I just want to tell you about my grandmother, Laura, this time. I am a grandmother, and when I was little, I always wanted to be one. When I need inspiration, I remember my grandmother, Laura. Life is so different, now, though.
I know she was elderly because she had arthritic knuckles, gray hair, and a craggy voice. She wore a dress at all times, and she wore shoes with thick, high heels that tied on, sort of like men’s dress wingbacks, perforations and all. Do they even still sell those?
She sewed all her dresses. And sometimes, as a gift, she sewed my mother a dress, too. And she sewed the first dress I ever wore when I was very tiny. I know she made these dresses, because she made a quilt for each of her grandchildren. She did not go to a store for fabric for these quilts. No, she used fabric scraps from sewing dresses. When she made my quilt, she was careful to use many scraps from my mother’s and from my dresses.
I look at the quilt she made for me and I see the dress my mother wore to church in summer. I see a dress my grandmother wore. I see my very first, ever, dress I wore when I was tiny.
I don’t know how my grandmother found the time. She babysat three children, to make an income, because she was widowed when my mother was six. She used her entire, small backyard as a strawberry patch and put up all those berries or traded them for peaches and crabapples to put up. She made her own soap on the wood stove in the woodshed for all washing needs, for clothing, dishes, and bathing. She heated with wood or coal. She did laundry in the woodshed using a wringer washer and hanging it out in summer or in the woodshed in winter, when it froze.
And she prayed. I mean, she really took time out to pray. She would tell us not to bother her while she prayed, she would go to her room and shut the door, and she would pray.
When we visited her, we played with her one box of toys, leftovers from when our aunts and uncles were little. We loved these odd toys that didn’t do anything except prop up our playtime. She let us watch while she made us rolled-out sugar cookies in shapes like stars, hearts, and flowers. When we asked for colored sugar, she told us it tastes the same. We didn’t believe it.
One wonderful time, I got to sleep with her because I was the oldest and probably would not kick too much. I got to watch her unbraid and comb her hair, which was far beyond waist length. Seeing my grandmother in her gown in the moonlight by the window, combing amazingly long and wavy hair, made her seem to me like an angel. I was in awe.
Then she broke the spell by rebraiding her hair. She never used a rubber band, but simply pulled a strand of hair and wound the end of the braid like a fishing lure. I was filled with questions, then. Why do you braid your hair to sleep? How does it stay in place with no rubber band? I don’t remember her answers, but only my awe and her amusement.
She died about 48 years ago. I still miss her. I still want to be like her when I grow up.
Here is the quilt she made for me. You can see light red and white tiny checked fabric on the bottom, just right of center. That was my baby dress. It had teensy rickrack on it.
Just right of that is a sort of black and pink tattersal with pink x’s. That was my mom’s summer Sunday dress for awhile. It had white lace at the neckline.
Parly out of view on the left is a white with black swirls. My grandmother wore that. There we all are, in one quilt.