My paternal grandmother enticed squirrels close to her house: she tied a shallow tin can in the hackberry tree next to the side porch with a piece of baling wire, put a few shelled pecans in, and waited patiently inside the window, her .22 caliber rifle lying across her calico-aproned lap. No squirrels were going to ravage her peach orchard and vegetable garden as long as she could wage her protracted war with them.
On a summer day when I was about ten (and she was about 78), she took one of the little carcasses to the backyard, skinned and gutted it, and then fried it like chicken and served it to me with speckled gravy for lunch.
But my earliest memories of Grandmomma are of her feet, rhythmically working the treadle of her sewing machine. She wore black lace-up shoes and tan colored hose rolled down to her ankles as she powered each stitch.
Sometimes she’d let me push the treadle for her with my hands as I lay on the floor beside her. Grandmomma made all of her clothes on that oak Minnesota Model A machine until the late 1970’s, when she was almost ninety years old and her eyesight had diminished a bit.
(The photo above shows her shoes and the bottom of her sewing machine, along with the braided rug she made to pad the treadle.)
She married my grandfather in 1912. They ordered a wardrobe, a bed, and the sewing machine from Sears Roebuck to set up housekeeping; they picked up these necessities at the railroad depot twenty-six miles away and brought them back over rough road to their Texas hill country homestead by horse-drawn wagon.
Here she is in her wedding dress, age 24:
And here she is fifty years later, on her golden wedding anniversary in 1962:
She was a small woman, standing barely over five feet and weighing probably 100 pounds. When she tended her garden or cared for her chickens, she always wore a bonnet, and her skin looked much younger than her age when she died peacefully in her sleep at 92 (in 1980), never having been admitted to a hospital in her life. Her three children, as was the custom then, were birthed at home with the help of a midwife.
When I was a child, our homes were only a half mile or so apart, and I often walked over to spend the day with her. On the way, I’d pick some wildflowers which grew along the edge of the caliche road in front of her home, and Grandmomma would graciously accept them as if they were a precious gift and make a show of arranging them, using a jelly jar as a vase.
Her birthday is July 11, and this one will mark 125 years since her birth in 1888. But her upcoming birthday isn’t the only reason she’s been on my mind.
Here in the hill country, the mountain pinks are blooming.
They’re the very color of nostalgia.
Describe your grandmother or another person from your childhood. What objects remind you of those early memories?
Do flowers or plants of a certain kind remind you of someone? Tell the story.