It was a chilly afternoon in the fall. I was about seven years old, and my grandmother had invited me and some of my church friends to her house to start a group for girls of my age that would meet once a month. We were to have some fun, some snacks, and do a little project as a contribution to the community. The one I remember was using old Christmas cards to make gift cards. We cut pictures from cards with pinking shears and used them for covers on small folded pieces of construction paper. We then punched a hole in the corner and put a bit of ribbon through the hole so that the gift card could be tied to a package. I'm not sure what happened next with those little cards, but I do remember that the creative process was very satisfying to all of us. We were somehow now drawn into an adult world where what we contributed would make a difference.
We played games, too -- Charades, Hide and Seek, Button Button Who's Got the Button -- and worked up quite an appetite.
I was always hungry when I was seven. I would eat the bottom of the celery stalk or the heart of the cabbage -- things that would be destined for the garbage pail -- but to me, with a little salt, they were perfect. Cold, crunchy and tasting of the earth. I wasn't a picky eater, so anything offered would have been met with enthusiasm.
On that first meeting, my grandmother served us popcorn and apples. That combination still means comfort, a full belly, and fun to me. The salty, warm taste of popped corn with plenty of melted butter and the sweet snap of an apple -- what could be better? The corn was popped in a big heavy iron pan on top of the stove. She let us slide it back and forth over the fire so it wouldn't burn. She trusted us to do this; another step towards grown-up responsibility.
We looked forward to those meetings. We had an autonomy and a purpose when we got together, and the things we did as a group were a kind of sharing that started me on a lifetime of organizing people around a common cause.
I haven't thought about that little group for years. But just now, while I was making popcorn and melting butter, choosing an apple and sitting down to enjoy these things, my body reminded me how this love affair got started. It's my grandmother and me sharing these things. Every time. Even now.