I don't think I was yet seven years old. I remember the musty smell of the fake leather in her car and the windows that had to be cranked down just to let in enough clean air to make it possible to stay awake. Garage-sailing, I used to call it. Like sailing, except something much less desirable even for a blurry-eyed six-year-old.
I remember clamouring into her car early in the morning so I could spend the day garage-saling with grandma. She was larger than life. She was a big smoker and because bargain-hunting was her sport of choice, her anxiety levels spiked and her excitement grew from one sale to the next...alway resulting in her lighting up in victory or defeat once we exited the sales of the day.
Another memory I'll forever attach to grandma Dorothy was her pink salad.
One especially busy Saturday morning, I rode my banana seat bicycle to her house and found her in the kitchen. Pouring what seemed like an eternal load of pink-colored noodles into a tupperware she likely picked up the previous week, we climbed into the car and she placed the bowl on my lap.
"Don't let that spill," she said, "That's pink salad for the barbeque."
"I hate pink salad," was all I said, but that salad didn't spill one bit.
A few years later, Grandma came to our house to stay with us kids while my parents were away. It was a somber time in our household and the mood was depressed and still and heavy and silent.
"There's pink salad in the fridge," Grandma announced, "And you girls can come play cards if you want."
I sat down across from Grandma as she lit a cigarette behind squinty eyes and the biggest chubbiest-lipped smile a grandkid could ask for. Her round eyes widened further when she patted my knee enthusiastically and asked if I got some pink salad. Pat. Pat. Pat.
"Grandma, I hate pink salad, you know that," was all I said before reaching for the deck of cards and starting into a high-energy game of solitaire.
Every child that was born, every birthday party, every church picnic, every graduation, every single family event; there it was. Pink salad.
So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when years later, I sat down at the family meal in her little hometown Mennonite church to celebrate her life and my little but-now-grown-adult sister planted a healthy serving of beet-dyed macaroni noodle delight on my plate and smiled that contagious smile.