A Cucumber On My Forehead

And a loving grandmother who put it there.

Deborah Barchi
2 min readOct 4, 2021


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

When I was a young girl, around five or six years old, I would sometimes spend an overnight visit with my grandmother.

We spoke very little. Not because we were shy, or weren’t enjoying each other’s company. But because I only spoke English, and my grandmother only spoke Armenian, with just a very few English words.

Through sign language, facial expressions, and quite a bit of laughter, we managed to communicate what we had to say. As a child, it didn’t really strike me as strange that my grandmother didn’t speak much English. After all, my Italian grandmother spoke very little English as well.

With both I got along just fine, although my grandmothers seemed intent on getting me to eat more. As a girl, I was extremely active and extremely thin. Both my Armenian and Italian grandmothers seemed consumed with urging me to Eat! Eat! Eat!

Most of the time, I was happy to oblige, although I never seemed to eat nearly enough to dispel their anxiety. At my Italian grandmother’s, I indulged in home-made pizza, macaroni, and meatballs. At my Armenian grandmother’s the tasty fare centered around pilaf, pita, and shish kabab.

It was while helping my Armenian grandmother prepare a salad one summer afternoon that I experienced a delightful and unexpected sensory surprise. The apartment was extremely hot and humid. Back then almost no one had air conditioners. The one small fan in the window did little more than tussle with the sticky air.

Sweat was beaded on our foreheads. Our thin cotton clothes clung to our bodies. We moved slowly, preserving our small bits of energy.

Suddenly my grandmother chopped off the end of a large cucumber. Turning to me, she pressed the cucumber slice on my sweaty forehead.

Ahhh! Instant relief! How cool that slice of cucumber felt! Although it covered only a very small space on my forehead, my whole body tingled with relief and delight.

Seeing my big smile, my grandmother burst into her deep, rolling laugh. Nothing ever made her happier than to see her grandchildren smile.

To this day it amuses me to see photos of pampered clients in high-class salons, wearing matching slices of cucumbers on their closed eye lids. Long before the advent of facials ,my grandmother knew the value of a slice of cucumber to revive a tired face!

And to this day, although many decades have passed, I never prepare a salad, that I don’t remember my grandmother and me on that scorching summer’s day. My grateful surprise, her delighted laughter, and that slice of cucumber clinging like a cool, bright blessing to my forehead.



Deborah Barchi

Deborah Barchi has recently retired from her career as a librarian and now has time to read, explore nature, and write poetry and essays.