Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Gramma (shhh!)

Today would be my Gramma's 120th birthday, but it's a good thing she didn't hear me say that. Being the center of attention for any reason -- especially advanced age -- was never her thing.

Gramma enjoyed talking politics, although I seem to recall that only her view was right. She knew about plants and trees and could identify all sorts of native species by their common names. She loved her family, but was never mushy about it. Gramma was an independent woman, driving her car well into her 80's. It would be nice to place her photograph at the top of this post, but she didn't like cameras and they didn't like her. Although she smiled regularly in real life, that image was rarely caught on film.

Gramma grew up in Nebraska. Her father was a railroad station agent, and her mother's health necessitated at least one move to a gentler climate. Around the age of 13, Gramma lost her mother. A few years later, six tornadoes in a single day made Gramma decide to head West. She arrived in California just in time for an earthquake. She married a distant relative (but that's another story) and eventually moved to Washington State.

Gramma sometimes spent a weekend or holiday at our house, attending church and visiting. One time, driving me to an orthodontic appointment, she was yelled at by a man who felt she was driving too slowly. "He called me Grandma. Is that that nice man from your church? He always calls me that." It's not a bad thing to be slightly hard of hearing.

My parents had heard of an ointment to soothe tired feet. It was a white cream infused with menthol, and reeked to high heaven. Gramma must have been poking around in the bathroom before bed, and decided that was just the thing to put on her nose. How she closed her eyes with that stuff on her face (the fumes should have blown her eyelashes off!) was beyond our understanding, but she reported the next morning that she had slept well.

My Gramma taught me how to sew and embroider. She appreciated music and kept a piano in her home, and gave me a piano so I could take lessons. When I spent weekends with her, we'd go out to eat at Woolworth's lunch counter or El Toro at the mall. Breakfast was Corn Flakes, apple juice, and powdered milk. I suppose I could have learned from her how to make prune duff, but believe me, I never asked. I did ask about plant identification, and learned a little. Maybe the best thing I learned from Gramma was wonder. Wonder at nature, and wonder at human nature. People are, after all, complex and amusing creatures.

Happy Birthday, Gramma.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting woman your Gramma was! A wonderful tribute to her. (I especially like your description of the salve that should have "blown her eyelashes off!) :)


Katharine said...

You shoulda seen her...