My grandmother died today.
She was born in 1929 right before the depression hit. This was evident for the rest of her life, especially in her kitchen. She hoarded all of her food in her cabinets for months, years even. I once saw a jar of ranch dressing from 1995 in her refrigerator. I found it in 2004. It’s perfectly fine if you cut around the mold.
When we would go out to dinner, she’d make sure to order a to go box before she even ordered her meal. She also would make sure the waiter knew in complete detail exactly why she needed a to go box, “There’s always so much food on the plate for little ol’ Grandma. I can have a feast tomorrow!”
She loved making dinners for her family and friends and would spend all day making the meals in her kitchen, and there was always a spread. There were staples to every meal, which would include taco dip appetizer for Sarah and the ever present question as to why I didn’t like pork loin and “just try it again you’ll love it.” She also made a lot of “molded salads” which normally included fruit and jello. This one time, and she’ll probably be upset I even brought this up, she made a cucumber one, but made the mistake of telling us granddaughters what went in it: cucumbers, mayonnaise, cottage cheese and lime jello. She’s lucky her children are good sports, but Jessie, Sarah and I just couldn’t stomach it. “Just try a bite, it’s delicious,” she insisted.
She was my first friend I ever had. She regularly told me I was her best friend, and I believed her. She was the first person to tell me I had talent, and was eager to nurture my creativity. When I told her I was practicing yoga, she got down on the floor in her kitchen and showed me every pose she knew. She was 75 at that point, and was better at the poses than I was.
She went to the gym 3 days a week and volunteered at the hospital. She sang in the choir in her church. Each year she helped make the bullitin board art for the library in her local elementary school. She would draw with crayons and pastels onto huge rolls of paper and create scenes from various children’s books like Briar Rabbit.
She was one of the most talented artists I have ever seen. She would sit with me and draw for hours. She taught me how to draw a portrait. She helped me paint my first mural, and showed me how to create texture with a paintbrush. She had so much patience.
The last thing she said to me was that she loved me. I was so lucky to have her for 26 years. I already miss her so much, I miss hearing her call me her “California Girl.” I will miss her constant humming and singing.
One thing she missed doing after she was widowed was going out dancing. I hope that now she is enjoying a turn on the dance floor again with my grandpa, her Georgie. I know she’s happier now than she has been in the last 20 years since he passed.
Her vigor and spunk and wackiness and compassion will live on. I love you, Grandma Shirl.
This is a silly story she always told me when I was little.
The Story of Epaminondas
Epaminondas used to go to see his Auntie ‘most every day, and she nearly always gave him something to take home to his Mammy.
One day she gave him a big piece of cake; nice, yellow, rich gold-cake.
Epaminondas took it in his hand and held it all scrunched up tight in his fist and came along home. By the time he got home there wasn’t anything left but a fistful of crumbs. His Mammy said,—
“What you got there, Epaminondas?”
“Cake, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
“Cake!” said his Mammy. “Epaminondas, you ain’t got the sense you was born with! That’s no way to carry cake. The way to carry cake is to wrap it all up nice in some leaves and put it in your hat, and put your hat on your head, and come along home. You hear me, Epaminondas?”
“Yes, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
Next day Epaminondas went to see his Auntie, and she gave him a pound of butter for his Mammy; fine, fresh, sweet butter.
Epaminondas wrapped it up in leaves and put it in his hat, and put his hat on his head, and came along home. It was a very hot day. Pretty soon the butter began to melt. It melted, and melted, and as it melted it ran down Epaminondas’ forehead; then it ran over his face, and in his ears, and down his neck. When he got home, all the butter Epaminondas had was ON HIM. His Mammy looked at him, and then she said,—
“Epaminondas! What you got in your hat?”
“Butter, Mammy,” said Epaminondas; “Auntie gave it to me.”
“Butter!” said his Mammy. “Epaminondas, you ain’t got the sense you was born with! Don’t you know that’s no way to carry butter? The way to carry butter is to wrap it up in some leaves and take it down to the brook, and cool it in the water, and cool it in the water, and cool it in the water, and then take it on your hands, careful, and bring it along home.”
“Yes, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
By and by, another day, Epaminondas went to see his Auntie again, and this time she gave him a little new puppy-dog to take home.
Epaminondas put it in some leaves and took it down to the brook; and there he cooled it in the water, and cooled it in the water, and cooled it in the water; then he took it in his hands and came along home. When he got home, the puppy-dog was shivering and near death. His Mammy looked at it, and she said,—
“Epaminondas! What you got there?”
“A puppy-dog, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
“A PUPPY-DOG!” said his Mammy. “My gracious sakes alive, Epaminondas, you ain’t got the sense you was born with! That ain’t the way to carry a puppy-dog! The way to carry a puppy-dog is to take a long piece of string and tie one end of it round the puppy-dog’s neck and put the puppy-dog on the ground, and take hold of the other end of the string and come along home, like this.”
“All right, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
Next day, Epaminondas went to see his Auntie again, and when he came to go home she gave him a loaf of bread to carry to his Mammy; a brown, golden loaf of sticky bread.
So Epaminondas tied a string around the end of the loaf and took hold of the end of the string and came along home. When he got home his Mammy looked at the thing on the end of the string, and she said,—
“Epaminondas! What you got on the end of that string?”
“Bread, Mammy,” said Epaminondas; “Auntie gave it to me.”
“Bread!!!” said his Mammy. “Epaminondas, Epaminondas, you ain’t got the sense you was born with; you never did have the sense you was born with; you never will have the sense you was born with! Now I ain’t gonna tell you any more ways to bring things home. And don’t you go see your Auntie, neither. I’ll go see her myself.”
The next day Mammy baked six blueberry pies. She decided to bring one of the pies over to Auntie’s house. As she headed for the door, she turned to Epaminondas and said, “Epaminondas! You see these here pies I made? They are set on the doorstep to cool. Now, you hear me, Epaminondas, be careful to watch your step on those pies!”
“Yes, Mammy,” said Epaminondas.
Then Epaminondas’ Mammy put on her bonnet and her shawl, then took a basket with one pie inside in her hand and went away to see Auntie. The other five pies sat cooling in a row on the doorstep.
Well, you can be sure: Epaminondas WAS careful and watched his step on those pies!
He watched his step, careful to place each foot right in the middle of every one.