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Thursday, August 9, 2012
My Grandma Jones
Grandma's luck was in jelly jars
of four leaf clovers
on window sills.
Not in blackberry pies
with syrupy sodden bottoms
and charred crusts.
Nor in "Rock of Ages" on old piano
with scarred keys
Not in slippered feet, falling hose
fugitive sidewalk fowl.
No, Grandma's luck was in jelly jars
of four leaf clovers
on window sills.
The word grandma brings a mental picture of a slightly plump, beaming, older woman lavish with her hugs. That grandma loved to cook big meals for her family when they came to visit. That was probably like my father's mother, but my only memory of her is when my dad picked me up so I could see her lying in her coffin in front of the baby grand piano in the parlor.
The grandma I remember so fondly is my Grandma Jones, who lived on the farm across the road from us. She was a tiny thin woman who didn't weigh much more than a hundred pounds if that. Her cooking was minimal and her meals often consisted of a donut and coffee for breakfast, and if she came to eat at our house for dinner; a teaspoon of peas, a tiny sliver of chicken and a small spoonful of mashed potatoes. She didn't bake or fry chicken; she boiled it. When she made lemon cookies for the grandkids, who hung around the farm all summer, they were burnt on the bottom and had big chunks of lemon rinds in them. That was probably why Grandpa had Nickel's Bakery deliver donuts and other pastries several times a week, but he was lucky if he got any of them because often as not Grandma let the grandkids eat them.
Grandma was one of five sisters. She once told me she was the ugly one, but I don't believe it because Grandpa was quite a handsome young man, the only son of a prosperous farmer. He had his own buggy with the fastest black horse in the area, and he came courting her. She was a teacher in a rural one room school house at the time. When they married, Grandpa's father gave them a farm. They had four children and Grandpa gave the oldest son and his wife a lot next to his farm, and he gave my mom and dad a lot adjacent to a large tract of land he owned across from his farm. Another aunt and uncle already had a home just down the road from us, and the youngest settled in Cleveland near his job. So you can see they always had lots of grandchildren (eleven while I was growing up) playing in the barn, in the fields and woods, up in the attic or just hanging around on the large screened porch. I can't remember Grandma ever scolding us. Sometimes Grandpa got a little upset, but never Grandma. If we needed some spending money, Grandma went through the pockets of his pants hanging in the bedroom for change for us. She called him the Old Poop Deck and loved putting one over on him.
In the summers, Grandma would walk back the long lane to the woods with a small coffee pot of water. She'd build a small fire and put the water on to boil and make coffee. I never went with her, but my brother, Jerry. did sometimes, and he said she kept a small cast iron skillet back there hanging from a nail on a tree and she'd fry an egg. When she was done with her simple meal, she'd empty the coffee and grounds and use the pot to pick blackberries for a pie. Yes, those pies had soggy bottoms, but that didn't stop the grandkids from enjoying them. On her walks she always stared at the ground as she walked, and it was amazing how many four leaf clovers she could find.
Grandma liked to fish, too. Not in a boat, but on the bank of a river north of where we lived or on the dock of a lake in Canada where they went on a vacation sometimes. She could sit for hours even with the mosquitoes biting. That's why I didn't go with them very often.
Grandpa bought a TV before anyone else in our family had one so we grandkids sometimes filled the room where it was kept. I can remember Grandma's fascination with it. Once she was so excited about some cancan dancers she'd seen the night before, she demonstrated by kicking up her heels and flipping up her cotton dress and exposing the rather long cotton underpants she wore. She was laughing all the while she danced.
She was afraid of nothing. Once when Grandpa had gone on a fishing trip to Canada with some male friends, a peeking Tom came on the porch one night and was looking in. She grabbed a broom and chased him off. Another time when a neighbor woman had a mental breakdown and came over with a large knife to get her, she and my brother, Jerry, headed for the basement to hide while the woman was trying to break the door down and broke a window. Grandma was giggling the whole time in the basement with Jerry. He said he was scared, but Grandma wasn't. The woman finally gave up and went home.
Whenever my siblings or cousins get together often Grandma is discussed. We have so many fond memories of her and share many laughs about those memories. No, Grandma was not your typical grandmother, but she was special.
What was your grandmother like?