Tuesday was Grandma Day – every Tuesday – No Exceptions – unless Grandma had something better to do – which was at least twice a month. I never had anything better to do. With school closed for the summer, my phone was my social life. I was a waitress in the Main Street Diner, but the diner was closed on Tuesdays. I looked forward to spending the day with Grandma. She was a hoot – according to everyone who knew her. Maybe she was a hoot to them, but to me she exuded love and understanding, just what my seventeen-year-old self needed. I thought the Beach Boys wrote their “Good Vibrations” song about my grandma. I always felt the good vibrations when I was with her.
On this particular Tuesday, our day together was all systems go. It was raining buckets, more than enough to water the parched lawn that had dried up during the dog days of August. Grandma’s pickleball tournament of champions was postponed after an hour rain delay, and I stood in her kitchen when she bounced in soaking wet.
“Hello, my sweet Rosebud.” She greeted me with a squishy hug and dashed off to change into dry clothes.
I turned on her radio. The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” tumbled out.
Grandma dance-walked back into the kitchen. “I saw this on a video,” she said.
“Very funny. I saw that, too. You’ve ‘got the moves like Jagger’!”
“Ha, you got that right.”
I took out my phone and videoed her dance moves. “This just might go viral.”
“Put that phone away – and don’t you post that anywhere,” Grandma waggled her finger at me, then grabbed my hands and pulled me out into the middle of her kitchen dance floor. We locomotioned across the linoleum.
Grandma sang along to the next song by the Beatles, “Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Whoa, oh, oh.”
“Yes, I do,” I challenged.
Grandma stopped. “Well, then come closer. I’ll share a secret. It begins with my meatball recipe.”
The good vibrations were rocking the kitchen as the ingredients were assembled and set out on the counter: hamburger, a chopped onion, two eggs, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, ketchup, a pot of sauce. I followed Grandma’s instructions and put everything into a large bowl.
“So, the secret is ketchup? Mom never puts ketchup in her meatballs.”
“Oh, no, Rosebud, that’s not the secret.” Grandma mish mashed the meat into balls and dropped them into the sauce that had begun to bubble on the stove. I copied her meatball rolling technique, and waited for the secret reveal.
She washed her hands, so did I. “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals came on, and Grandma’s eyes gathered a faraway mist.
“I was 19 years old in 1969 and madly in love with Tony DelRossi.”
“Well, he wasn’t your grandpa yet. Tony got drafted into the Army. It was the Vietnam War, if you know your American history. We ran off and got married the night before he left, and he promised to come home in one piece.”
“I know all this, Gram. It’s not a secret.”
“Here comes the secret.” Mischief danced in her eyes. Gram whispered,
“So I waited, and waited. For three years I waited. Then one August day – a rainy day just like today – I was in this very kitchen making meatballs with this exact same recipe, and in the back door walked Tony DelRossi. I had just been tasting a meatball, so when he scooped me into his arms and kissed me, my lips tasted like the best meatballs he had ever had in his whole life. He couldn’t get enough of me. It had been three long, lonely years. He kissed me, and I kissed him right back – right here in this kitchen. And… one thing led to another, and…,”
“Ohhhh.” My heart skipped a couple beats. “Right here in the kitchen?”
My voice sounded two octaves above ground.
“Yes, indeed! Your father was born nine months later.” Grandma’s grin was positively Cheshire cat.
“You and Grandpa? Right here? In the kitchen???”
“Shush, Rose … Don’t act so shocked! The Kiss of the Meatball – That’s the secret.”
“Born to Be Wild” busted out of the radio, as if Steppenwolf had overheard. Our eyes locked, and we burst into hysterics. We laughed until our stomachs ached for meatballs.