Note: This post is not about a book. It is, however, about a woman who loved literature and the written word just as much, if not more than, myself. I hope you enjoy a glimpse into one of God’s most precious gifts for my life: my Grandma.
If I only had the chance to tell you one thing about my grandmother, Mary, or “Grandma Bob” as we lovingly referred to her, it would be that she always has 100% supported my love of reading and writing. Even back when I was a five year old girl making little stories in board books and filling envelopes with little notes and pictures, she would tell me again and again that I had a gift for writing. I would write stories in grade school for the Young Author’s Conference and always share them with Grandma. Then in junior high and high school, I wrote some poetry, and she always had positive, constructive feedback. She would always say, “Laura, I hope you always continue to write.” Over my busy college years, early married life, and the years our boys were very young, I didn’t write much. But, I always remembered Grandma’s encouragement and kept it close to my heart. Over the past few years, I have started writing a book. I’ve also been writing book reviews for quite a few years. When I write, I am able to close my eyes and see Grandma smiling and nodding her head in encouragement with a look of joy that her dreams for me have been realized. And my heart is full of gratitude for my short-statured, strong-willed, loving grandmother. My goal is to finish the book. And who knows, maybe I’ll write another book someday. But, you can bet that I will give all the credit to the tiny seed which my beautiful, inspiring Grandma planted back when I was too young to realize what she saw so clearly in me.
Here is a video my sweet Gram sent me after watching a bunch of my book review talks:
So, to honor my Grandma Bob, I’m writing what is on my mind today. Memories of growing up, wrapped in the loving embrace of my parents, but also of two sets of loving, wonderful grandparents who shaped my life in more ways than I could ever express. Sure, everyone probably has memories from their childhood, but some of my most vivid memories involve my grandparents. And here’s something that’s no secret: Grandma Bob was always my favorite. It was hard to top her smiles and laughter and constant support. Our shared love of literature truly allowed us to connect on such a deeper level as kindred spirits. I hope to show through the documentation of these memories just how much impact Grandma has had on my life and how much she will always mean to me. This is for you, Grandma Bob. With all of my heart and soul, I thank you and love you.
Countless times I walked through the Summer Kitchen and through the double doors into Grandma’s kitchen to the sound of the tea kettle whistling and the smell of fresh dough rising, or pie baking. Many times I would come in to see Grandma in her sundress, the windows blowing a breeze through the hot kitchen, elbows deep in dough for one of her specialities – apple slab pie, cinnamon rolls, black raspberry pie, yeast rolls – the likes of which would all put Amish women to shame. My Grandma’s baked goods were hard to beat, and I’m thankful she passed them on to my mom, and that my mom, in turn, passed them on to my sister and I. I delight in making cinnamon rolls with Grandma’s old rolling pin, and mixing up bread dough in her stainless steel mixing bowls which have her name carved into the bottom. Grandma always had an awesome garden, too. I remember helping her pick beans and then sitting on her back porch snapping beans while we solved the world’s problems.
A few other things I vividly remember from Grandma’s kitchen are picking out walnuts around her kitchen table, waiting (not so patiently) while the men cranked the homemade ice cream freezers for our family ice cream parties, and drinking tea out of the tiny little teacups and saucers she had just for the grandkids. How that bitter Lipton hot tea tasted so good to the five of us grandkids is a mystery we may never solve. I believe it has something to do with the unique tea cups (of which each of us had a favorite) and great company. I’ll bet all five of us grandkids could tell you which teacup we liked best to this very day.
There was a certain doorway between Grandma’s kitchen and the living room that will always bring fond memories for our family. The white wood on the door frame had hundreds of marks, names, and dates. Grandma loved to have us stand up tall in the doorframe and she would (sometimes standing on tippy toes as we got older) hold a pencil over our head and mark the wall. Then she would have us write our name and the date. I can remember doing them as a young girl and also doing it while I was in my college years. All the grandkids did it. It was just something we did and looked forward to doing. Grandma loved to measure between the marks and see how much we had grown since we had been there last. Those wood boards and that tradition is truly a testament to Grandma’s unbreakable bond and unbounding love for her grandkids.
Because my parents both worked in a school corporation different from the one we attended, my younger brother, older sister, and I would ride the school bus to Grandma’s house after school and stay for a few hours each day. Not only was this fun spent with our grandparents, we had the added bonus of spending time with our two older, male cousins as well. Apparently going to school made kids ravenous, because the first thing we would do when we got off the school bus was head directly to the kitchen for snacks. Grandma had these nifty little grilled cheese sandwich makers, and we made little triangle sandwiches that really hit the spot like nothing else could at the time. With 5 hungry kids all wanting them at the same time, I’m sure her patience waned, but patience was something she had in spades. Thankfully Grandma could crank those triangle shaped delicacies out pretty quick! Of course, she often had cookies and other goodies waiting for us, but the grilled cheese sandwiches will always bring me right back to Grandma’s kitchen. Have I made you hungry yet? To pass the time after school (after we took care of our hunger problems), we would pick one of Grandma’s many VHS tapes of movies she had recorded over the years. My personal favorite was The Goonies. (“Hey, you guysssssss!”) I have no idea how many times I watched it, but I remember it like it was yesterday. We also developed quite the love for Anne of Green Gables and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Those will also both always remind me of Grandma’s house.
