Dear grandma,

I did not have a good day today. I woke up aching, sore from cold and not enough sleep, and I went to work with a sense of quiet resignation: back to this, then, the same litanies of customer complaints and entitled do-this-for-me that in my darker moments I feel forms the boundaries of my job. I spent much of the day heartsick, for a variety of reasons.

And then I came home. I cleaned my kitchen: washed all the leftover dishes, scrubbed down the counters and the stove, and I made two apple pies. I used your knife, and your pie plate (although I confess, I cheated and bought pre-made crusts; it was a long day at work and I don’t have the patience today to make it from scratch. I’ll do better next time, I promise), and I thought of you while I made them. I’m thinking of you now.

It’s comforting to know that muscle memory doesn’t go away, or family memory, maybe, the sort of habit that is so thoroughly ingrained that we can’t help but inherit it: to sit, and chat, and let your hands do the work, slice-slice-slice-slice, wafers of white or yellow-gold apple flesh dropping into the bowl. My wife and I did it tonight, like I remember you and I doing while I was young enough not to appreciate it: sat down at our dining room table, and together peeled and sliced apples. Fifteen or sixteen of them, half Arkansas Black (a strong, tart, nicely crisp apple I just discovered; like a Granny Smith that doesn’t suck), and half my beloved Cortland (Cortland! Finally, I can find them here, at the farmer’s market – all the gorgeous natural sweetness that I grew up with, that is my favorite out of all the countless varieties anyone could offer).

There are pies in the oven now, and my house smells of apple and cinnamon and clove and pastry. And my heart, at the end of the day, is warm.

I miss you. But I have a pie plate, and a paring knife, and apples and muscle memory (because after all, the heart is a muscle, beat-beat-beating blood, and they say, don’t they, that pie runs in the family), and what that means is I still have you.

Love you, grandma. It was good to see you again. The mind’s eye is the sharpest.

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