Middle Niece stood in the kitchen last night, cradling a wooden mortar and pestle in her arms. She lifted her old-fashioned treasure carefully above her head, set it to rest on the counter and wiggled her way up to the barstool seat beside me. Decades earlier her grandmother had carried the kitchen utensils, a simple sturdy wooden chalice and matching pestle carved from an Amazonian rain forest tree, back from Brazil securely packed in an army-style duffle bag.
Many seasonings and spices have graced its sloping receptacle over the years, but in the worn brown vessel today was something unusual: Pepper. Not peppercorns. Pre-ground pepper. Grammy had scoured the cupboards earlier for a suitable substance for crushing, but ground pepper was all that she could find. Middle Niece didn’t mind. She was perfectly content re-grinding the pepper.
“Look what I have,” she declared proudly as she settled down at the island in kitchen’s core.
“Oh, neat! You’re grinding up some spices. I love grinding up spices with my mortar and pestle.”
“Me, too.” She tossed her head slightly and peered up at me. Her hair draped like a fine golden-brown curtain covering half of her face. “I’m gonna make it really smooth,” she confided.
“It smells so good! I like to cook,” I told her. For some reason I had a feeling she’d appreciate the knowledge.
“Oh, me too!” she whispered, big blue eyes glimmering. “I love to cook!”
I didn’t doubt it. If there is a food connoisseur in the making among my older sister’s kids, it’s Middle Niece, hands down. When my parents got Facetime on their phones, Middle Niece’s first request was a virtual tour of their pantry. Today when I’d arrived, her big sister was begging determinedly for a trip to the mall, but Middle Niece was voting for the grocery store. A girl after my own heart! Give me a chance to spend an afternoon in either a department store or a fresh market, and the grocery will win out in a heartbeat every single time. True, right now Middle Niece has a penchant for pretty much anything sugar-based, but I have a suspicion her sweet tooth will mellow and in a few years we may have a chef in our midst.
She smiled companionably as if she’d been listening in on my silent inner monologue and was in total agreement. She reached out her little hand and carefully touched my arm. I was wearing my old gray sweater, just like I do most days. It isn’t stylish. Not remotely. But that’s never really bothered me. I wore this very sweater (even then it was a hand-me-down) on my first date with Dave six years ago and I’ve fondly donned the dear thing with embarrassing regularity, regardless of season, ever since. “It’s your old lady sweater,” Dave was known to tease early on in married life. “Hey, now!” I’d laughed. “I like that sweater! No attacking the sweater!” I stood nobly in its defense. “So do I,” was his earnest reply. “It goes perfectly with my old man sweater vests!” He was right. We were a perfect sweater match, he and I. Now that we have a few more years behind us, my old lady sweater doesn’t look so out of place. Age has sketched a touch of silver in Dave’s hair and begun to put lines on my face. That’s okay. We’re a happy little pair, odd sweater quirks and all. This sweater means a lot to me, but it’s never gotten many complements.
“I like your sweater,” Middle Niece offered with a shy smile, before tucking her thumb between her lips.
I grinned warmly. “Thank you! It’s my favorite.”
She pulled her thumb out of her mouth, smiled and stated pensively, “I thought so…”
I think we understood one other perfectly.
© Angela M. Adams
About Short Story Saturday: Last year, Short Story Saturday jumped around all over the place. It included current writing and very old. There was fiction, nonfiction, and something in between. One week I wrote about garbage disposal in Japan; then came a story about my husband and I shooing a bunny out of our garden; and there was a fictional piece about dying young mixed in there, too. No rhyme, no reason. 2015 will likely be more of the same. I’d like to focus on childhood, especially my years growing up in South America, but I’m not sure I’m ready to promise that. We shall see…
All posts on this site were written by Angela M. Adams (unless otherwise noted) and they may not be copied elsewhere without her permission. Thank you!