In the end, I went to her hospital bedside intending to be strong and cheerful but wound up telling her how much I loved her with tears falling on my cheeks. She could only answer with her eyes, her voice silenced by a stroke but I believe she knew who I was and heard how much she had mattered to me.
Momma Sue was a tiny woman with a giant heart. The neighborhood children were delighted when they surpassed her in height, usually by the age of 12. She and her sister, Tata, survived the Armenian genocide because their parents sent them to safety in France where they grew up in an orphanage. She came to America on the arm of a soldier from Northern, NH. She tells stories of catching houseflies in exchange for pennies and hair-ribbons (she was a champion fly-catcher!) We loved her cabbage rolls, red-velvet cake and the way she was always happy to see us. She loved my mother’s custard pie and always came over for a slice on Thanksgiving.
We had a special bond that was cemented by the giving of dandelions. As a little tyke, I was fascinated by dandelions; the brightness of the yellow, the hollow straw of their stems with the sticky milk inside. To me, they were beautiful and I picked a handful at age three and gave them to my new neighbor with a smile. At age 17, just before graduating from high school, I picked her another bouquet of these cheerful flowers and brought them to her door and received a huge smile and crushing hug in return.
When visiting in later years with my own children she would tell them the dandelion story. I doubt they realized the significance of it and probably don’t remember it now. Each spring, as the snow melts and the sun strengthens enough to feel it’s warmth, I start looking for my first dandelion; the reminder that Momma Sue is still with me.