autumn days

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finding My Way Home to Grandma Evelyn

My father shared many negative stories of his childhood, as his young days were much more painful than my own.  I heard of how his mother jammed the nail file under his nails to clean out the dirt, how my father never had a birthday cake before he married my mother, how he got coal for Christmas, and about the endless violence.  These were the stories I grew to know. 

When trying to see my father's mother in a more positive way, for the sake of sharing stories with my own children, I uncovered my own memories that began to tell the story of who she was.  I recall getting a birthday card from her every single year.  Her writing was so graceful and neat.  I do not recall much of her few visits.  She sent my mother a round hot pad that said "round to it."  My mother enjoyed finally getting "around to it."  Grandma occasionally sent us savings bonds.  When my grandmother died, she had made sure every grandchild received some inheritance.

As I grew into motherhood, long after Grandma's departure, I realized it is vital to embrace positive stories of our ancestors.  Our children want to hear about the wonderful people from whom they descend.  There are struggles in every life, though as children it feels wonderful to know the positive details of our ancestors' lives.  Knowing very little of my grandmother, I reached out to my cousins on my father's side (some of whom I've met twice, most not at all) and asked for help in finding positive stories of my grandmother.  My cousin Kristen answered the call and continues to bless me with wonderful information.  Each time Kristen shares another piece of my grandmother, I feel I am witnessing another miracle and predictably burst into joyous tears.  My children have grown accustomed to this.  Here's what my cousin has so generously shared.

Grandma Evelyn made the best coffee cake and loaf of bread in town.  Her friends loved to gather in her kitchen to drink coffee and eat her famous coffee cake.  Her bread won awards.  Grandma Evelyn ate a bowl of cherry ice cream every night before bed, something her grandchildren enjoyed.  She loved Charlie Brown and her flower garden.  Her heart was brimming with love for her children and friends.  I have a copy of my grandmother's handwritten bread and coffee cake recipes  And her wedding photo.  My grandmother married my grandfather twice. 

She went without a clothes dryer for years to save money, money later shared with her grandchildren.  My mother takes great comfort in repeating one of my grandmother's original quotes: "Age is a matter of mind over matter; if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  I learned Grandma's birthdate, that she was born 100 years ago in 1914, and she was 36 when she had her first child.  She raised five children who loved her.  (The only time my father cried as an adult was when his mother passed.)  I now have ancestry papers with family genealogy with countries of origin and dates back to 1625 (my first genealogy of any kind on my father's side!).  My eyes were wide with amazement as I explained to six-year-old Hannah that this is more than 150 years before our country was a country!

Grandma Evelyn patiently and lovingly sat my cousin Kristen on a stool and taught her to cook as a young child.  Kristen sees a lot of our grandmother in me.  I have yet to learn what that means, though I am excited to hear more.

These are the stories I choose to share with my children.  My heart heals in knowing these stories and holding them within my heart.  My children and I descend from this comforting, creative, generous, strong, loving woman.  We appreciate her in our line of ancestors.  We give great thanks for these human lives we live because she chose long ago to become a mother to my father.  When I think of Grandmother Evelyn, which is often, I see the deep pink light of love coming from the heavens.  In finding my grandmother, I have found more of myself.  I have come more deeply into my own heart and into the hearts of my children.

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