My Grandma Frances always said, “You should never count your tortillas!” This sage wisdom becomes increasingly more meaningful and helpful to me with each passing day since Josie’s death. Turns out, tortilla making and grief actually have quite a bit in common.
After first hearing this advice, the words were practically meaningless next to my slight chuckle of supposed understanding. “Of course,” I thought, “tortillas are eaten quickly, almost as quickly as they can be cooked up in the skillet! And grandma had nearly a dozen children, so certainly she had to make a lot of tortillas to fill all those bellies!!! Why count them?!! It’s a waste of time, because when you are done, you have nothing left to show for all your hard work!!! It is probably best to not be concerned about how many you must make….”
That was my thinking process back then. Today, however, her simple logic has revealed profound, personal instruction pertaining to my own laborious, daily task—forward motion in knee-deep grief.
In my humble opinion, tortilla making is an extremely labor intensive task. It involves standing next to a hot stove for an extended period of time, and it is a process that also requires careful attention so as to not burn the tortilla on either side (or your fingers!!)—kind of like making pancakes, but a lot more grueling!
I do not particularly like cooking tortillas, but I do love to eat them!!! Surely, my grandma made them out of necessity, a staple in her large family’s daily meals, but also because of her devotion and love. They were delicious when hot, but also enjoyed cold. I rarely remember a shortage of tortillas in Grandma Frances’ breadbox.
And she never complained—at least, I never heard her complain… I can only imagine how her feet, legs, and back must have ached from the exceedingly long hours spent in the kitchen. Day after never-ending day, this process would be repeated throughout most of her life.
As fast as the tortillas were stacked, they would also quickly disappear… With little trace of a morning or afternoon’s labor, bellies were filled and hearts were comforted with the wholesome goodness from the fruits of her toil. Perhaps my grandma was tempted to count her tortillas a time or two? My guess is that the output of the tortilla factory was far too prolific to make note of such a pointless marker… What would it have mattered anyway—other than to possibly complain that it was extraordinarily difficult, and she couldn’t possibly keep up with the high-level demand!!!!
Through the grace of her God, I am certain, my precious grandmother was able to continue her labors. Through her noble efforts and undying devotion to her family, she kept them alive—both in body, and in spirit! Not only were her tortillas the best, but everything about Grandma Frances’ cooking was the best!!!!!
Today, as I sit and ponder her message, I am forever grateful that she did not waste time in counting her tortillas. Perhaps if she did, she would have been more inclined to just give up. It would have been so easy, but she did not.
Sadly, Grandma Frances also lost a child. My Uncle Johnny was just a bit younger than my own daughter when she was killed. His tragic death was undoubtably an excruciatingly traumatizing event for everyone who loved and adored him, but my thoughts often drift to my sweet grandmother. How was she able to continue making her family’s tortillas after such unspeakable heartache?!!
In the beginning, I am certain that it was only one tortilla at a time. And much like me, I am sure she worked her way from one breath at a time, to eventually one hour at a time, to one day at a time, to one week, to one month, to one year, to two, to three, to four, to five and so on and so forth to eventually more years than she could count… until finally, she reached her sweet son in heaven. Today, she continues her legacy as she guides me along my journey in the subtle art of Never Count Your Tortillas. I’m getting there grandma…