Hey Grandma Can You Pass the Salt Please?

A couple of days ago I was getting my weekly massage and I said to my therapist, “I believe in so many things that sometimes it’s hard for me to remember what I believe in.”
Now before you go off and draw any conclusions about the frivolity of a weekly massage let me tell you that it is one of the few things that keeps this 47 year old body on its feet 70 hours a week without collapsing. It is, as I see it, a medical necessity regardless of how many challenges Blue Cross/Blue Shield might like to throw my way. But that is another story for another day. On this day my story is about ghosts, Swedish Pancakes, a cancelled acting class and a pair of old salt and pepper shakers. Intriguing? Maybe yes or maybe no but I beseech you to read on and see how it all ties together.

Every other weekend or so my girlfriend (let’s call her CJ from here on out) and I go out to a little cottage in Michigan. It’s not really a cottage mind you, it’s more of an average old two bedroom house by the lake in a small town called New Buffalo. The best thing about having a second place is being able to get away from the everyday scenery without having to take a vacation. The worst thing is the clutter. Over the years things just seem to accumulate. Since you don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis and because most of the time you are there is fun time, precious little ever gets cleaned up, sorted through, or thrown out. This past weekend was a designed exception to that method of activity. Our Saturday time was divided between a few de-cluttering projects and the previously blogged about service for my friend Ray. It’s hard for my girlfriend to figure out where to start on projects like this because my ex-wife and I had the cottage since 2000 and nearly all the stuff in there is my stuff. 

Now back to the top of the story. What do I believe in? Nearly everything that has energy and purpose. The list is way too long and as I said above I wouldn’t even remember to list most of the things anyways so why bother.  But as it pertains to this story, I definitely believe in the possibility that we can communicate with spirits that are no longer or are not yet on this earth and that they can do the same. In layman’s term, I believe in ghosts. Now if this makes me sound like a uncontested whack job to you I would say that you might as well stop reading right now or else you will think I’m totally Fruit Loops by the end of this blog, but for those of you with a completely (or even slightly) open mind follow along for some fun.

In order to divide and conquer on the de-clutter the cottage project we decided CJ should go through all of the kitchen cabinets and get rid of out of code cans, stale marshmallows, half boxes or crackers, broken coffee mugs and the like. We figured this would be a safe area for her and wouldn’t require her to ask me a question a minute like “what should I do with this thing…” The only guidelines I gave her was that if any item was non-foodstuff she set it on the table for me to take a peek at to make sure it didn’t have any significant sentimental value. Simple enough. At the end of the day she did a great job of purging three giant garbage bags full of stuff while at the same time organizing things like they haven’t been for years. During this time I puttered around with other projects in and out of the house (like finally taking down the Christmas tree) and by 4:30 p.m. we were both mostly satisfied with our first day of reclaiming the cottage from the junk.

We continued into our day by going to the wonderful service for my neighbor across the street Ray that I wrote about in my “The Greatest Generation” blog last week. If you haven’t read it yet scroll back. The time at the service made me reflect a lot about my Dad who would have been nearly exactly Ray’s age if he were still alive, also a WWII vet and in many ways a similar great spirit. Later in the evening after the service, we blew off the chance to dive back into our de-clutter mode and instead went out to dinner with our friend Randy who had joined us at the memorial. It was a low key and beautiful night. We went home right after dinner a) because I’m not drinking during Lent so bars are no place to be hanging out, and b) CJ had to get some studying done for acting class in the morning. No sooner than we got back to the partially de-cluttered cottage CJ got a text from her teacher letting her know that acting class was cancelled in the morning.  After a brief period of elation that we no longer needed to get up at 7:00 in the morning to drive back we did what any non-drinking couple would do to celebrate. We went and rented a movie…about drinking! The Rum Diary which is a loosely autobiographical account of the life of Hunter S. Thompson turned out to be strangely appropriate for the energy of the night even if it wasn’t the finest movie I’ve seen in the past few months. I went to bed with a great sense of contentment that night indeed.

In addition to being able to sleep in we also had the opportunity to get breakfast before heading back to our home base Chicago. Every time we get into that what are we going to do for breakfast this morning mode it becomes a tug of war between homemade breakfast sandwiches (CJ’s favorites) and going out so we don’t have to clean up. For years I have wanted to try this place a few miles down the road called Harbert Swedish Bakery/Luisa’s Cafe. Usually breakfast sandwiches win. On this sunny Sunday morning though we are both up for an outing so I call down to make sure they are open in the winter season and off we go. We order pretty much everything on the menu; eggs, home fries, thick cut bacon, chicken sausage whole grain muffins and the house signature Swedish pancakes with lingonberry syrup. I’ve been going to Western Michigan for over 25 years and owned a home there for 12 and this was hands down the finest breakfast I’ve ever had anywhere out there. Oh my!

