Posted by: silverstar98121 | July 6, 2008


If my grandfathers were similar in many ways, my grandmothers couldn’t have been any different. One was tall and thin, one was short and fat. One washed the sheets every week, even if the bed hadn’t been slept in, the other had dust an inch deep in the house. One crocheted, the other read constantly. One took us to the mountains, the other took us to Disneyland.
Grandma S. had the toys, the sweets, and was always glad to see us. Her house was a respite from the hectic home life. A teacher before she married, she was glad to help us with our homework. She took us out of school to go on trips to Disneyland, the New York World’s Fair in Flushing, the Kansas State Fair, and any other excuse she could think of, reasoning that we would learn more that way than sitting in a classroom being bored stiff. She was right, too. I might never have seen Meteor Crater or wondered about meteors, or seen the Pieta, and what they predicted for the future without those trips. She sent me to a summer art school when I was ten, and I impressed the teacher so much that 15 years later, then the head of a university art department, he remembered me and asked me what I was doing. I owe her my continued pursuits in photography and other art forms.
I loved going over to her house, and exploring the hobby house. There were all kinds of books there, games, and crafts to do. There were old beds we jumped on when no adults were looking. There was a mulberry tree out back that we would eat off of and ruin all our clothes. The was even an old outhouse out back, that nobody was brave enough to use.
Grandma K was a stern disciplinarian, was always busy, and did everything the hard way. She scrubbed her clothes on a wash board even when she had a modern washer, scrubbed them before she put them in. Hung her clothes out to dry long after she had a dryer. Could maybe be persuaded to use the dryer if it was snowing or raining hard. Led prayers of the rosary every trip to the mountains. Even had us praying the rosary on a plane trip to Philadelphia my parents sent me on to break up a relationship that looked like it would end in marriage soon after my graduation from nursing school. They succeeded, but I think they may have regretted it later.
You never wanted to go to Grandma K’s house in the summer, because she would put you to work helping with the canning. You would sit in the basement next to the hot-as-hell wood stove, and peel little green apples the size of golf balls, and inevitably wormy, for days on end. And she would make jelly, which would run because she was too cheap to use pectin. And make applesauce nobody could eat because it was so sour, and she wouldn’t put sugar in it. We’d sleep on sheets I knew my mother had slept on, because they had huge patches in them that would rub your skin raw. And then we’d can the green beans, and the beets and the….
The basement was interesting for other reasons. It had about 6 pantries in it where the grandparents would stock up on stuff on sale, and then it would sit there. But it was a good place to play hide and seek until grandma came back downstairs and put us back to work. When grandpa finally moved out of the house ten years after grandma died, my uncles hauled four truckloads of weevily flour, bulged cans, iffy looking canning jars, and god knows what else out of the basement. And found several thousand dollars stashed, which my mother promptly put in money markets and made a fortune in the late ’80’s.
For a couple of depression era penny-pinchers, those two wasted more money than you can imagine. They wasted money driving all over town to buy bargains they’d never get around to using all of. They put things away “to save for good” until they rotted. They skimped for their old age in their 70’s. If you gave them a dress or a new shirt, they wouldn’t wear it because they were saving it “for good.” I think my mother got a kick, when my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s of dragging out twenty years of gifts and taking them to the nursing home for grandma to wear. At least they didn’t rot like the table cloth she got for her wedding, that there was never an occasion good enough for, until it rotted where it was folded. From this comes my policy of either using gifts, or passing them along to someone who can use it.
Even though they were so different, they both had lessons for me. Even if they weren’t the lessons they thought they were teaching .

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