Monday, February 8, 2016

Roots: Grandma N: Fresh Springtime, Senses of Comfort and the Simple Life

*This is part three of my Roots series*

(First pic: Grandma and I. Second pic: Grandma's mom and I.)

Travelling in my mind to Grandma N's home, a province away, I am transported back to a time when worries were few. Fresh childhood smells like her house; rose petals, bread, warm carpet, bound books, and burnt metal from an electrical Westinghouse furnace. I would sit in front of that silver box in her kitchen, with a chair pulled up right in front, on cold nights in my slippers and PJs breathing in the furnace's dusty heat. Sometimes older basements contain that musty "old" odour but grandma's house has a freshness I can't seem to replicate. Maybe it was her many plants? A tradition I am now carrying. After years of unsuccessful attempts at keeping greens alive, eighty-two plants now thrive in our home. 

I was inspired by Grandma. She sent succulents in the mail. In front of my home sits a beautiful wild rose bush that she sent to me after my miscarriage. I can still remember opening the brown paper at the mail office and being slightly confused as wet dirt in a plastic bag came out with a thorny stem. Her note with her scrawled handwriting, quick remarks and looped signature warmed my heart. All I have to see is my Grandma's handwriting and I feel more grounded. When the wild rose blooms in the summer, I walk out my front door and breathe in memories. The fragrant rose begets my grandmother's bubbly laugh. Last summer when I was quite sick I would sit beside that rose bush and feel the comfort that happens to me each time I walk into grandma's house.

My Grandmother has never been old to me. Perhaps it's her spry energy that surpasses my own? I can only assume (after watering all her plants) that the two hours of lifting the watering pot and weeding out the nasties has kept her trim. Or maybe her youth comes from the fact that she sees movies like Star Wars or The Hunger Games before we do? Amidst the classics in her library are Lemony Snickets, Harry Potter, and all the new popular choices. I love talking with grandma because we can talk about all the current shows and books. We can nerd out on everything I am passionate about. She thinks I am quirky but secretly, I think that aspect of my persona I inherited from her.

Grandma is known for her blunt statements. She doesn't cushion her delivery but she also doesn't have any intention of hurting anyone. She simply tells it like she sees it, if she's asked. A trait I share. Upon seeing my husband's picture in the paper, my husband asked what she thought, and she unexpectedly remarked, "Wellllll, it's not your best picture." We cracked up. My husband came up to me later and whispered, "Now I know where you get it from and it's a brilliantly funny trait."

In her basement there is a red Radio Flyer wagon crammed and overflowing with Little Golden books in original mint condition. Her washer is a 1979 Inglis and the dryer's label is completely worn off. My Grandmother is modern but not encumbered by modernity. She may have a computer area upstairs but she also has a brown 1964 built in Moffet stove. I love that about her. How she seems to flow seamlessly between tradition and the current now. I can't place her in any time...she just IS. I obtain a great sense of BEING from Grandma.

My daughter noticed how Grandma often hoots at something I will say and chuckles, "Oh (insert my birth name here)." It's said in a endearing sort of way and I feel six again (but in a good way.) My children only get to see Grandma about once every year or two, but this statement has been memorable enough to stick in my twelve year old's heart.

On my children's birthday's Grandma often sends a classic book with a hand scrawled note or a bit of cash. At Christmas time the note was simply, "To P and K and children three. Grandma." The kids love spending time discussing the latest books with her or having her read a story. The last time she visited, she read them a book she often read to me as a child called, "Caps for Sale." In the same reading voice she used on me at night, when I lived with her as a child, she read to them. I was struck with nostalgia. I choked up and had to leave the room because I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the past and the present encompassed in Grandma's voice.

 (Caption: Grandma N and my daughter carrying on tradition. Below: Grandma reading in her basement with my three kids.)

