I was sitting here, scrolling through the shares of others, mentally working on my morning write when my mother called. It is a usual routine now for her to call around 8:30 every morning. As she talked, I did listen, but still my mind pondered which way I would go with the walk way prompt. Then, mom reminded me of something, today would have been my grandmother’s birthday. She didn’t tell me how old she would have been, and I didn’t ask. I simply listened as mom talked.
When the conversation wound down to its end, I sat in my own memories. Having grown up here, my childhood memories are never far away, tucked away in a corner awaiting being invited back out to play for a while. As Peter Pan said, ‘my happy thoughts’.
My grandmother was a lovely lady in every sense of the word. She was also a lady who held strong standards in all things. You acted right, you spoke properly, you showed others and their belongings respect. Her moral standards were high, and she expected no less from us. Yet, in all of her strength, she had an amazing gentleness. She held a deep love and belief in family.
She was more to us that a grandmother, she was our second mother.They lived right next door to us, meaning we spent as much time there as we did at home. We didn’t need summer camp, we had grandparents who watched us like hawks and a dead end dirt road as a playground and adventure center. It wasn’t only our moral standards that were honed, but also our imagination, creativity and sense of adventure were encouraged and assisted.
And cook, oh my word, could she cook. She knew our favorites and would prepare them often. I remember and miss those bread, real butter and honey snacks and real old fashioned hot cocoa.
She could also do a wonderful rendition of the Charleston and invited us to join her when she danced.
During the summer we were only allowed inside to eat, the bathroom and to watch one or two programs on television. Otherwise we were outside and loving every moment. Inside was that moment of rest and reset. Outside was the adventure around every corner and behind and up, every tree.
The only time I recall ever having been struck by her, was when I flat out told her I wasn’t going to learn spelling words. That slap was so unexpected it remains in memory to this day. I also never refused anything ever again.
In their front yard, were two hammocks, some kind of spinning, riding apparatus (which was a blast) and a huge trellis of wisteria vines. To stretch out on those hammocks and gaze drowsily up into the oak trees was heaven on earth.
In their back yard, was a huge grapevine that produced some of the largest, sweetest deep purple grapes. Many hours were spent laid out in the grass out back watching the clouds pass overhead seeking out the shapes.
I remember their garden and all of the vegetables that it produced. We dug potatoes that filled up the storage building and lasted the winter. We picked tomatoes and ate them straight from the vine. We picked beans and sat on the front porch snapping them, preparing them for canning. Conversation between mom and grandma was varied and always interesting.
Canning was an experience. At that time, they didn’t have one of those fancy, modern pressure canners. They had a huge, metal cauldron out back, not far from the edge of the woods. They would fill it with water and build a fire underneath. By the time it was all said and done, there would be rows upon rows of canned vegetables lining the shelves in that cement block storage building.
She is also the one who was a firm believer in scared straight. That too, was a lesson that stuck. I believe I wrote about that before, I can’t find it though. But to condense it, my brother and I were somewhere we shouldn’t have been, she pretended to be a monster/ghost in the woods and scared us back home. I didn’t know, and haven’t been able to since, that I could run that fast and that far.
I remember the times mom and grandma would head out for their usual Saturday shopping trips. The times I would be allowed to tag along. The time I wanted that first cup of coffee and grandma convinced mom to let me have it. The drink ended up being more sugar than coffee, but it had been grandma that talked mom into the moment.
I can only imagine, if she were still here physically among family, there would be a lot of spoiled and yet well behaved children. Children who were being taught how to live life to the fullest their imagination would allow and then some. Children who would be taught standards and respect. Children who would know, beyond anything else, they were and are loved.
My grandmother, a special blend of strength, intelligence, and love. We were allowed, under controlled circumstances to grow and explore. As we grew old enough, the areas we were allowed expanded. A brain tumor took her from us physically, but she remains forever in our heart and memories. She played a very large part in who we have become. If only I were half the lady she was.