Requiem for Raspberries

~By Marissa Neiderhauser

It is a memory so old and familiar that it is not really a memory at all. I don’t actually remember picking or eating raspberries with my grandmother. I just know that raspberries are forever inextricably linked with her. Seeing them in the store, hearing them mentioned, running the tip of my tongue along their seeds wedged between my teeth; all of these things make me think of Grandma J.

As if the memory of eating raspberries with her, fresh picked from her backyard and doused in heavy cream and a hearty sprinkle of sugar happened too many times to form into a single memory. As if perhaps my very first encounter with raspberries, my first tart taste- so young I didn’t even know what to call them yet- was at Grandma’s house. Maybe, while cradling me against her pillowy chest she picked one for me from out of the prickly leaves slowly saying ‘rrraaaassssppbeeeerrrryyyy’ teaching me patiently the name for the blood red berry.

Whatever the story, raspberries, for me, equal Grandma J.

Just over a year ago she died; the only grandparent that had still been alive to see me turn into a woman.  The only one who got to be here long enough to tell me how proud she was of me for sticking with my dreams and making them come true.

I had known she would die soon, the last time I saw her, but as is always the case with births, deaths, and other major life events, it was far more intense than I could ever have imagined. It was as if I had been emptied out. As if my physical matter was suddenly less dense. I was somehow less myself.  I think the visceral depth of this loss, was not only due to the greatness of Mrs. Thelma Elizabeth Owen Jorgensen, but also to the way in which our relationship had developed- so early on, before my brain was established enough to put together the narrative that creates a memory. A relationship woven so deeply into the fabric of who I have grown into, such a deep and formative part of myself, that common words, colors, and smells are associated first with Grandma J. and second with what they actually are.

These kinds of losses change us a little forever,  as the strands of our carelessly woven lives unravel from their starting place until finally it is our turn to remove the thread of our story from the cloth. There are no words to express what people like this mean to us and how radically everything shifts when they are no longer here. We are lucky when we can still anchor them in our hearts with something so simple as fresh fruit.

***

A Recipe for Remembrance

-A handful of freshly picked raspberries, gently rinsed in cool water and placed in a small bowl
-A healthy pour of heavy cream
-A hearty sprinkle of granulated sugar

Close your eyes and eat slowly, crushing the fruity flesh against the backs of your front teeth with your tongue, squishing the tiny seeds out along the sides of your mouth where they eventually will work themselves between your teeth, troubling you absentmindedly throughout a good part of the rest of the day. A memory that even when you aren’t thinking about it- it is there always in the corners of your consciousness.

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