While I was writing this piece last week, my younger daughter was busy having my second grandchild! I got this sent off, and then went to check my messages and the little guy was already born, so it was quick work. He’s adorable, but of course you’d expect me to say that. My older daughter who brought us the first edition grandchild laughs at me, because she says I was so laid back about becoming a Grammy but after the baby was here I became “as gaga as any other grandmother!” So here I am, a gaga Grammy stage two!
As you can tell from what I write, I had close and memorable ties with my grandparents, and I hope I can continue the tradition. I’ve related many tales about the farm in Johnson and my mother’s parents, but close doesn’t necessarily mean distance. Dad’s mom was living in Texas for most of my childhood. She was adventurous and not at all adverse to taking off across a good part of the country for a different take on life when she was widowed. Still she managed to be a Grammy. Every week or so she and Mom exchanged letters and she seemed interested in the life of grandchildren, although I don’t recall writing letters to her myself.
The news from Texas was often exciting. I remember when she killed a rattlesnake in her garden with her hoe, and became a hero to us kids. Maybe more than one snake over the years, but at least one. She sent the outlines of family history when I first started collecting that. She sent me some blouses with matching fabrics for Mom to make me skirts. I remember blue and green in deep tones, maybe gray as well. We all exchanged gifts at Christmas – she sent her children big baskets of citrus by rail. Aunt Esther would pick them up and bring us ours. We sent maple syrup, and I remember accompanying Dad to order and arrange delivery to the Lone Star State.
I am noticing how quaint this all sound – who writes letters any more? Who sends personal goods by train? Pretty much no one these days! But it worked, and she was a real Grammy, even over distance. Even without face to face computer connections. When she came back to Vermont years later she was a bit of a newbie to us, but soon she was telling us the same kinds of tales orally. She told my brother about her great grandmother walking from Colchester, Vermont to Stanbridge, Quebec, to get married; she told me about how everything got saved back in the day and that she used her kids old underwear for dusting rags. I was glad my mother didn’t do that, but it was an inside look at “Make it do...”
She was probably not an easy child or young woman – too adventurous and willing to risk than a “proper” girl born near the turn of the 20th century. Dynamic and ready to take it all on, she moved to Louisiana a hundred years ago. She and her husband wanted kids, that did not appear on schedule, so they adopted Dad and later Aunt Esther. No one is sure they followed protocol, if there was any protocol, but they did have a lawyer whom they honored by giving his name to Dad for a middle name.
Other stories about her life have been from Dad, when they lived in Belvedere before during the Depression – making candles and soap, smoking apples, growing flowers – lots of things from one storyteller to another. These are my own. I’m glad my grandchildren live nearby, but make no mistake – you can have stories and love even long distance.