Leather and Peppermints

A year and a half ago, I made the decision that this space would be about pictures, with just a few words each. Of course, I could always post longer things too, but really, the daily images were key. As time progressed, I began to believe that it was only about those photos, nothing else belonged. And so, when those moments stirred me and I longed to write, I kept it inside because there wasn’t anywhere that it could belong.

I realize now that that’s dumb. I make the rules for this site and I can change them at will. I need to write.

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Yesterday, I had my wallet splayed out next to my computer. I was in the process of paying bills, an experience that is all the more wrenching these days since my income is deeply inconsistent. But the student loan people get angry when you don’t pay them, so I forced myself to open the appropriate windows, enter passwords and approve the transactions.

As I zipped up my psychologically lighter wallet, its scent caught my notice. It wasn’t one that I associate with me, but belonged to my grandmother. She had a weakness for fine leather goods and so her handbags and wallets were always made from the softest Italian leathers. The kind that feel like butter on the outside, are lined with sturdy satin and smell slightly nutty.

Due to her childhood in the early part of the 20th century, when regular bathing hadn’t quite caught on yet, she had a lifelong fear of the odors of the body. And so she used liberal amounts of perfume and tucked rolls of sugar-free peppermints into all pockets and pouches to keep her breath free. She replaced the mints far more regularly than she ate them, and so the result was there were always an abandoned few rolling around the bottom of a bag, keeping company with a handful of change.

During our summertime visits, my sister and I would be given permission to hunt through the bottoms of bags not currently in use and allowed to keep the money and dusty mints.

I’d already been thinking a great deal about my grandmother lately, when my leather wallet and the scent of the peppermint gum I keep in my purse, sent me time traveling. Come January, it will have been ten years since I moved to Philadelphia. April will make ten years since she’s been gone and May means ten years since I’ve lived in Apartment 2024.

This apartment has been a character in my life in much the same way that friends and family play a role. It’s not just a series of rooms and walls, but an entity with which I have a long and sometimes-trying relationship. Sometimes I just want to be done, to move on to something new. But like any committed relationship, the problems cannot be run from. The only thing I can do is to choose to work them out, make peace and make adjustments until we’re both happy again.

I am certain that my grandfather Phil never imagined when he bought this apartment in 1966 that his 32 year granddaughter would be living in it and writing about it 45 years later.

6 thoughts on “Leather and Peppermints

  1. Vicki

    This tribute with your written words to your grandmother is just lovely. I hope someday when I am gone that I have lived this life as a woman that was worthy of kind words by those I leave behind. Can’t wait to hear your Ted speech…how very, very exciting!

  2. Candace

    What a wonderful surprise to find you writing again and such a lovely post about your grandmother. I have missed your writing, your videos etc.
    You don’t know me, I have never commented. I found your website a couple of years ago and found it funny and interesting and a great read so I went back to the beginning and read through to 2008, which was the present then : ). I have kept up since then and also read Food in Jars.
    Selfishly I hope you will start writing often again. Your little descriptions of life are delightful.
    I know you love canning but I hope you will give your writing some time also.

  3. Erin

    While I adore your food blog I’m also very happy to find you writing from a more personal place back here again. Looking forward to many more elegant posts!

  4. Meryl

    Love that you’re going to write here a bit.

    Crazy how a smell can bring back such memories…every time I get a whiff of peanut butter cookies baking it’s like my great-grandmother is in the room with me again.


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