> jumping into life.

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When I was little I used to stay at my grandparents' house over winter break. The days were some of the longest of my life. My grandmother would make me grilled cheese sandwiches and try to teach me how to cross-stitch. I taught myself origami one year. I read a lot, and spent a lot of time in her garden - my grandmother's garden is one of the best fantasy-world backdrops my childhood ever held, all full of hiding places and plants with bright colors and strange fruits, and the big barking dog next door to add just the right hint of danger. When I spent the night, in the morning we'd have grapefruit and toast, and black tea with milk. At home I always ate cereal, and the ceremony of dissecting the grapefruit with the special toothed little spoon seemed so exotic; I loved it even though I thought the grapefruit itself was far too bitter. In the afternoons we would watch my grandma's soaps, which I fervently hope didn't shape my romantic ideals too much.

In the afternoons also, if I was very lucky and if I ate all my sandwich (and pickle!), my grandpa would make his Special. I think I'm the only grandchild to ever get a Special, though I know he made them for my mom when she was a kid. The Special is brilliant in its simplicity: vanilla ice cream with Ovaltine powder on top, which I would then carefully mash into a big malty goop. So much better than vanilla or even chocolate ice cream alone, with a touch of gritty sugar and Papa's magic mixed in. I remember the year after he died, wanting so badly my favorite dessert and knowing somehow that I couldn't ask my grandma to make it for me. It was Papa's Special. She probably wouldn't know how to make it right anyway.

It is now my surest comfort food, just ahead of grilled cheese sandwiches, oatmeal, and lasagna. Paired with a cup of tea it's almost enough to calm my most jagged fears. Of which I am finding I have plenty.