Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)
TITLE: Big Grandma, Little Grandma
By Robyn Burke
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Big Grandma was my mom’s mom. She wasn’t so much big as she was tall – at least compared to Dad’s mom who was barely 5’2. Growing up, I was afraid of Little Grandma. Looking back, I have a greater understanding of the things she endured and persevered and my admiration and respect for her is now immeasurable. But, still, Big Grandma was just easier to run to for comfort.
Big Grandma was soft; kind, gentle, patient. She was rarely cranky, even when I snuck into her medicine cabinet and tried on her bright red lipstick! She babysat me often and I loved being there, especially on wash days. She had one of those old fashioned wringer type washers for many years and I was fascinated with the process. From the laundry room to the back yard, she would lug those wicker baskets of clean wet clothes. Sheets and towels were hung on outside lines hiding grandpa’s long johns and other private delicates.
Little Grandma was hard; stern, formidable with high expectations from her offspring. But she came by it rightfully. She led a difficult life, divorcing her abusive, alcoholic husband, back in a time when divorce just wasn’t acceptable. She continued to run the family farm with her sons and at the age of 50 put herself through college and became a teacher. In fact she started a kindergarten program in her home at one point and I was one of her first students… and no, I was not teacher’s pet!
Big Grandma baked bread and cookies and made applesauce and jam. There was a cellar under their home and she would go down to get canning jars, or in raining weather, to check flood levels. The cellar was a mysterious thing to me… that crazy slanted door and those cement steps leading down into a dark dank hole.
Little Grandma offered me things like home made carrot juice and was not happy when I spit the horrible drink out! She lived in an apartment in the later years of her life and when we visited, she served us tea with evaporated milk, an acquired taste that sometimes nostalgia demands I re-visit.
Big Grandma made quilts. We got one as a baby, we got one when we married as did our offspring. Beautiful, strong quilts with intricate patterns. Little Grandma knit afghans of outrageous color combination's, bold and outspoken, just like her personality. Both of these coverings were treasured warmth on my bed.
Big Grandma was my grandpa’s fishing companion. There is something special about a lady who isn’t afraid to put a worm on a hook, in my humble opinion! Little Grandma, as I mentioned, ran a dairy farm and she had man’s hands – calloused from years of hard work and little, if any, pampering. There is something to be said for a woman who isn’t afraid of arduous chores, either.
Both my Grandmas were strong in their Christian Faith. Big Grandma had a quiet faith, steady and true. Little Grandma was evangelistic, righteous and principled. As different as they were from each other, each had a Proverbs 31 quality about them.
Both my Grandmas believed in me. When, at the tender age of 13, I won a story writing contest, Little Grandma bought me a beautiful orange typewriter. She knew I was a writer. When I stole cattails from the neighbor’s field, Big Grandma made sure I knew how disappointed she was in me. She insisted on honesty. Both were lessons that helped in forming my character.
Two grand ladies. Very different from each other and both now long gone. Both thought of tenderly and greatly missed.
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