My grandmother's influence on my life will always be with me.
|My mother divorced my father when I was 4 and took my three older brothers and me to live with my grandparents on what remained of a farm. My grandfather had a stroke earlier and my grandmother was now caretaker to him and babysitter to us while mom worked at Dexter Shoe in, where else, Dexter, Maine.
The life lessons those next 13 years would give me were precious and made me into the strong woman I am today.
My mother worked at least 40 hours a week and sometimes worked overtime to help with the family finances. She came home, exhausted, yet sewed aprons to sell at work in the evenings. She sewed some of my clothes too. My grandmother was always up early as there was always much to do, and in the summer it was cooler to tend her gardens before the sun got too high. She picked strawberries and raspberries and made enough jam to last until the next summer.
Her gardens were beautiful. Not only did she have a large vegetable garden, she grew amazing flowers and there was usually a bouquet of flowers on the large dining room table. My brothers were old enough to keep the grass mowed and coupled with her flower beds made for a lovely landscape. When her “chores” were done she would take a break and work on the sewing she took in to make some money. One of our neighbors had a daughter that was, as Grammy would say “a bit on the heavy side” and hired Grammy to sew her clothes that were attractive, and it kept grammy busy in the late summer making school clothes. She also sewed some amazing clothes for me, as well as providing an awesome Christmas Barbie doll clothes for me. I will never forget my amazement as I opened a small package with a tiny red corduroy coat complete with fur trim for my Barbie.
As the summer waned the canning season came on strong. Grammy canned quart upon quart of green beans and carrots, the staples of our winter meals. It was always a goal that someone in the family, or my oldest brother, would shoot a deer which she would can. I never liked the tallowy taste and feel of venison but mom and brothers loved the chunks of deer meat that had its own gravy which they poured over their potatoes, another staple for winter meals.
Grammy watched the “Edge of Night” every day, which came on just about the time I got off the school bus. I would grab a cookie and sit and watch it with her as she crocheted or knit. She belonged to the Grange and rarely missed a Sunday service at the local Baptist Church. Sometimes I would go to Church with her although I spent more time counting the ceiling tiles than I did listening to the pastor. However, when the pastor picked up his guitar and he and his wife would sing my attention was on them. For many years she served as Chaplain in Grange.
I distinctly remember her making a granny square afghan which she donated to the Grange for a raffle. She was so generous, even though she had little. The money she earned from sewing she put into yarn to make something to raise money for others. An important lesson.
I’m so pleased that I have a tablecloth that she crocheted, although I don’t use it for fear I’ll ruin it. I think I must have learned that from her; every Christmas and birthday she would get lovely gifts from her 7 sons and daughters but she rarely wore the lovely nightgowns, robes, sweaters, and jewelry they gave her saying she would save them for special occasions.
She was an incredible cook. Her yeast rolls and doughnuts were incredible. She usually made plain donuts but once in a while, she’d made molasses doughnuts, my favorite. She made all of our meals from scratch, including a dessert after supper, not once in a while, but every night.
Thanksgiving was always at our house and she would cook for days before the big day. Her pies were epic and there were usually at least 20 pies! She would bake enough rolls to supply a bakery and we would eat all of them. I can still smell the yeasty goodness. As her sons and daughters and their families arrived the men would go out hunting while the women bumped into each other getting the meal ready. The children usually went to a nearby pond to ice skate and when we got back to the house it would be a crazy rush to set up tables for the adults (always the big round oak table in the dining room, the teens would have a table in the kitchen, the tweens another smaller table in the kitchen, and any highchairs would be set up near the adult table. Every year the teens would hope for a seat at the big table but it usually took a death or an adult not able to attend to free up a seat. When I was ten, a seat opened when my grandfather passed away.
When I was in my early teens we had a big blizzard that closed off the road and knocked out our power for days. Some of my brothers had already left home for their duty in the Army and Air Force and the remaining brother had raging hormones that kept him at his girlfriend’s house every available moment. Mom was at work and Grammy and I sat in the kitchen huddled around the gas range with the door opened. I was reading and she was knitting as we sat with our feet on the oven door. Suddenly, I smelled something burning and looked down to see my slippers smoking. I kicked them off and grammy and I just found it so funny that we laughed till tears ran down our faces.
So, what did I learn from a grandmother who never told me she loved me or hugged me?
I learned that people show their love in different ways. Some say I love you so frequently that it doesn’t seem genuine. Grammy showed her love for us by taking care of our needs. One time I mentioned to her that school lunch that day had been hamburger and gravy over mashed potatoes and it was delicious. Two days later she made it for supper.
I learned that love doesn’t hold grudges. I eloped with my boyfriend shortly before my graduation from high school. When I came home to get my belonging she gave me a beautiful crazy quilt that she had been working on for months. Some of the pieces of fabric were so tiny! She told me it would fit my new home well. She never brought up how much I had hurt my mother by eloping with a man she very much disapproved of. She just loved me, unconditionally.
I learned that hard work is never wasted.
I learned that you give back to those less fortunate than you.
I learned that a good soap opera is worth taking an hour out of your day for, especially if you have a grandchild watching it with you.
I learned that you help your family when they need it.
I learned how to garden and can the harvest.
I learned how to cook (although I’ve never attempted molasses doughnuts).
I learned to work hard.
I learned to plan for the future.
I learned that life does go on after the death or sickness of your spouse. You pull up your big panties and move forward.
I learned the importance of a relationship with Almighty God and accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior.
I was so blessed to have this wonderful God-fearing woman having a huge impact on my life. I cannot imagine how different my life would be now if it hadn’t been for her teaching me right from wrong. She was an amazing woman and I pray that my grandchildren view me as a positive impact on their lives.