inheritance.
[For more great blog writing, check out the posts this week over at Yeah Write.]