Grandma N is trendy and a collector of beautiful things. She is a skilled garage sale enthusiast and has taught me to be thrifty. I can not pay over a certain amount for anything. She taught me how to make beautiful gifts out of re purposed items. Half of my house is furnished with vintage or thrift finds. She loved her crystal collections and tea cups. On many of my birthdays she would send me a very breakable crystal item bubble wrapped in the mail. It's always a delight to discover that these items were one of the many I took out to dust or admire in her Dinning Room cabinet. Washing dishes was a sacred event at Grandma's. Through her window one can gaze on lovely juniper, rose and fern arrangements and trees complete with fairy tale doors. Grandma is a gifted gardener and her yard is a stunning work of art in an unexpected place. I have memories of  washing dishes while the sudsy bubbles crept up my arms and my fingers caressed delicate flower shaped bowls, crystal china, and mismatched tea sets. Her eclectic collection dried in the rack and brightened the room with bold, creamy colours, birded coffee cups, and deep blue hues. My eldest son says blue reminds him of Grandma. Yes, deep calming blue and fun whimsical light blue all beget my Grandmother. After dinner I anticipated the dishes with great excitement because of the sensory appeal...something that doesn't happen in my own home.
(Caption: Above my three children in a part of grandma's garden. Below; A corner of blue in grandma's house.)
Her house is steeped in memories and sentimentality. There are so many artifacts in her house that I want and cherish. I have committed many of her items to memory because to me they are not just items...they are pieces of Grandma. Bits of her soul infused into aspects of home that carry her beauty and my childhood to me.

Grandma's husband died when my father was 17. Grandma birthed five children while serving as a pastor's wife. In those days that role demanded way more than it does today ( and that is saying a lot) and often she would have to come up with meals for company when she could barely feed her own kids. Grandma's meals are often distinctly Romanian. I can picture her cinnamon rolls, pies, meats, sausages and peroggies and borscht. They had an interesting life and I never tire of my father and his sibling's legendary stories.

I lived in Grandma's basement in my formative years while my dad tree planted. I had a little room in the corner with a hammock of stuffies above my head and a stack of books beside my bed. Grandma would often tuck me in and read to me story after story. She started my love affair with books.

(Caption: My sister and I with my cousin, grandma and brother)

After  my birth family  moved to the prairies, we made the trek through the Rockies during the summers. Recently, to the relief of her five children and to my horror she ripped out her speckled shag carpet. I loved that carpet. I asked for a corner of it when they tore it out. The carpet was cozy and warm, a luxury experience for the feet when we did not happen upon sewing needles first. Her carpet downstairs is soft velvet and the rec room boasts a sandpaper silk feel. The stairs gave an air bubble squeak that emanated feelings of homeyness. I was overwhelmed with pure delight with just the ordinary task of walking on that carpet. I have yet to visit her home with the new carpet but I am sure it will shock and sadden me a tad.

A few years ago, my daughter walked through Grandma's home and garden and declared the same things I have said since I was two: "I want to live here forever," "Oh I love this room," "Oh how beautiful." She sensed the mystical background that encompasses the property, she felt the memories press up against her and her little mind was already picking up the sacredness of tradition. The sensory experience grounds me but it also gives me courage to LIVE. No other place casts it's spell so effectively. If I could move this place next door to my home I would in a heartbeat.

(Caption: my daughter, mother, sister, husband and I with my cousin on the end...basically my other sister. I have a cousin on each side that is an only child and both of them practically grew up with us and my children call them aunties.)

Grandma N is in her seventies. She regularly gardens and she is more up to date on current trends then I am. She loves her life. She is spry, she is grey, and she is classy. Her style is distinct. I wish I could pull off that look so beautifully. She often wears turtle necks or button up collared shirts with fantastic jewelry. I can often hear her bracelets clink as she walks. I can visualize her strong yet soft fingers run down the chain on her neck as she adjusts the latest charm she is wearing or her patting her silver hair down gently as it stylishly curves around her chin. I can hear the soft fabrics of her clothes as she moves and sometimes the cracking of her knees from her years of gardening. Her jewelery choices are often classy gold or silver pieces chosen specifically for each outfit. When I was a child she often sewed me outfits for Christmas. I felt so special in all of them and I loved her button collection. I would often ask to look at her sewing stuff to see all the sparkles and shiny thimbles. She made a Paddington shirt with metal Paddington buttons for my brother and she often would sew little Barbie outfits for me. I have one beautiful silk blue cloak for a barbie with silver edging that she created. I felt like my Barbie's were so unique and stylish because of her contributions. We could not afford a lot of Barbie clothes when I was little and Grandma supplied me with a huge bag of outfits I adored.

