Monday, December 28, 2009

Wanda

Last fall I received an email from my mother that told about lots of things from the past - a time with no credit cards, most phones were on party lines, people sitting on the front porch, boys on bikes delivering the newspaper and on and on. It made me miss my Grandmother so much. Her name was Wanda and whenever I need peace of mind I just start remembering life at my Grandmother's house. I spent a lot of time there as a child and I so wish she was here and my children could know her. I wrote the following after reading my mom's email and just felt like sharing with you.




My Grandmother

My Grandmother was born in 1906. If she were still alive today she would be 102. Her name was Wanda Elizabeth Lynch. That is why my oldest daughter's name is Heidi Elizabeth. Life at my Grandmother's house was easy and peaceful. The first thing you did after opening the door into the kitchen was go straight to the frycake jar. Frycakes are donuts but better. I still look for frycakes that tasted like those but I haven't tasted one in over twenty years. My grandmother never wore pants. She had house dresses and good dresses. Good dresses were mostly for church or the occasional wedding or party. My Grandmother never drove a car and did not own a TV until her daughter bought her one in 1957. Of course that was black and white. My mother tells me that before they had the TV they would go to a neighbor's house to watch the Arthur Godfrey show. Imagine a neighborhood sharing a TV today. Most families today don't even have to share one TV. I am proud to say that my family of six does share just one TV. My Grandmother was part of the Ladies Aid ( they made quilts I think), the Rebekkah Lodge (I have no idea what they did), she taught piano lessons out of her home, she was the choir director and the organ player at her church. Every Easter the men from the church would haul the piano up onto the back of a pick up truck and drive it to the cemetary. We would be there for sunrise, the real sunrise. We didn't just call it sunrise service and make it a more convenient time. We got up in the dark and drove in the dark and huddled together as we watched the sun make it's appearance. My grandmother use to get up on the back of that pickup and play that piano and sing "The Old Rugged Cross". Sometimes when I think of these memories my head spins at how different life is today. I can feel an ache and a longing that I have learned to accept as part of who I am. My mother and her siblings went to a one room school house - several different grades in one little room, warming their soup on the woodstove for lunch. Sounds heavenly to me. She walked to school and carried her books and her lunch with no back pack and no ipod - imagine that! When I was little my Grandmother use to give a dime to my cousin and a dime to me. This was a lot of money for her to part with and she would have never sucked it up in the vacuum cleaner thinking that it couldn't buy anything. We would walk with our shiny dimes down to the corner store. The floors were wooden and the storekeeper knew us by name. There was a glass front case with penny candy and a small chest freezer with popsicles and fudgesicles. A dime allowed us to get a frozen treat and FIVE different pieces of candy. We were so happy walking back to our Grandma's house. We were content and happy without a care in the world. I use to sit for hours and play canasta with my Grandmother. This game could go on for days and often it did. We would set it up on the dining room table and eat on the TV trays or on the front porch, the side porch or the little kitchen table. The side porch was often where we would eat our lunch, the front porch was for afternoon snack and a rest. Grandma would say "come on dear, let's sit a spell." So we did. We smelled the peonies that lined the front walk, we watched the neighbor Virginia work in her garden, the neighbor boys being boys and the occasional car go by. We were in no hurry to get anywhere, there was nowhere to go. We were present to the moment and we didn't have to meditate or read ten books to know how to do this. We would shuck peas and drink lemonade. The TV was not on, we didn't have the radio either. We just litsened to the sounds of life. Sometimes though we would use the TV trays to eat our dinner and watch TV. We never wondered if this was bad for us or if we weren't connecting as a family. We just thought it was fun. Popcorn was the standard evening snack. If I was there she would holler from the kitchen "dear, I will put butter on it since you are here, I normally don't". I have my doubts, I am pretty sure melted butter on the popcorn was a regular thing at Wanda's even if she was all alone. We would always put the leftover popcorn in the gas oven and the pilot light kept it fresh for the next day's snack. After playing cards or watching a little TV we would go to bed. she always prayed on her knees. She had two twin beds in her room and I would kneel with her next to her bed. She prayed aloud with just a little light coming from the bedside. Her version of a night light was a hankie over a lamp. A fire hazard I suppose but we never thought about that. I can see that room in my mind instantly and just the memory of it comforts me. Chenille bedspread, windows that looked onto the front porch, a bible and a jewelery box on the dresser. Simple but cozy. She never called pajamas by that name, they were night clothes. She wore an apron as part of her outfit and only removed it if we went somewhere. Sometimes she even forgot and would wear it to the store under her coat. Going somewhere meant getting a ride because my Grandmother lived almost twenty years beyond her husband and still she managed to have a beautiful and full life without driving or owning a car. Her common phrase for children was "Bless their heart." How come nobody says this to me anymore???? What a beautiful thing to do - bless someones heart. The last time I spent the night with my grandmother was about eight weeks before she died. I was a junior in highschool. It was January and I just felt like having a sleepover even though I was now in the world with my own car, a job, a boyfriend and lots of social committments. I called her and she said "come on over, dear, I'll be here". That was the last time I would ever hear that. We had frycakes and played canasta. I drove her to the store myself. We had dinner and I sure wish I could remember what it was. We watched a little TV and popped some corn. She never said "do you want some popcorn", she would just get up from her rocking chair and say "I think it is time to pop some corn". We drank faygo soda and ate the popcorn out of the blue melmac bowls one last time. When it was time to put on our nightclothes and pray, she said "come sit beside me on the bed dear, my knees are aching me tonight." So we sat side by side on her chenille bedspread with our hankerchief nightlight. And we prayed. The next morning came and we got ready for church. She let me wear a special pair of earrings from her jewelery box. She told me to keep them. She had never done this before out of the countless times I had sorted her jewelry box and played dress up with my cousin. I was happy she gave them to me but something inside knew. I drove her to church where we sang and prayed some more. We came back to her house and had a snack and then it was time for me to go. We hugged goodbye. A month later she was diagnosed with cancer and another month later she died. Time has not healed this loss I have just gotten more used to it. She missed my graduation from high school and college, my wedding, my children, my whole adult life. She would have added such a richness to the lives of my children and they have missed out on something they don't even know. I hope somehow that there is a part of me that reflects her and they can feel the strength of a woman they never knew. Last August while looking out the screen door at my family celebrating my mother's birthday my Aunt took me aside and said she had never seen this before but she had to do a double take when looking at me. She saw me standing at the door and for a moment she saw her mother. She looked again and still she saw it. She came inside and still she looked at me and saw her mother. Do I need another compliment the rest of my life? I don't think so.

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