Remembering Grandma

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving this coming Thursday, I’ve been in a reflective mood and was delighted when a friend sent me this poem about November.

Isn’t that lovely? It conjures all kinds of sweet memories, especially ones of Thanksgivings that were spent in West Virginia at my father’s childhood home. Those were boisterous, glorious celebrations with extended family spilling all over the house, and we all stuffed ourselves on the wonderful food prepared by the women, led by Grandma Emma.

That was a different time when roles between male and female were more clearly defined, but the women in my father’s extended family never seemed to mind being relegated to the kitchen, and Grandma Emma seemed most content there. Unless she was working in her garden, or quilting, or hooking rugs.

Several years ago, I wrote about my grandmother here on the blog, and I decided to find the post and share it again today. This was written while I still lived out in the country, before being sidelined by Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

 Connecting Past and Present

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 doing some work in my 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 Fairmont, 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, Grandma 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 go for fresh produce.

In the summer, she 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 none 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. For supper, the biscuit might give way to a pan of cornbread with the beans and a sliced tomato.

My grandmother was a small woman, barely five-feet four-inches tall, just a “slip of a woman” as some fiction writers like to say. Yet she was strong and tireless and devoted to taking care of family. She raised four children by herself, providing for them by taking in washing and ironing for people who had the means to pay someone else to do those chores.

She was a firm believer in the old adage about idle fingers and the devil, so she made sure that when we visited we were all kept busy. My siblings and I learned early on that she considered play a good enough diversion from the devil, so we could do a few chores then run off to play in the creek.

Like my grandmother, I’m drawn to the outdoors and to gardening. Except for this summer when the drought killed my garden, I’m always normally out early in the mornings – weeding, watering, trimming, clearing brush, 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 of the maintenance work, I think of her. Sometimes I even sit on my heels and try the scootching thing, even though I’ve never mastered the move.

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.

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Do you have special memories of those that have gone before you? Care to share? Thanksgiving memories welcome, too.

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