When I asked each of my children to say what they think of when I mention Grandma N my eldest son replied with; "Tea, blue, roses and her laugh."  My youngest smiled and said, "Funny!"  My daughter replied, "You and your quirkiness. Her laugh is my favourite... sewing, books, fluffy carpets and trees." Grandma is like Springtime to me. She is fresh, vibrant and brings feelings of hope and creativity with her. I recall moments when I was little of sitting in her bathtub and studying the brown and pink tile patterns surrounded by bubbles. Afterwards, my three year old self would be wrapped snuggly in a towel and would be plopped in front of the warm fire in the living room. It was fantastic.
Grandma is young at heart and she passes on that youthful spirit to myself and my children. She is truly alive and gave me a head start in the embracing life department. She makes me feel like spring has sprung. "Every time I see her face I'm such a happy individual."

"Remember is a place from long ago.  Remember, filled with everything you know. Remember, when you're sad and feeling down. Remember life is just a memory. Remember close your eyes and you can see. Remember, think of all that life can be. Remember."*

 I simply have to visualize Grandma's laugh or home or hear her voice in my mind when I am feeling low and once again the beauty of the simple life becomes mine. What memories of yours bring youth and comfort?

Songs that remind me of Grandma N: *Remember by Harry Nilsson, Young at Heart- Michael Buble, You Make Me Feel So Young- Frank Sinatra, Give me the Simple Life- Steve Tyrell.


FlutistPride said...

My grandparents are the nicest people alive. I think they are both ISFJ, (but my grandmother could be an ESFJ). My fondest memories are of me eating senbei (Japanese rice crackers) in their house.

Anonymous said...

I was almost brought to tears by your sentiment of my mother. You are the rememberer of the family of things that I have long forgotten... I too was thinking of that house today. It is a warm spring day here. The daffodils are sprouting in the front yard. While I move about my living room finding a place to catch that warm sun, I remember the big picture window in the front of our house and how on winter days you could curl up in a patch of sun and read a book. That feeling of warmth (and yes...even that shag carpet) brought back the things that I love in that house. As mom celebrates her 80th birthday this year... I appreciate the reminder of all the things that house has brought you. I hope for all our sake that a little bit of which makes you such a warm person resides somewhere in all of us.- A

Kmarie A. said...

Flutist:It is nice to have wonderful grandparents. thank you for sharing a bit of them here:) And yum to the rice crackers!

A.A. This comment meant the world to me. I know that the warmth is also from each of you and I am glad you could visualize your own experiences in this. I loved that window too and our house is modelled after grandmas with the southern living windows. your comment moved me and I am honoured that my post moved you. with love.

nyssa said...

absolutely beautiful and what a testament to love and living memory and most of all, soul. brilliant and I cried a lot in a good way. your recounting and your emotions are beyond moving. xo

Kmarie A. said...

Nyssa: Thank you so much. Yes a lot of soul. I am glad you cried in a good way:) thanks so much:) xoxo

Ashe said...

Flowers! I forget to mention flowers in that last post. Yes, flowers are definitely part of the complete grandma kit. Whether it's roses, pansies/violas/violets, hydrangeas, Camillas, or whatnot, no grandma house or yard is complete without a ton of plants.

My maternal grandparents were also the readers of the family. I don't remember learning how to read because I was read to a LOT. Some of my earliest memories are getting on to my grandfather for reading words that weren't in the book and he feigning innocence. He loves to elaborate on stories and put extra character into it. I still tease him about "not knowing how to read". He just grins.

