Nov/Dec
2011

Smothered in Love - Reflections on Grandma

Written by Laurie Helmers
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GrandmaArticlePhotocopyLots of friends my age are becoming grandmothers. Since I’m too young to be one myself, I’m vicariously enjoying their excitement. Yet, none of them really look old enough either.

    When I picture a grandma, I see a tall, sturdy farm woman in a flowered cotton shirtwaist and ric-rac-trimmed apron. She has tight gray curls tucked in a hair net, big magnifying eyeglasses, and lots of wrinkles, especially when she smiles.

    I spent a lot of time with Grandma Charlotte since she lived just a mile from my parents’ farm. She actually cared for me the first months of my life while my mom recuperated from surgery. Of course, I don’t remember that, but I do recall lots of other wonderful memories, like …

♥ Making Grandma’s Pecan Refrigerator Cookies. That’s what my stained recipe card calls them. My job was rolling the dough into “logs” and, of course, eating them after she sliced and baked them. I also have the recipe for her traditional English plum pudding, although my childhood taste buds could only appreciate it with mounds of heavy whipping cream.

♥ The day she let me peek inside the mysterious “swill pail” in the kitchen corner. It’s where she scraped everything the humans wouldn’t or couldn’t eat, but the pigs would. (The image still curbs my appetite.)

♥ Her propensity to store things (instant coffee) in reused jars still bearing the original label (“coffee grounds”). My uncle got the first taste of the pot my “label-believing” sister brewed one holiday. He ran for the aforementioned swill pail.

♥ Sunday night family 500 card games when Grandma’s table
talk was blunt during bidding. If the person to her right said “Seven clubs,” she’d sigh and say, “I guess that means I can’t say six hearts.”

♥ The time I unexpectedly had to stay in town after school for a basketball game. I walked to Grandma’s house. (She’d moved from the farm after Grandpa died.) She made a quick supper of hot dogs, green beans, and strawberry sauce. I scored my career high of 55 points that night. I ate her “good luck” meal every home game that season.

♥ Grandma’s hands gripped at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel of her little Chevy sedan with me reaching over to honk the horn repeatedly as we sped down the highway at 6 a.m. to catch the marching band bus. I’d stayed in town the night before to walk
up to school, but we both slept through her alarm.

♥ Homecoming 1974 when short hot pants and long crocheted vests were the fad. Grandma got out her hook but modestly altered the pattern into mid-calf pedal pushers and a bolero.
I never had the heart to confess that I wore a denim skirt instead.

♥ Visiting Grandma in her new assisted living apartment on my college breaks and becoming her pedicurist because she could
no longer see well enough or bend over to reach her feet.

♥ The four-generations picture when my dad and I watched Grandma hold my son for the first time. The two of them looked at each other with matching big brown eyes and smiled at each other with identical huge dimples on plump, rosy cheeks.

♥ The last time I saw my Grandma alive when I visited her in the nursing home after a series of strokes. I don’t know if she knew me or not, but she broke into a big grin when I gave her a bunch of bananas. (I’d learned from the nurse that she was “bananas”
for them!)

♥ During reminiscences after Grandma’s funeral in 1985, I shared my favorite memory. As a little girl, I stayed over many Saturday nights while my parents went dancing. Grandma and Grandpa had twin beds in opposite corners of the cold, dark upstairs bedroom of their old farmhouse. Grandma would tuck me under the covers next to her in what tiny space was left. I’d lay there wide awake ‘til morning listening to her snoring, gasping for air between the ins and outs of her heaving bosom. Then, I dreaded those nights. Now, I treasure how I was smothered in love.