Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chickens and Grandma

This last week my Grandmother passed away - a strong, kind, hardworking woman from the 'olden days' when she and most everyone she knew raised chickens, had a garden, and basically practiced sustainable living just as a matter of course, not to mention, necessity. The word "sustainable" may not have been used, but the action was practiced through frugality and what we now call "recycling". Grandma didn't think of her chickens as pets, but nonetheless, always had a favorite hen or two that followed her around.

Back then, chickens were mailed from Sears or Montgomery Ward and most people kept a few for fresh eggs and butchered the rest so they could have meat to eat. A lot of change has taken place in the past 90 years or so. People lived "off the Grid" without benefit of solar panels and an army of batteries to power their heating, light, and other energy needs. Obviously, they didn't realize they were missing out on much, because many of the conveniences we have now simply hadn't been invented yet.

This post is a tribute to my Grandma, who I loved dearly, and had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with after I grew up, not nearly as much when I was young - due to living too far away. My younger memories of the times we did visit overnight center on her early morning ritual around the corner from the fold-out couch where we slept . . . in her living room where she tried hard not to wake my brother and I  as she started a fire in the old wood "heater".  She crumpled old newspaper, covered it with cedar kindling, then lit it and let it get a good start before she laid several logs on it.

She may have never learned that we woke up every time and watched her morning ritual (I can visualize it easily to this day) -- we just didn't want to get up because her house was sooo cold. We sure got up when we smelled breakfast cooking, though! She had a "cookstove" in the kitchen, and had to keep a steady fire going in it in order to evenly heat the top burners and the oven. Watching her cook or bake was like watching a magician -- everything she did appeared to be so easy and quick . . . and it all tasted delicious beyond words!

Grandma was always gentle and kind, but she quietly set a limit on our rambunctiousness -- one stern look told us to shape up. Once when we were chasing each other through her garden, and not heeding her quiet admonitions, she actually asked Grandpa to cut a couple of switches. I'm certain that she would have used them if we hadn't taken that strong hint!

After I grew up I never tired of hearing her stories from the past -- I'd run errands for her, then come back to her apartment where she'd have the most delicious meal ready for me, often boiled potatoes, fried bacon and gravy -- then we'd talk until time for me to go home and get set for work. She fed me like I was a farm hand, while all I'd done was drive down the street to the store.

I'll never forget Grandma (or Grandpa, who passed away more than 20 years ago) and will always cherish the time I was privileged to spend at their farm; and later with Grandma nearby in our neighboring town. God Bless them both, they're finally together again. No more pain, hard physical work, worry, or anxiety.

Grandma's service was a fitting memorial for the beautiful person she was, but only time will heal the pain of her passing.

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