Our grandmas of the past have left some really big shoes for us modern ladies to fill when we get all old and wrinkly! ^,^

S said...

Your Grandma reminds me of my mother-I think they are very similar ! She is also very simple and straightforward like your grandma and she also appreciates beauty the same way...
It feels really good to revisit our childhood and youth and to see things from the perspective of a loved one...the way she made you feel will be etched in your memory forever...I also have some fond memories of my childhood and early youth, when I stayed with my Aunt ( she is also in her 70s )for a little while. Maybe, our childhood/youth becomes more special because we had these special shared memories and moments, given to us by somebody more older and wiser than us...who was our guide and friend...who was there when we needed someone...
To be honest, although we had many childhood memories, the sweet ones that we shared with our loved ones, stands apart from other memories. It gives more value to our childhood/youth, makes our childhood/youth special also because there are so many people who are deprived from such a wonderful childhood/youth, so we should feel really blessed...
I also love how you associated certain things with your gramdma, her dishes, tea,the deep blue color...and the thriftiness-(I also try to be like that , those were the times when people did not buy a new gift each time but recycled and remade things from old )...
Loved your old black and white photo look like your daughter a bit in this photo :)
Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos of old times, they are a treasure.
Everybody needs such a spirited member in a family...and I wish that we will be able to carry their legacy forward to a great extent.
Take care,

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe: Yes ( and I left you comments on the last couple posts too) Flowers are so lovely...its is nice we can connect on some of these memories that are both collective and individual. I love the reading story... so cute what your grandpa said.
Lol I don't think I am gonna live that long to be honest...because I just can't see myself there. Ive never thought I would live long but who knows. Also If I DID make it that long I don't think I would be very nurturing at all in grandmas would be more to do with music, media, writing, and psychological help...I would probably be the mentoring counselling grandma if I made it that long:)

S: Yes, this is the grandma I told you about that reminds me of some of your blogs and photos of roses and your decor.
It does feel nice to revisit childhood in a positive way. Yes I am so grateful for the mostly positive youth experiences I had...very grateful. Yes I like to recycle things and re make things too...I am glad you enjoyed them. It is lovely to have a spirited member of the family:) xo

Ashe said...

Counselor grandmas are just as important! Sometimes nothing really fixes you up like a platter of cookies or coffee cakes, some milk or tea or coffee, and a sit down with a counselor grandma. :)

Aye, reading these past few posts brought back a flood of good memories. I'd never had guessed we had such a similar background either. If you had a crafty family history as well with crocheting, knitting, sewing, embroidery, or quilting, I'm probably going to start looking around off my back porch to see if you live next door!

S said...

Thank you for your feedback. Kmarie, I am inspired to write a brief post on my grandfather and elderly aunt after reading this.
I have not written any new post in my blog in this New Year. So, I am inspired to write again after reading some of yours.
My computer was also not working properly for a week ( it was getting hanged again and again ). Now I have fixed this. So, I should be able to read and write more.

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe: Yes I suppose they are:) I am so glad they brought a flood of memories back to you. We do have similar backgrounds...only my one grandma is crafty but yes there were some aspects of that:) Lol Imagine if we did!:)

S: I would LOVE to read that post if you do...let me know as new posts are not always showing up in my reader now so I will be sure to check....I would love it if you wrote and I am so glad I gave you inclination to. Oh I hope your computer will stay working.


Anonymous said...

You did it again - you perfectly captured your memories and made them real for the rest of us! I think our grandmas' would have been good friends because so much of what you wrote made me think of her. She died several years ago but it doesn't really feel like she's gone because I have so many things around me that remind me of her and I can hear her voice so clearly in my head calling me a turkey liver when I said or did something shocking to her - thank you for sharing - you made me smile today! S.A.

Kmarie A. said...

Thank you so much. I am glad I could capture some memories and trigger some for others:) Your grandma sounds like an amazing person.
I am so glad I made you smile:)