Friends, in case you don’t already know, I’m a country girl, born and raised. My Grandma lived out in the country, just around the block from us on a farm with lots of room to run, barns to play in, and a barnyard full of possibilities. We could walk through the field and pasture and be at Grandma’s door in about 10-12 minutes. So many adventures were had on the way to Grandma’s. I remember one time in high school after working my summer job, I came home and realized that I was locked out of the house. My parents were gone, and this was back before cell phones. (Dinosaur, I know!). Well, I walked my frustrated little self through the field to Grandma’s house and she literally made it all better. Not only did I get the spare key so I could get in, but she enjoyed the story and filled me up with love and laughter. I was a much happier camper on the walk back home, thanks to her! When Grandpa was alive and they would host the family reunion at the farm, I remember doing penny scrambles. If you haven’t ever done a penny scramble, I highly recommend you try one. Good old fashioned fun.
Grandma and Grandpa Bob also hosted the family Easter Egg Hunt every year. Grandpa and the men would hide all the eggs and then Grandma and the women would release us to find them. We would occupy ourselves for hours outside, climbing the wide branches of The Climbing Tree, pretending to be Tarzan while swinging from ropes in the barn, and even grinding corn with the old corn grinder. Another thing I highly suggest trying, by the way. I’ll always remember the sound of that. Since we lived on a highway, we weren’t (for good reason!) allowed to ride our bikes on the road. However, Grandma lived on a country road that was quieter, so we were allowed to bike on her road. Nothing spells freedom like a kid zooming down the road on a bike. Race you to the walnut tree! We had our own little bike gang, and boy did we put the miles on those bikes! Back and forth we went down 20B road.
One particular memory which took place in Grandma’s barnyard involves my older cousin and an old donkey who lived there for a few years. How many of you can say you have ridden a donkey? Well, silly as it may be, I am proud to say that I have. I was a teenager at the time. My cousin had this idea to ride the donkey so he hopped up on its back and tried all sorts of ways to get it going. He yelled some encouragement, slapped its side a bit, those sorts of things. However, that donkey did not budge. So, he hopped down and said I was next. I was the younger cousin and I didn’t want to disappoint my cool older cousin, so I hopped up on that donkey’s back. No sooner was I seated and that donkey took off like a shot, running in circles around the barnyard like a chicken with its head cut off. I was desperately trying to hold on to the broad-backed beast with my bare hands, but I lost the fight. He bucked me right off into the mud. And do you know what my cousin was doing the whole time while I frantically yelled for him to help “get me off of this thing”? Laughing. Bent over, gut-busting, belly laughs. Then we went to tell Grandma and delight in her laughter while we recounted the tale. I may have had a sore tailbone and a huge dent in my pride, but boy did I have a funny story to tell. That is a memory he and I will probably never forget.
I’m not one to re-read books. However, there is one particular book, which is more of a short story really, that I re-read every year around Christmas time. What is even more special, perhaps, is that every year I have the pleasure of reading it aloud to my grandmother, Mary. Each year we enjoy it more, even though we could recite many of the passages by heart. For the past 20 years, we have read A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote together. It is our own Christmas tradition, a Christmas memory that I hope to pass down to my children and to their children as well someday.
The first time that I had ever heard of A Christmas Memory was back in high school. Our English teacher read it aloud to our class, and I am so thankful that she did. Something about the story really resonated with me. I was at a used bookstore a few months later and happened to find a copy of it. My grandma and I have always talked about books and both love literature, so I shared it with her one year and we have read it every Christmas season since then! Reading this with my Grandma every year is something we looked forward to and enjoyed so, so much. In recent years, other family members have listened in a few times, including my oldest son who is now 11 years old, close to the main character Buddy’s age during the time of the story. We always had tea together while we enjoyed the story, as well.
Grandma has always encouraged me to write, even from when I was little writing her poems and notes (which she had no doubt kept safely preserved in a box all these years). I’ve always had a special, close friendship with my Grandma and she is so dear to me. And literature and the written word have always been a huge part of our bond. For both of these, I am truly thankful.
As I have been reminiscing on all of these moments involving my sweet Grandma, I am also reminded of my own children and their relationship with Great Grandma Bob. I’m so grateful that my boys have had 11 and 7 years, respectively with her as well. They fondly remember riding bikes down the road to her house, raiding the big cookie jar on the counter which she kept filled with Dum Dum suckers just for them, and the ice cream treats she kept stocked in the freezer for them. And as I close out this story, I can see my Grandpa Bob smiling from ear to ear as he once again wraps Grandma up in a hug. Together again, and smiling down at the beauty and goodness which they created together here on Earth.
God is so, so good. Rest easy, Grandma.
Here are a few other sweet messages she sent for my boys:
Grandma also loved music. Because music is such a wonderful help with healing and understanding, I want to leave you with two songs that I am clinging to at the moment. I hope you enjoy them as well.
And one last photo showing my beautiful Gram: