Sunday, November 25, 2012

30 Days of Giving Thanks-November 24-Family Women

November 24 - Today I am so very thankful for three women in my family - my mother, her sister, my Aunt Sis and my grandmother. These three mean the world to me and the things that they taught me are invaluable.
AuntSis, Grandma, Mom

My grandma was born in 1887 and lived to be 93 years old. She was from Iowa, but lived most of her adult life in Wyoming. I used to love it when my family would go out to see her during summer vacations. Grandma was always so happy to see us, as we were her. She knew things that nobody else did and I always found her stories so interesting! I even taped an "interview" with her when I was about 12 and I still have the tape. She talked about the wagon trains that went through the Oregon trail, and had my great-grandmother's bonnet she wore during the trip. She explained what it was like to see inventions such as electricity, plumbing and cars - things that we take for granted since to us, they've always been here. She was so smart, so funny and incredibly sweet! She still did her laundry in a hand-wringer machine, hung it outside to dry and used her foot pedal sewing machine. One time when we arrived, she had dough spread the entire length of her Formica kitchen table with the wide metal rim, hand cutting noodles for her scrumptious chicken and noodles dinner. She'd cut the pasta with a paring knife, then hang it over the chair backs to dry. I'd never seen such a thing and she let me help, showing me exactly how thick to cut the noodles and how to hang them on my arms for transport to the chair. I thought it was the coolest thing! Grandma was also one of the original "use what you have" recyclers. Times were harsh, especially during the Depression, so she'd make clothes for the younger children (there were 5 kids) from the older ones' worn-out clothing. My mom, being the youngest, had dresses made from old shirts and sweaters, even re-purposed pants that she had to hold up with a makeshift belt! Grandma also cooked anything my grandpa brought home, even a goat. It was soon discovered, however, that goat not only tasted bad but smelled awful! She canned all sorts of fruits and vegetables and bathed her children in a big metal tub in the kitchen. Any stray dog or cat became a member of the family, even stray kids who didn't get enough to eat at their homes. My mom said that it didn't matter how little they had, grandma always made it stretch to help those in need.
Grandma with one of her dogs, Skeezix

We were fortunate to have her live with us for about 10 years prior to her passing. The circumstances weren't the best, as she'd come for a visit, broke a hip in a car accident, had surgery, was walking about, then broke another hip. While she was in bed most of the time in her bedroom/our family room, we spent many hours visiting, enjoying each others' company and learning more about each other. She was the only grandparent I ever knew, and I cherished her with all my heart.

