Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grandma's Example

Woke up this morning thinking of my maternal grandma. She was a feisty, Kentucky born descendant of a marriage between the Allen's and Arnette's. She always described her family as similar to the Hatfields and McCoys so you know they had tempers, would shoot at will and liked their moonshine.

But grandma had other redeeming qualities. She saved everything but the slop bucket. I've always thought we were quite the recyclers but we're wasteful compared to her habits. The liquid from anything - and I mean anything edible - was never thrown out unless it spoiled (which was rare) and was fed to the pigs or ducks. She abhorred plastic containers and zip-lock bags; in fact anything plastic was a sin in her mind. These things were just coming into general use when I was in grade school and she'd lecture me about their wastefulness. She had a set of Jewel Tea dishes that were premiums from buying something in the grocery store and considered them the cream of the crop, so to speak. Break a Jewel Tea dish and your fanny got blistered.

Having lived in the mountains of Kentucky and not experienced electricity until she was in her 20's, as well as living through the Depression, she possessed strong opinions and stringent habits. Anyone who didn't get dirt in their fingernails or break a sweat working outside was worthless, unless they were an invalid. Even then, she would figure out a way for them to contribute something to the family.

Once, when she was moving from one house to another, I helped her load boxes in a truck. One box was so old and tattered and taped over that I grabbed an empty box from my car thinking I'd transfer the contents. She slapped my arm but good and told me that box had been with her for 30 years, it would last another. Always think of that when I look at boxes!

Her counter always had a drippings can; there were stacks of cardboard, tinfoil, bread bags (once she got too old to make bread), cottage cheese containers, and envelopes in her closets. Any mail was sorted for "clean sides" and envelopes were taken apart, flattened beneath a huge Bible and used for notes. A stack of these were the first "coloring book" I ever had at her house.

Egg shells were rinsed and crushed and taken for "bone strength." Dandelions were picked for wine and rose hips for tea. When a lady friend said she was getting rid of an old leather purse grandma recycled it. The sides were cut into strips for laces. She wrapped wire around the strap's metal rings and attached them to a coffee can for a handle. The zipper went into her sewing basket and I don't recall anything being left after that. She wore tennis shoes for years - not the million dollar heavy ones they have now - and as they wore to almost nothing on the tops she cut the soles out and slipped them into old boots for added padding. The threadbare tops and laces went outside for the birds to build nests.

Grandma saw what was coming for this country and always counseled that there'd be the "Worse Depression", unlike anything imaginable. She said people would be so caught up in their obsessions because they worried about being "left out" of the latest "craze" and get smacked down before they knew what hit them. Many would perish because of stubbornness, lack of knowledge and fear.

I cannot recall a single thing she ever feared. Even in her 80's she wouldn't back down to anyone regarding anything. The day my mother took her car away I thought there'd be another Hatfield/McCoy fight. Grandma had been driving to no place in particular by then and dementia was stealing her mind. She'd show up at a stranger's home and tell them to get the Hell out of her house and accuse them of stealing. When she got in her car and chased a man around his own yard, it was time to take the keys.

She travelled by covered wagon from Salyersville, KY to Lakeview,MI had made quiet a impact on three more generations. She also read tea leaves and predicted the deaths of her brothers in a plane crash a few hours before it happened. She read leaves for me once and said I'd spend a few foolish years before I remembered her example (which I did) and then settle in the country and spend most of my days alone or with very few people (which I do).

So today I remember grandma and wish she were here with me now.


Mayberry said...

Sounds like one hell of a woman. Thanks for sharing Tree, you're a lucky lady to have known her...

Anonymous said...

A lady by the last name of Arnett wrote the history of Henderson intitled "Annuals and Scandals" of Henderson, Co. She is gone now, but knew all the gossup and history of the area. MEB

Mrs MIlls said...

My grandmother passed away on this day back in 1992, she was a lot like your grandmother. When we cleaned out her closet there were about 200 pair of shoes, some beyond use, that she refused to get rid of as they "still had some use left in them". She had gone through the 30's depression with only one pair that she had to put a roofing shingle in to cover the holes so her feet didn't get wet. I miss her terribly, she taught me everything I need to know about thrift shopping and making do/do without. Although I had some "foolish years" too in the last few years I've come to see what a genius she was and am trying to be as much like her as I can.

We are both blessed to have had such fine mentors in our lives. Reading your blog is kind of like visiting with the spirit of my grandmother, may you keep up the good work in the best of health:)

treesong said...

Thanks all for your comments. I've been out picking blueberries along our drive and thinking of so many more things my grandma did.

MEB, I'd sure like to get my hands on that book you mentioned about the Arnetts of Henderson County.

Thanks again, time to start picking again. Treesong

Staying Alive said...

God bless those eccentric old timers who had a lot of Wisdom to bestow on us. A day doen't go by that I don't wish I could call on one of them.


Did it MY way said...

Great post. My grandparents would have loved your grandmother. Glad you learned from her.