When I was little, spending the night at my grandma’s, I used to hate to go to bed. (As I sit here typing this, it’s hard to remember what that felt like.) Grandma, the crafty woman that she was, had many tricks up her sleeve to help convince me to sleep. For one, she went to bed at the same time as me; it was always just me and her or, me and her and my little brother, and, after a day or two with our water-gun fights and games and yelling at each other, I suspect she was just as thrilled to get some shut-eye herself as to get us kids to calm down. I’d crawl into her queen-size bed right next to her, my brother on a fold-out cot nearby, and she’d tell us stories.
There was the time she and her friend Marie went on a hunting trip with their husbands and howled like coyotes (this, obviously, was complete with reenactments) and the time she opened her front door to a goat on the front steps (they’d had the first suburban house on their street, surrounded by open land and farms). I loved the one where she mowed the lawn in a new yellow suit (could this really be true, I now wonder?) and ran over dog droppings, sending it all over herself.
Along with these stories, she’d scratch my back—who knows how long, get me to do leg exercises (stretch your right foot high to the ceiling!) and sometimes, turn on the small T.V. on top of her dresser and watch whatever was on. Oh and also, there were snacks.
I’d follow Grandma to the kitchen, padding behind her on a path to the fridge. She’d take out a large apple—I remember it being Granny Smith, that green, slightly bitter variety—and cut it into wedges. This, along with buttered toast, was heaven. Or it was, I guess you could say, comfort food.
A boy I knew once asked me what made something comfort food. Would a salad work? Maybe chili? I told him something about it being, well, you know, comforting to you when you ate it. How could I explain? When my stomach hurts, I want ginger ale and crackers, maybe some soup. When I’m depressed, chocolate. Maybe comfort food is soothing because of what it is—fizzy drinks or a bland diet—or maybe because it reminds us of experiences, people who made things feel O.K. again. (My mom always gave me ginger ale when my stomach hurt, it’s true).
Whatever the case, tonight, before bed, in a time when the plunging stock prices and another presidential debate and people losing jobs seem to be the noteworthy events on everyone’s mind, I made toast, and I sliced an apple. And I ate them happily while I paced around the kitchen, remembering Grandma, remembering her stories, thinking of a time when things were O.K. And then, after telling you about it, I went to bed, peacefully.