You are sweeter than you know. Special occasions and holidays only, so I waited for you all year. Christmas was my favorite; Easter, a close second.
I clapped when your daughter tossed plastic packets of the dried crimson flowers into her basket at the West Indian food market. It was always cold there, big drafty windows overlooking rows and rows of alien fruits: soursop, guava, chinet, pomerac. I played with the heart-shaped pomerac, felt its thin maroon skin give away under my probing fingers. My mother yelled, but you laughed, like chimes in the wind.
The house was warm, though, as I watched you work. Water, cinnamon, cloves. The only sound in the kitchen was the sound of bubbling liquid, pockets of air slipping and swirling in swift circles under the closed lid of the sauce pan. I sat on my hands in anticipation.
“You must wait,” you told me. I did not understand waiting. I wanted its spicy sweetness now.
“The flowers must steep overnight,” you said. I sighed.
In the morning you were waiting for me, straining soggy bits of petals from the plum-colored liquid. You made four bottles. One for me, one for you, one for my mother, one for my sister. A cup of sugar went into each bottle. A dash of rum in yours and mine. “Don’t tell your mother,” you whispered. I crossed my heart and smiled.
I did not tell for years. Easter came the week after your funeral. I could not drink my mother’s sorrel because it didn’t taste the same. I told her, “Grams put rum in hers.” She replied, “You don’t need any rum!” I only drink her sorrel now after I cut the sugar with an ounce of Old Oak. She scowls when she sees me pouring rum into my cup, but she always asks for a splash of her own. She knows it tastes better that way.
p.s. I scheduled this post before I left for Spain. Today makes it eight years since my Grams passed. I wrote this piece when I studied at the Writers Studio back in 2009. It’s one of my favorites.