I’ve been thinking a lot about my paternal grandmother, Beatrice Simmons. I’m not sure why, since it isn’t close to her birthday or the anniversary of her death. I think it started a few weeks ago when we had a short cold spell and the greeter at WalMart wore a fake fur coat. It reminded me of Gran’s mink stole. She let me wear it once to the Fireman’s Ball. I felt like a queen!
Gran was like that- a generous, big-hearted woman who took in stray people and made them feel special. She had her own three children, a foster son, and a variety of guests over the years. I lived with her for a couple of years after my divorce from my high school sweetheart, and then later when my second husband, Gary and I returned to California from Iowa and needed a place to stay while we looked for work.
Gran had several occupations over the years, but her primary ones always involved cooking. She cooked for a nursing home, and several cafes. She even owned a small café when I was about nine. I remember staying in the back room sometimes and watching television. Or I would go around to the front and play the jukebox or the bowling machine.
When Gran was at home she still cooked as though she was running a restaurant. She made huge pans of homemade bread and bubbling kettles of stew. Her lasagna was fabulous! Her pies were perfection. But she cooked enough for a “logging camp” as she was fond of saying. We had leftovers for days.
Gran also kept a lot of food. Because she still vividly remembered the Depression, she kept her pantry well stocked. As a young girl I marveled at her shopping abilities. She watched for sales and clipped coupons and if she used something frequently, then she bought it in multiples. I once asked her why she had ten pounds of coffee stashed away. She looked at me incredulously. “Because we drink it every day!” she explained.
I got a cherry limeade at Sonic one day last week. That also reminded me of Gran because she loved maraschino cherries. She always told me she “should be on a diet”, but she could make you a chocolate sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top without ever sending anyone to the grocery store! There were simply some essentials that were always in stock at Gran’s house.
For years I was fascinated by the fact that Gran could eat at all. She was the only person I knew who could remove her teeth! And without her dentures she talked funny too. She used to take her teeth out to amuse us, and later did the same for my children.
Gran also sewed and crocheted. She made most of her clothes and also made clothes and toys for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had a “sewing and alterations” business for many years and her customers loved her.
I suppose Gran had a difficult life. My grandfather was an alcoholic. My uncle was a habitual criminal. Gran suffered with arthritis and various health problems. But she seldom complained. She had a strong faith in God and in people. She had her work and her garden and her sewing. She spent her life taking care of others and rejoicing in her blessings. That’s quite a legacy, and certainly worth remembering from time to time.