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June 29, 2011
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July 6, 2011
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My grandma’s garlic

On June 30th, my grandma would have turned 101. This summer I am growing some of her garlic. My mother has been doing this since my grandmother, and finally, I have the space where I can do it too. Here are the garlic scapes that I harvested for our July 4th celebration.

This is one of the stories I often think about when I remember my grandma.

In early 1994, I received my invitation to join the United States Peace Corps. I was elated. I began to gather all the forms and documents required, including various signatures attesting to my good health. Surprisingly, I failed one of the medical exams. If the issue cleared up, I could join my group six months later.

So there I was, stuck in Ohio at my parent’s house. I had quit my job in San Francisco and moved there for what was supposed to be a brief six weeks before embarking on the toughest job I would ever love. No such luck. Instead, I looked for temp work, and tried to piece things together hoping that my body would do what it needed to do to let me go.

But, I did get to spend time with my grandma. I would go with my mom to visit her, and sometimes I would go on my own to her house. We would go to Roy Rogers for dinner, such a treat for both of us. This time with her as a young adult showed me her strength and courage that carried her through a life of work, children, love and good deeds. It was precious. Delicious. And allowed me to form good, strong memories of her as a grown person, versus a child. I felt very lucky to have this time, even though I wished I was at my Peace Corps assignment.

In November, she had a stroke. And this time, she didn’t pull through. It was the end of a matriarch and the head of the Thomas mystique–of working hard, doing good works, loving deeply and with as little anxiety as possible. The morning of her funeral my mother called me to the phone. It was the Peace Corps clearing me to go to my assignment. Even now, nearly seventeen years later, I still marvel at how some events in life really feel orchestrated.

So today, I made garlic scape pesto from her garlic, and remembered this story. And then I made a tart that I know she would have loved. Strawberry rhubarb white chocolate, with rhubarb from my own garden.


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