Connecting to the Past

For years now members of my family have been telling me that I am a great deal like my paternal grandmother. I knew there were similarities, but the real connection didn’t hit me until this morning, when I came in from working in the garden and had a biscuit for breakfast.

Let me explain.

My grandmother, Emma, had a great, huge garden sprawling up the hill in back of her house in West Virginia. Every morning during growing season, she would be out on the hill tending to the garden. She’d sit down on her heels and scootch down a row of beans weeding and picking at the same time. When she got to the end of one row, she’d stand up and stretch, then start down the next row.

In addition to beans, Emma grew tomatoes, peppers, corn, beets and all kinds of greens. She could have set up a vegetable stand in front of her house and made a small fortune. Instead, she canned what she didn’t give away. Family and friends always knew where to come for fresh produce.

Emma spent endless hours in her garden, and when she broke for breakfast or dinner, her food of choice was always a biscuit. Not just any old biscuit, but a baking powder biscuit that she could make like no other, except for my Aunt Opal, Emma’s oldest daughter.

Accompanying the biscuit for breakfast might be an egg or a piece of fruit. I had mine this morning with a peach. Dinner — lunch to city folk — was biscuits and beans. Supper, the biscuit might give way to a pan of cornbread with the beans and a sliced tomato.

Like Emma, I am drawn to the outdoors and to gardening. Even in this Texas heat I am out early in the mornings weeding, watering, trimming, or whatever needs to be done. And I have a pasture to maintain. Grandma never had large animals. Just a few chickens, and they don’t leave great gobs of stuff that have to be shoveled and carted off.

My garden isn’t as big as hers was, but every time I go out to do some weeding, I think of her. Sometimes I even sit on my heels and try the scootching thing. And this morning when I broke the biscuit into my bowl, the connection to her was so strong it stopped me for a moment.

What an amazing thing to know that people are never really gone forever. Some part of them still lives on through us.

I hope you enjoyed the biscuit, Grandma.

6 thoughts on “Connecting to the Past”

  1. How wonderful to hear about your grandmother.

    Opal is an “old” name. I know of one other – my husband has an Aunt Opal.

    Our garden is not fairing so well. We’ve been getting lots of tomatoes, some okra, cantaloupe and have some watermelon growing. Problem is, we use well water for the garden and outdoor plants. And we’ve been having problems with the well. So, we’re working to keep the garden from burning up in the Texas heat.

    Straight From Hel

  2. I also feel a connection to my paternal grandmother, but I only realized it within the past year or so. But the recognition was so intense, it brought tears to my eyes.
    I never had a conversation with this grandmother although she lived until I was 17. We had a language barrier, she speaking only in Czech, the “mother-tongue” which my sisters and I felt no need to learn. But recently, as I come more and more to “watch” my ways, I see her in me. We both have a connection to our gardens and, perhaps more intensely, we have sewing as our escapism and outlet for creativity.

  3. My father was a very keen gardener initially out of necessity to feed the family and then just through a pure love of gardening.I have been writing about some of his methods recently as in Growing Red Tomatoes. The first post was dedicated to him. Your post about your Grandma reminded me of him a little.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Helen, my garden is burned up in this heat. Got a few tomatoes, but not even enough to can. It has been terrible.

    Irene, I loved your comment. Brought tears to my eyes, too. That “recognition” can be so profound it is bittersweet.

    Thanks for the link to your blog, Brian. I will check it out.

  5. My cousin in West Virginia just got back from vacation and read this piece about Grandma. She sent me this e-mail:

    I laugh many times when I serve biscuits and pass them around the table. Often I will copy what Grandma would say as she passed the biscuits, but I am only saying it because of her. Her phrase as she passed the plate of biscuits around the table, handing them to the next person, was, “Now you really don’t want a biscuit,do you?” And if you said, “No” her response with a chuckle was, “Good….more left for me.” You know as well as I do that she was joking, but the memory is really sweet and true Grandma!! She was a one of a kind, so loving and caring and sharing. I only wish I were more like her!

  6. This entry was very special to me. I miss my paternal Grandma, Strelsa, deeply. I wish with every bit of my soul that she would have had the chance to play with my 3 little girls. As I watch the twins sleep, I see glimmers of Grandma. She does live on… A piece of her is in me, in my girls, and my future grandbabies.

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