Now if you saw The Rum Diary you may have remarked like I did that it was fairly entertaining but that the plot lacked any sort of continuity. Sort of like this blog post has up until now, but here’s where it gets more interesting. As we were waiting for our Swedish pancakes and other delicacies CJ glanced down at the center of the table and said, “Oh look they have those same tiny little glass salt and pepper shakers that you have at the cottage. I threw them out by the way.” GULP! “You what?” I replied. I then proceeded to tell her that they were from my Grandmother’s house (my Dad’s Mom). When I was growing up we visited my Grandparents in Pelham, New York every summer and we would have formal dinners at their giant dinner table and that every place setting had their own little glass salt and pepper shakers. My thoughtful Mom gave me a set many years ago to remember my Grandma. I kept them in a cabinet at the cottage. Until now. We quickly realized that it was Sunday and that the garbage would still be in the can on the street corner so we could retrieve the “family heirlooms” from certain destruction. Catastrophe averted we went ahead and ate pancakes.

I’m sure some of the questions you are asking yourself right now include but are not limited to: Why did they order so much food at breakfast? Which part of don’t throw away anything non-foodstuff did CJ not understand? Why watch the Rum Diaries if you’re not drinking? Or my favorite, Why does any of this even matter?

Well here are some of the questions I’m asking myself: What if acting class never got cancelled like it never has been before in 2 years? What if the garbage was already picked up? What if we made breakfast sandwiches instead? What if we had gone to any other place for breakfast like we have hundreds of other times in the previous years? In any of those situations I would have been wondering what happened to those little salt and pepper shakers at some point six months from now and they would be sitting at the bottom of a landfill. While this result hardly would have been the worst tragedy in the history of mankind, it would have made me sad and made CJ feel guilty so we are both greatly relieved at the end result. Yet I can’t help but wonder how this unlikely result came to fruition. Could it be a little nudge from beyond ? Believe what you want to believe, but I think there are a few lessons worth reflecting on as it pertains to my life in the moment.

Perhaps on a weekend where I was reflecting heavily and fondly on the distant past. Perhaps on a day when I was purging clutter and stuck energy from the recent past. Perhaps in a moment when I was opening space and opportunity for the people and things in the present. Just perhaps a window of opportunity was open just enough for a message to be sent. To me that message said a few things: 1) stay connected to the energy and spirit of those who have shared the path with you in the past and honor those relationships; 2) don’t be too attached to material things – practice your Vairagya from the Yoga Sutras; 3) go where the current is carrying you in the moment and try new things on a routine basis, and most importantly; 4) don’t throw out those “G.D.” salt and pepper shakers! In this case the “G.D” could stand either for Grandma Do (my paternal Grandmother) or a phrase frequented by paternal Grandfather. I’m sure you can figure that one out on your own.

I hadn’t talked to anyone on my Dad’s side of the family in 15 years. It’s not like we are intentionally staying out of touch. It’s just that life happens. My Grandma and Grandpa, my Dad and his two siblings have all been in the Spirit World for many years now whatever that might mean to you and as a result my cousins and I have just lost touch with each other. Did I mention yet that my cousin Anne called me this past Wednesday after “Salt Shaker Gate” out of the blue after 15 years. She was with two of my other cousins. She invited me out to their summer place in  New York this August. I think we are likely to go. Maybe we can help her clean out her kitchen cabinets…. orrrrr maybe not.

And when it’s all said and done as it pertains to this random collection of thoughts I can say that I’m excited about re-connecting with my family in New York,  that maybe I’m just a little bit Fruit Loops, and most importantly and definitely most certainly I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

Pass the salt please Grandma…


About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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4 Responses to Hey Grandma Can You Pass the Salt Please?

  1. Charlene Herbert says:

    Just read your blog……quite a story….brought back a lot of memories. Good job.

  2. jimswhimz says:

    Thanks for commenting. Really paints a picture of Pelham doesn’t it? Hope you continue to enjoy reading…

  3. Pingback: My life and Montauk – The Prolouge | Jimswhimz's Blog

  4. Pingback: Two Years, Two Very Different Journeys and a Few Distinct Similarities | Jimswhimz's Blog

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