Mint punch is liquid memories. It's the stuff I would beg Grandma to make as soon as I ran through her door in the summer. The combination of citrus, mint and ginger ale makes me feel 10 years old again. Grandma would let me use her electric juicer to squeeze every last drop out of the fruit. When the sugar and water were on the stove, we would head to the backyard and the oppressive heat to cut some mint. I remember thinking that it was pure heaven to be able to get real food from a flowerbed.
The smell of that mint combined with honeysuckle still reminds me of sticky afternoons playing in the yard or lounging in the creaky swing on the porch. My sisters, cousins and I would read a thousand books or play games or catch grasshoppers. Then we would decide it was time for a snack. We would run from the Texas sun to the cool of Grandma's kitchen. With our bare feet slapping the smooth floor we would hunt out a\the drawer full of candy, the push-pops in the freezer or honey buns that Grandma would warm in the microwave. But our thirst would be quenched by mint punch. She always made it special. It was an event. There was a pretty glass, a few cubes of ice, bubbly ginger ale and then the golden and minty syrup. Liquid memories...
The kids all played together. We laughed until our stomachs hurt. There was Aunt Pam to talk to, I could tell her anything and she thought it was important. There was a Papa to sit with. I can, right now, see him coming down the hall in the evenings, freshly showered. He smelled of Irish Spring and his face was always soft and red from shaving. He would grab a handful of pretzels and sit at the table with us to talk, his laughter like tonic. Sometimes we would chat about the weather or the small town gossip. But most times, the stories would flow. We remembered things and people from the past. Some still with us and some long since departed. There was always a Grandmother Butler story and probably a Jordan story or two! There were snacks, crackers and Grandma's cheese ball, if Aaron and I hadn't already devoured them. And when it got late, nobody wanted to go to bed because that would mean breaking off the closeness that we all felt in that moment. The moment where you soak in the idea that these people know you and love you. You belong there.
Now the cousins have grown and there are new cousins and baby cousins and jobs and far-away places. We don't get to be together much at all anymore. But those years were the sweet years. Sweet as mint punch.
Now my oldest is headed to her grandma's. Nana time. Now it's her turn. I wonder, what smells and tastes and sounds will bring her back to these years? What will her memories hold? Frosted Flakes and the swimming pool? Rides on Papa Joe's motorcycle and time with Aunter? The hot New Mexico sun and walking down to see Grandma and Pa? Whatever they are, I pray that they cling in her heart, just like mine.
(I will post the Mint Punch recipe soon.)