My paternal grandmother, Grandma James, was a strong woman.
Due to her mother’s debilitating illness, Grandma, at the age of 10, assumed the role of homemaker for her household.
She raised her own eight children during the Great Depression.
My dad said that without her, his family would have starved.
Those eight children didn’t include her twin babies. Born prematurely, they were buried in tiny boxes in unmarked graves.
Hardship and loss were her companions through much of her life.
Grandma was resourceful and wasted nothing.
She planted and tended a huge garden and canned vegetables and fruit for her family to eat during the winter.
Half-rotted and bird-pecked peaches might have been thrown out by some homemakers. But Grandma salvaged every edible scrap and canned or dried them.
She canned more than just what her garden and orchard produced though. When she had an excess of eggs, she boiled and canned them. She canned fish and other meats.
She made clothes for herself and her children. With the scraps of fabric, she made quilts.
She did her laundry, winter and summer, using a wringer-style washing machine and a clothesline.
On washdays, she had her laundry hung on the line before she made breakfast for her family.
That breakfast was cooked on a cast iron, wood-burning stove.
She mended and ironed her family’s clothes, and she gave to other people in the community who had less.
When my sister and I were little girls, Grandma made dresses for our dolls.
Her yard was filled with beautiful flowers, watered with the rinse water from her weekly laundry.
She took in more than one aging relative and cared for them in her home.
Grandma was not a big talker. She enjoyed visiting with relatives and friends, but she didn’t gossip. Prolonged pauses in conversations did not bother her.
If someone did an odd thing, such as naming a new baby Crystalline, Grandma said of the event, “Well, that’s hers fer it.”
By this she meant the new mother could name her baby whatever she chose.
Sometimes Grandma told funny stories, often about her chickens.
As she told the story, she rocked harder in her chair, laughed, and said, “Law, law! You should’ve seen that old hen take off after that hawk!”
I am certain Grandma didn’t graduate from high school. She may not have finished the eighth grade.
But she knew much that I’ll never learn.
I loved my grandma and miss her. I have a taped recording of her voice, but I can’t listen to it.
People who are born into abundance may become strong.
People who are born into scarcity become strong or die.
My love for Grandma includes a deep respect for a woman who did what she had to do.
Pondering the unfairness of life would have used up time she didn’t have to spare.