March is Women’s History Month. The Nation honors the contributions of notable women throughout history. These women helped girls (including me) to aspire to be a changemaker; to be strong and independent. I am a benefactor of the resilience and willpower of the phenomenal women of our history. The results of their efforts affected the history and progress of our country/society. While we praise these women for their work, when I think of women in history and the direct influence on my life, I think of someone who is not known to my readers. With assistance from my mom and my aunt, I thought I would share some tidbits about a woman that impacted our lives…Granny.
Granny was a little lady, only 5’2” with physical strength that would amaze many. She had an 8th grade education but loved to read and made good use of the dictionary. She could complete the hardest crossword puzzles.
Granny had 3 brothers and a sister and often acted as parent to her younger brother and sister. With Granny being the oldest girl, she went to work after completing the 8th grade. She worked in a shoe factory at two locations and for a time she was working near a deli-restaurant of her grandparents. During that time, she would leave the factory at lunch break and go to the restaurant to help her grandparents with their lunch crowd. Then back to the factory to finish the day.
For the 40-50 years mom lived in our house, I never remember her replacing any plants. We had 4o’clocks, petunias, a peony bush, and irises. Every year in the spring mom would thin the petunias etc. and somehow through drought or rainy seasons or hard winters the plants always made it.
Granny and Helping Others
If neighbors were sick or living alone, Granny would make a big pot of soup and food to share. She would even remember foods neighbors enjoyed. One neighbor liked Granny’s mashed potatoes (condensed milk and lots of butter). A nephew from time to time lived with his grandparents next door would come to our house and share in the desserts.
When her sister’s husband was out of work, they would come help Granny with household projects and chores so they would have some money coming in. If she had more of something, she would be sure to share.
Granny was known for her $20’s. If she wanted to treat us to eating out, she would always say, “I’ve got $20’s.”
As like most people at that time in our area, we hoped the peony’s and irises would be in peak condition for decorating the graves on Memorial Day.
Granny and Patriotism
Her grandfather, who had immigrated from Germany, said if you live in America you should speak English and honor America. His brother, who immigrated here also, complained about things here, so he told his brother he should go back to Germany. She would have a tough time accepting people who did not respect the flag. I remember taking her to a parade when she was in her 90s. She instructed me to stand, which I would do, when the Veterans came by and she waved her little flag with tears in her eyes.
Granny and Wellness
She believed that doing a good job cleaning house was not an eye level job. She would say bend down to clean baseboards and stretch to clean over the doors and you will not need to go to a gym.
She was not in favor of diets to lose weight. When she felt her clothes might be a little tight…”eat an apple during the day and then eat healthy meals, but smaller amounts.”
Granny was walking trails with us when she was in her mid 80s. We would meet people who would tell us the trail would be too hard for Granny, but she walked them anyway. Her grandmother had told her to always stretch before she got out of bed. Granny did that every day, and she was agile all her life.
Granny and Lessons Learned
She told us many times, when we were kids, “you’re as good as anyone – but you’re no better.”
She did not believe in tattling and would tell us to find something else to do.
If you were bored she would say “go outside, lay down on the grass and see what you can see in the clouds.”
One time a friend was angry with me and came to tell Mom what a bad person I was. Mom was standing at the ironing board and the friend was on the outside of a screen door when Mom said she should go on home, then told me to close the door. In most cases, Mom expected us to take care of things ourselves and if we could not get along, then her only interference was ‘you come in the house and see if you can find something to do’.
I along with two other girls, gave our Sunday School teacher a bit of a bad time asking questions. I came home and guilt set in, and especially because the teacher was my godmother. I told Granny, I did not think I was nice to Mae today…Granny said, “Don’t tell me about it, get across the alley and go tell Mae.” Her way of teaching us to accept responsibility for our actions.
Granny and Church
Granny attended the Lutheran Church in her youth and later became a Methodist. Her children grew up when attendance was rewarded by a pin. You just did not question whether you would go to church – that is what happened on Sunday, sometimes Wednesday night services and revivals. Granny said, “you go to church to worship, it’s God’s house and if you look nice when you go out on Saturday night…you need to look as good or better on Sunday morning.”
For years, Granny had a major part in the Christmas play. She studied her part while ironing or in bed with a flashlight. She was a member of the Methodist Women’s Missionary Group and helped with Bible School. She actively took part in church dinners and socials. Today, as I read my Bible, I can hear some of what Granny said as I was growing up. She did not preach it was simple instruction such as, “Don’t test God.”
Granny and Music
One year when we were at the church and had finished practicing for a Christmas program, the adults were still there talking. I went to the piano and was quietly sounding the keys. One lady told mom I should not be doing that. Mom could see from the way I was “playing” that I might have some talent (and I think she did not like the lady telling her I could not touch the piano). Shortly after we got a piano and we got to take lessons. While I never became a real pianist, I have always enjoyed playing, and it is a way, happy, sad or whatever, to work out my emotions.
Granny and Growing Up
About age 12, Granny let us know that we truly were part of the family. We were responsible for chores that she gave the ‘white glove’ inspection. You did a good job – or you could start all over – if you missed something there was probably more that was not done. No, we did not get an allowance – we were part of the family.