My early memories of my grandmother loom large in my mind. She was the only grandparent that I really remember, my grandfather outside the frame, and my maternal grandparents gone before my time. Frieda was her name, Fritz to her friends, Grandma to me. Snowball hydrangea’s the size of soccer balls bouncing in front of a greenish house have haunted my memory for years. The little walk up the cracked concrete, storm door creaking, the mini-golf like carpet, and such a distinctive smell greeting me on the enclosed porch. The smell was plastic-y, perhaps coming from our tread upon that fake lawn, mingled with the coming onslaught of cigarette smoke, and age of the house. Straight ahead was the door to the unknown upstairs renters. Mormons usually, Grandma liked them, didn’t want us to bother them, I noticed their bicycles sometimes parked side-by-side inside the porch. Next to their door, were windows peering in on the dining room, my excitement mounting. Turning to the right, we knock. Grandma is here, her small frame, her polyester pants, her sweater, and dainty hands, with blue star-sapphire ring, glinting. Her hair a bowling ball shape, coiffed perfectly, and her round glasses perched on her face. She greets us warmly, ushering us into the living area. I remember it, vaguely thinking there was a greenish hue in here also, couch against the far wall and to my left another, her coffee table with its mustard color chimney ashtray. Someone must have been home, as smoke was drifting lazily out, curling and rising. The lamps, the chair by the tall windows, the perpetually playing television in the corner to the immediate right, loneliness kept at bay. Her door closes, the three decorative windows, staggered at the top always fascinating me. Greetings all around, my parents, and sister, Christy, were there I’m sure. Grandma shows us to her extra bedroom, a dim, cave-like room with a big, deep bed, small pullout, a dresser, and closet. We dump our luggage in there and in anticipation run to the kitchen. Light dances through the smoke from another ashtray on the small kitchen table, centered directly under the window. A glance at the little yard, and back of the garage, turning to Grandma standing by her raccoon cookie jar, smiling. She reaches into the cupboard, a collection of glass jelly jars, cartoon characters congregated. She pours us milk, stealing a few cookies from the bandit for our eager hands. We eat the stale cookies, probably the same ones from the last visit, Grandma hustling to her little archaic set with rabbit ears that rests in the hall, making sure “Days of Our Lives” wasn’t starting yet. Her t.v. flanks the portal to her magical bedroom. I sneak a peek inside, a shadowy, mysterious place of old linens, a jewelry box, and history. She gives her room up for us when we visit, or maybe that was later, when my brother Joel came along. The few times I got to sleep in there with my mom, I felt like a princess in a secret room of an old castle. Across the hall, the bathroom with its giant porcelain tub, the drain plug on a chain, fascinatingly exotic. No shower here, a sinking into a huge vat of bubbles, the big pink bottle of bubble bath, it’s curvy shape hovering on the edge. Morning dawns with the smell of bacon, always bacon. Sizzles and snaps coming from her cast iron pan that she always stored in the oven. We forgot about that once and preheated the oven, scorching them. Her dining room, with the long side board, wide, rectangular dining table, but most of all the curio cabinet, filled with miniature figures, china, and wonder for a little girl’s eyes to devour. Little glass cats, vases, and trinket-y treasures. Treasure, just like the gems with my Grandma, endless Smurfs, soap operas, chain-smoking her way through our visits, we laughed and ate well. Bowls passed around the big table, my Uncle Darrell, Aunt Janet, and cousins there, Christmas time, tree missing under mounds of silvery tinsel, Santa-clad packages ho-hoing from beneath. Grandma’s battle with the twisted mass of death in her lungs, snowballs swaying softly in the breeze. Then blotchy memories of blackness, jelly jars packed, china cradled in boxes in that green backyard, glass cat gripped in my 12 year-old hand, and a blue-sapphire ring. The raccoon cookie jar we bought later just wasn’t the same. The smoke-soaked clothing, endless soap operas can be forgotten, but Grandma Fritz is alive, truly never can be buried.