Friday, October 1, 2010

Tribute to my grandmother

My grandmother's memorial service was Sunday, September 19th, 2010. This is the remembrance that I shared at that service.

My grandmother was always busy. Whenever I would visit, whether by myself or with other family members, she was always baking, cooking, or sewing something – sometimes all three at once! Walking into her house, I would be struck first by the smell of baking bread. Then, I would hear her voice sing out, “Oh, hi Kate! Come on in, I was just about to take the bread out of the oven. Would you like a cookie?”

By the offer of “a cookie,” I always hoped they were her signature oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, best enjoyed with a cold glass of her mint iced tea in summer, or hot Red Rose tea in winter. Sometimes she made different cookies. Peanut butter, or snicker doodle, or chocolate, and from time to time she would try her hand at perfecting Ruth Loomis’s congo bars. I don’t know if she ever did to her satisfaction or not, but it was fun tasting the experiments.

“Try this, Kate,” she would say.
“It’s really good, Gram!” I would reply.
“But it doesn’t taste like Ruth’s! I’ve tried this recipe a hundred times but I can never get it quite right. I don’t know how she does it.” Then she would sigh, and in that sigh, I could hear her determination to try again.

As good as the congo bars and other cookies were, when she didn’t have the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, it was always a bit of a letdown. When I was going to my first high school party, I asked her for the recipe, and I made her cookies. I’ve made them many times since, and I’m convinced that they helped me to win my husband. The first time he tried one, he said that they were the best cookies he’d ever eaten. Now, he knows how to make them, too. So does my Aunt Shirley, and my brother Dave, and of course Uncle Paul, and I don’t know how many others.

Gram was not a wealthy woman in terms of money, but she was rich in the ways that counted. By sharing her cookies, her bread, her dinner rolls, her sticky buns, her corn chowder, her knitted hats and blanket-stitched flannelette baby blankets, her smiles, her songs – she had a song for every situation, and all it took was one phrase, or even one word that reminded her of a song, and she would burst out singing, - her stories, and her pearls of wisdom, she passed on to us a heritage that wraps us in the warmth of family and memory. She leaves us 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren to date, plus spouses, and cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. What better gift could she leave us with than the gift of family, the gift of each other?

She was always happiest when her whole family was together. It got more difficult as years went by, children and grandchildren moved away, and the family grew bigger. But we managed it a few times, and those were the times that Gram had the biggest smile on her face. I’m going to end with a bit of word association… things that I will always think of when I remember Gram.

Game suppers… Grandpa’s pheasant pie… fleece jackets… teddy bears… Raggedy Ann… camping in Vermont… church hymns… old folk songs… fabric shopping*… church fairs… corn chowder… bread… dinner rolls*… sticky buns… mint iced tea… Red Rose hot tea… the Cummington Fair… family reunions on Auntie Mae’s porch… Uncle Red’s pipe tobacco… matriarch… slow driver… blue sweatshirts with red birds on them… little earrings… phone calls about cooking questions*… bathroom sink shaped like a seashell… baby blankets… and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Thanks for everything, Gram.

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