As I age, I find myself reflecting on the past to happier times. My maternal grandmother is usually at the forefront of my thoughts. I don’t think there is a day that goes by, that I don’t think of her. Perhaps, I have read something in a book or a magazine that reminds me of her, or my eye catches some of the treasures I have of hers placed throughout my home. That’s when the memories pour in, from all the cherished places I have kept them, to be pulled out when I need them most.
I’m a lot like my grandmother, in that I love the simple things in life. The beauty of nature, reading quietly in a favorite chair, drinking tea out of a bone china teacup, jotting down poems or thoughts on a piece of scrap paper, and being mindful and grateful for all that God has provided.
She taught me how to get along with what you have and to find joy in the simple things. I loved spending time with her and learning things, as I watched her. She taught me so much, and I don’t think she realized that she had done so. She had a quiet strength about her that made me feel safe and loved.
My grandmother didn’t have much money, she lived off her small social security check. Sure there are people that more than likely thought of her as poor, but in reality, she was rich. She was rich in spirit, strength, perseverance, humbleness, gratitude, love of family, and God. She knew what mattered and it wasn’t money. She knew how to make do with the little she had, and she didn’t waste anything. She had grown up in an era where things weren’t easy, and getting into a car and running to a grocery store didn’t exist. Where people caught fish to eat, or hunted for meat, and grew their own vegetables. An era where people sewed their own clothes and washed them in a big tub or pot of water and a washboard. She knew what work was.
She also had the added responsibility of raising her siblings. While her siblings went to school and later to college, my grandmother only completed the eighth grade. In an unfortunate family tragedy, my grandmother was no longer a child, but a “mom” to her siblings. Being the oldest child, it fell to her to raise them.
I never heard her complain though, about her life, it was just the way things were. You got up in the morning and did what you had to do, only to start all over the next day.
What I realized as an adult was that my grandmother never let obstacles get in her way. Although she never went beyond the eighth grade, she continued learning. She would practice her penmanship while sitting at her desk. In the built-in bookcase, in her dining room, sat books of Emerson, Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Thoreau, and many more classics. She had school books for Math, English, along with the History of the United States and Canada. She had a big Webster’s dictionary too. Everything she needed to continue her education, when there was time, was on that bookshelf.
I have many of her books now. I developed a love for Edgar Allan Poe, Hemingway, and Pearl Buck from an early age. When Grandma was busy making lunch or had fallen asleep in her rocking chair, I would go to the bookcase and pull out a book or two to read. That’s where I learned that there was a bigger world out there than grandma’s house in Sault Ste. Marie. I’m pretty sure that my love for books and reading came from my grandmother.
If we weren’t spending time indoors, you would find us walking around her yard or sitting on the front porch, watching the bees buzz around the lilac bushes. She always wore an apron with pockets in them or carried a small basket when we walked around her yard. She would fill it with rhubarb, wild raspberries, strawberries, and some mint, depending on the season. Nothing went to waste. The jams and jellies she made were wonderful on her homemade bread fresh from the oven, and the rhubarb pie was warm and tasty. And a sprig of mint, in the tea added something special to it. It made me feel like a grown-up or a princess, at least.
I love sharing stories about my grandmother. Not only do they make me smile, but they make me feel loved. She was an inspiration to me, just by being who she was and how she lived. I wish I had her strength and perseverance, but when I need that extra strength to get me through each day, I think of my grandmother and how she would handle things. It helps to remember that someone special, who made such an impression on me. I think that is what memories are for, the good ones, at least, to bring forth and honor those who loved us and inspired us, to be the best we can be. Just maybe, that’s how they leave a legacy in this world, a tribute of sorts, of being remembered. After all, I don’t think anyone ever wants to be forgotten, but in their kind acts and quiet ways, they leave those wonderful memories, to be thought of and shared over and over again, never to be forgotten.
Written by: Laurie Davis