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Grandparents' Memories Hold Families' Pasts
Those April showers that come your way
Will bring the flowers that bloom in May. …
– Al Jolson
It’s a small world! Sylvia wrote that she had been given last week’s column by a co-worker. The co-worker is one of my great-nephews! Her note proves that small incidents can trigger big memories. My mention of Jolson’s song “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along” brought back memories of her beloved grandfather, who used to sing it to her and later to her daughters when they were small. I suspect that everyone remembers a song that their parents or grandparents sang to them.
According to Sylvia’s grandfather, who was very interested in nature, robins bob because they’re listening for worms. She went on to say that she has grandchildren now and would like to pass on to them what her grandpa taught her and asked me for advise about how to do that. That’s a tall order that will take another column.
Her note triggered memories of old “Granny,” with whom I spent many companionable hours, drinking weak coffee that was loaded with milk and five teaspoons of sugar, talking about books or listening to her tales of the olden days.
Grandparents are the repositories of a family’s past. They’re the ones who have and take the time to tell the stories. In a sense, as long as someone is left who remembers the stories of bygone days, continues the family’s traditions or cooks the handed-down recipes, a family’s people will live on. These days, the only problem is to find someone who is patient enough to listen because everyone is busy with computers and activities. I think that you have to catch them either when they’re young or on the cusp of middle age when they begin to realize that the family elders are not immortal.
Monday was another glorious day. On Tuesday, Lady Spring watered her gardens with a downpour that caused the heads of the daffodils and hyacinths to bow to the ground. Unwisely, I chose this day to clean my closets and pack away my winter clothing. A lifelong Hoosier, I knew better.
Wednesday: The first days of Spring are as ephemeral as Indian Summer; they’re here today and gone tomorrow. It’s bitterly cold with wind gusts that make me scurry from my car into the store where I buy eggs that are for sale for Easter. Nearby are the Peter Paas kits for dying eggs.
As in Sylvia’s case, a small event triggered big memories. The Peter Paas kits carried me back to Vicki’s childhood. The night before Easter Sunday, I dyed eggs and decorated them with the little do-dads that come in the kit. Then after she found the eggs that we hid, we deviled them for dinner.
Vicki always had a splendid basket with a chocolate rabbit and the usual assortment of jelly beans, robin’s eggs and marshmallow peeps. One year the marshmallow chickens had no eyes, and persnickety Bill used a toothpick dipped in coffee to create them.
Thursday: The flowers are drooping from the cold.
I chuckled at cartoons that Bill’s niece, Kathy, e-mailed. In one of them a chocolate rabbit whose tail has been bitten off says to another, “My butt hurts!” “What?” replies the other bunny whose ears have been eaten.
As little, random happenings are wont to do, the cartoon brought back memories of my family all gathered around our round oak dining table on Easter Sunday so long ago … so long ago.
No one can cook like one’s mom! We heaped our plates with the feast that Mother spent two days preparing. Her Easter menu never varied: ham, chicken and noodles, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, slaw with vinegar dressing, Mama’s corn pudding that was passed down from my grandmother’s people, relishes, and three kinds of pie.
Invariably, they contrasted this meal to the Depression days, when they went hungry because my father was too proud to go on relief. They always told the rabbit story. When I was about three years old, someone gave me a big chocolate rabbit. My teenaged siblings were starved for sweets and assumed that they would be partaking of that rabbit. Instead, I fell in love with that rabbit, wound a string around its neck and dragged it bumping along behind me wherever I went. It became so grubby that they no longer wanted it.
Easter Sunday: A cold day warmed by the presence of Vicki and the grandboys. I must go put the ham in the oven, make deviled eggs and look up the recipe for Mamas corn pudding. As I cook, I shall remember.
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