My grandma had a walnut tree in her yard. Tall and massive, and I’m guessing as old as my grandma, it was situated next to the driveway, near the street. Even though my grandma is gone now, has been for years, I hope the tree is still there.
It was her fall ritual. To go out and pick up the fallen walnuts. I guess that’s how you harvest walnuts. You pick them up. You don’t have to climb up and get them. Not that my grandma wouldn’t have tried. In her early nineties, she insisted on mowing her own yard with an electric mower, the long power cord always trailing precariously around her feet.
Those walnuts. I remember the sound they made when the tires of passing cars crunched over the ones that had fallen in the street. Grandma would take a box, or basket, or whatever container was handy, and pick up the fallen nuts from her yard and driveway. She’d carry them up to her attic where they would dry over the winter, waiting to be cracked open the next spring. She did not own a nut cracker, but seated at an old TV tray in her kitchen, armed with a cutting board and hammer, she would slam the nuts out of their shells, walnut shrapnel flying everywhere. She would crack nuts by day, and when insomnia struck, she would get up, and slam away in the middle of the night.
At Christmas time, we could always count on getting a package from her, and the contents never varied. A jar of her mincemeat, and a jar of her walnuts. The walnuts were like gold. My mother used them sparingly so they would last as long as possible. (They were also used cautiously as bits of shell were bound to be mixed with the nuts.)
I have my grandma's mincemeat recipe. Amy and I make a batch every year. I like to think it’s every bit as good as that which my grandma made. I miss those walnuts, though. We buy a bag at Christmas time now, because there is no package coming in the mail. Because there is no longer a grandma who lives at the house with the walnut tree in the yard.
I just hope the tree is still there.
I’m missing my Grandma Helen today. I wanted to write this little tribute to her.