 
Aunt Sis was very much like Grandma. Her real name was Elva Glee but she was 10 years older than my mom who always called her Sis, so we dubbed her Aunt Sis. I was probably in my teens before I realized that Sis wasn't really her name! She was born in 1910 and was gorgeous!
Aunt Sis
Very much like my grandmother, she was hard-working, intelligent and very nurturing. She never had children of her own and was like a second mother to us. We had a very strong bond. When she was old enough, she came to this area and settled in Washington, DC where she also worked. After two years of college, my mom joined her and they had an apartment across the street from the National Zoo. The building is still there. She and my mom got along famously. I can't imagine my two daughters living together, no way! They are so different from each other.
Aunt Sis and Mom
Aunt Sis was an accomplished artist and I loved to watch her draw and paint. I have many of her old oil paintings, one of which is hung in my basement family room. It's an ocean scene and the room has a beach theme. She also crocheted and tried to teach me, but she was left-handed and I'm right-handed, so I could never figure out how to switch the direction of what she was doing. It's like when you try to do something while looking in a mirror and you keep doing it backwards. She made beautiful things, including ponchos for my sister and me, which I also still have. My kids wore them when they were little and as soon as Abigail is big enough, she can wear them too! Holidays at Aunt Sis's home in Virginia were fabulous! She'd put out so many wonderful delights and her Christmas decorations were the best! Even the gifts she gave us were wrapped to perfection with beautiful bows and these cute little angels, Santas and elves on the bows. I saw some just like them on Etsy the other day and they made me smile. She also had this really cute metal train that ran back and forth along its track. I think my dad still has it. I remember being at her house when I was pretty young and she was teaching me how to make Christmas candle holders by running glue along the edge of a votive holder and dipping it in glitter. I thought this was really so special as I hadn't done too many crafts before then. Everything she did just had an extra special touch to it, a bit of creativity, from her packages to her table settings. I learned a lot from her. My uncle had a large garden and orchard and Aunt Sis and I loved to pick strawberries together. "One for the bucket, one for me" was our usual mantra! I know that my love of country and junk came from hanging out with her and my uncle. I'll have to post about their farm soon.
My Aunt Aileen and cousins at Aunt Sis's house for Christmas
That brings me to my wonderful, beautiful mother, who was born in 1920. Like her sister and mother, she too was a strong woman, honest, smart, funny and loving. Mom taught me that you can still be a woman and voice your opinion and that, as she would say, you should "Use the brain the Good Lord gave you!" She believed in wearing dresses when going out of the house and probably didn't own a pair of jeans after childhood until she was in her 70's. She also always had to "put on her face" before going out, which included rouge and lipstick.
My Mom
Mom taught me how to make spit curls with bobby pins, how to cook and bake like Grandma and Aunt Sis did, and how to value what you have. She too was a recycler, which must be where I get it from - my good family junk genes! She never drove but my dad tried to teach her out in the prairie in Wyoming. He figured there wasn't anything along this dirt road that she could hit. He was right but it was still a wild ride! Mom thought that as soon as you took your foot off the gas, the car should stop, so when she applied the brakes, she'd send my little sister over the seat back and into the front seat! Guess it's a good thing that they started putting seat belts in cars later on. She decided that driving just wasn't her thing after that. Snakes weren't either, even though she grew up in an area filled with rattle snakes and other poisonous types. In fact, anything that crawled along the ground, including earth worms, gave her the creeps! Mom was only 5'4 " tall but when she saw a snake, those little legs could really move! She'd scream and run like an Olympic track star! Mom also had that glamorous, movie-star beauty. One of my favorite activities we'd share were looking at her old photos. The dresses, gloves, hats, hair styles - so much beauty that we just don't see in our every day lives. I have to admit, I enjoy the freedom of going to the store in jeans and a T-shirt, but something special was lost when fashion changed, for both women and men.
My Beautiful Mom
My mom told the best stories from her childhood. There was the time her older brothers (Mom was the baby) decided to tip over outhouses for Halloween, only to find that a neighbor lady was using hers! They also thought it was fun to get her to slide down a neighbor's coal chute, which was quite dangerous unbeknownst to them. Fortunately for her, the homeowner was in the cellar and caught her as she flew out. One of my favorite stories, and there were so many, is about my Uncle Tom bringing home a baby skunk, hid in his shirt. He didn't realize that even babies can spray and came home smelling so awful that my grandma made him strip down outside so she could burn his clothes! He was full of mischief but so was Mom. She'd sneak into the spring house where my grandma's canned goods were stored and steal a pickle to eat on the way to school each morning. That is, until she discovered a snake in there! She never stole another pickle. I always encouraged her to record or write down her stories, but she never did. I'd have loved it if she had as I can never tell them with such delightful detail as she could. When Mom graduated high school, she received a scholarship to a 2-year college and, after that, made her way to DC where she worked for the Navy Department. That's where she met my dad, whom she didn't like at first, but he won her over with his charm. We had a big 50th Anniversary party for them and they were married just over 53 years when she passed in 2007. I miss so much her every day. There are so many things that remind me of her and make me think of her. I like to think that those thoughts are her saying hello.
Mom and Dad and Sock Monkey, their first born
This post could go on and on, telling you all the reasons I'm so thankful for these three extraordinary women and how important they are to me. Although they are gone, I will forever hold their love and teachings invaluable and keep them in my heart. I try to live up to their examples every day and in everything I do and pass all of those things onto my daughters and grand babies.

I hope that you have people like these three in your family to cherish, learn from and enjoy spending time with! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this long post!

Hugs, Leena

4 comments:

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  2. Leena~I read every word. Your grandmother was a lot like my own. She was born in 1893...and MY DAD was born in 1897 so they both went through the depression and saw lots of hardships and lots of world changes.

    I loved the stories about your Aunt Sis and your Mom. What beautiful women they were-just gorgeous. I know they must have loved you to the moon and back.

    This was a wonderful tribute to all three of them. Happy, Blessed Sunday-xo Diana

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  3. Beautiful memories and stories that you have shared with us. So wonderful for you to have such amazing women in your life.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your sweet memories and photos.

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