My grandmother, Nini, had giant sunflowers in her backyard that my three siblings and I used to stand under while our parents took pictures. Under those flowers, we could pretend like the humans, the adults, were giants and we tiny people were trying to survive in their world (maybe there was more truth to that than I realized). There always seemed to be a little bit of magic going on at Nini’s house. Fireflies used to light up her backyard at dusk, and I remember spending a few Fourth of Julys running around in Nini’s backyard barefoot catching fireflies in jars to use as nightlights. Later, we’d set our firefly nightlights beside our bed and then Nini would come in and read us stories from Dr. Doolittle or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She was the type of grandmother who, while all the adults were involved in conversation, would wink at you from across the room just to let you know she hadn’t forgotten you, and then she’d go to the freezer and get one of her homemade Kool-Aid popsicles for you. She also had a cupboard under the stairs before the wonderful Harry Potter books made it trendy, and she kept it full of toys that we used to pull out and scatter all around her house.
Like many grandmothers, Nini was called Nini because she didn’t want to be called grandma when she had her first grandchild. So, one of my uncles with a keen sense of humor prompted my cousin to call her Nini and my grandfather Bo-bo. That’s how they were known from that day forward. I always liked that story.
Nini’s birthday recently passed, September 7th , so that is why I’m writing this. I was seven when she passed away, about 27 years ago. As I write that, I can’t believe it’s been that long; I often think of her on her birthday and wish I’d gotten to know her as a teenager and adult. I think she would have given me sound advice and always made me feel loved, just as my other grandmother has. Through the stories and my memories, I do feel like I know her, and I guess, on some level, I feel like I know who she was simply because I’m related to her and because I know my mother. In my opinion, there’s no question that a person’s parents greatly influences who he or she becomes, and from things my mother says, I understand that my mother wishes we had known Nini longer for the sake of knowing more about Nini and also because we would know her, my mother, a little better through knowing Nini.
This past Friday, I asked my mother what meals Nini liked to eat because I knew I wanted to write of her in my blog this week. First, my mother told me that on special occasions, Nini would make Boston baked beans and would buy this wonderful brown bread that came in a tin.
“Beans and bread from a tin?” I asked my mother, hoping she would clarify a few things in that statement: 1) when was bread ever sold in tins? and 2) was that the whole meal? beans and bread for a special occassion?
“Well, there was some kind of vegetable with it. We always had some kind of green vegetable,” my mother said. My mother was busy, so I didn’t press if there was meat served with the meal. I just decided it might be best to try making a different meal in memory of Nini since I didn’t have any idea where to find brown bread in a tin (although if anyone knows, I would love to hear about it) and B might not like the idea of having beans, bread from a tin, and a green vegetable for dinner.
Instead, I asked mom what Nini liked to eat for breakfast. She said fried eggs (a little bit burnt around the edges) and bacon, a classic breakfast. That sounded perfect. In addition, I had a memory of waking up one summer morning to Nini and Bo-bo eating grapefruit in their kitchen with the windows open and a cardinal sitting outside their window. They always had bird feeders in the yard, so we would often see blue jays and cardinals outside, which was cool, because at home, I rarely saw such brightly feathered birds. Anyway, the kitchen smelled like grapefruit and summer that morning, and that’s the first time I remember eating a piece of fruit and really enjoying it. I think they were eating grapefruits because they were dieting, but Nini made it sound like a grapefruit was a rare wonderful treat; she had a knack for making everything fun.
So, I apologize, but there is no recipe on this post, just a suggestion for a nice simple, classic brunch: fried eggs (a little burnt), bacon, and a grapefruit.