Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our Grandmother Pollard

Our Grandmother Pollard

My children grew up thinking that there was only one GREAT grandmother in their lives: Grandmother Pollard. Oh, there was at least two grandmothers they knew and three great-great grandmothers that they had met, but Grandmother Pollard was always the only person they knew who was just called Grandmother. She loved the title and our niece and nephew and even my sister-in-law called her Grandmother. She was happy to be a grandmother to just about anyone who needed one.

Everyone NEEDS a grandmother. Mine just happened to be the best in Clay County, Texas. I knew she was the best around partly because Granddad Pollard loved her so much. Whenever he needed her to go chase sheep or otherwise do something a little odd, she was willing to try. I never saw her drive a tractor, but I can imagine that she would have tried if Granddad had asked her to. But my memory of her pretty much claims her spot in the kitchen and in the garden or even in the cellar during storms. Back before the old farm house had indoor plumbing, Grandmother would fill up an old number 10 washtub and have me take a bath on Saturday night before we were to go to church the next day. She taught a class of young kids my age at the Methodist Church. She always seemed to have something special to keep them coming back to class. If nothing else, she bragged on them for knowing scriptures that she had asked them to read.

When I was a child, all birthday parties that I ever had were organized by Grandmother Pollard. She also saw to it that my brother and I had a new Easter “outfit” for that Sunday, as well. My mom did not approve of shorts, so Grandmother Pollard had GRANDDAD take me to Alcorn’s in Henrietta to buy my first short set—a sailor suit that had shorts. I actually got to wear it since Granddad had bought it for me. Grandmother knew how to get around my mother and her ideas of what was acceptable for little girls.

Grandmother also liked to organize groups of women so that they could enjoy each other and learn something at the same time. She had book clubs, Home Demonstration club, the Methodist Ladies’ club, and assorted community clubs that met in her home or in the homes of one of her friends. She got Granddad to organize the local Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association so that those in Clay County who had sheep could combine forces to hire shearers each year and find better breeding stock as well as find better markets for their wool. My grandparents also provided lambs for the young teens that needed projects for their FFA or 4H animals.

Grandmother always seemed to know what was needed in our community and found ways of filling the need. One year she had me going with her from house to house as we raised money for the March of Dimes. She said that she never worried about going up to someone’s porch with me because I seemed to know every dog in town! A year or so later she took me with her while she volunteered for the Red Cross in Wichita Falls. Back then they still used bottles for blood donations. We did not donate any blood, but we certainly got the bottles ready.

Grandmother Pollard thought my husband was a grand guy and wanted to be sure that I fed him well and kept him happy. She told me that a man who provided for his family, who did not drink or leave us at home alone, and who played with his children was worth every effort to keep happy. When we needed her to come and stay with our two children when the last baby was born, she was so excited that she packed without putting any underwear in her suitcase. To this day, all of the family laugh and tell each other to be sure and not to pull a Grandmother Pollard when we pack our suitcases!

Finally, when I think how freely she loved all of us and how she made us all feel so special as individuals, I know why I have tried to be like her when I hold my grandchildren. I want them to know that I will always love them—just as she always loved me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reckoning the Ages

Reckoning the Ages

In my bookcase are two volumes titled The NEW Century Dictionary. The first copyright date is 1927 and the last is 1944. One would assume that each edition might have included new words that came into being from the first copyright date. Be that as it may, I suspect that those who published these books might have used words quite unlike those used today. Certainly, the authors would find the speech and vocabulary of today quite confusing. It would not be enough to say that the word gay no longer means happy. No, those writers of 1944 would find that new words exist and continue to appear with increasing regularity.

While our language is only a small measure of the changes in our world, the relationships we have had in the past in our families have faced changes that seem just as startling to me. When I became a grandparent, I suddenly remembered my own with a particular and poignant vividness. Oh, how I miss their simplicity and their love! I can only hope that my grandchildren can enjoy being grandchildren as much as we did in our day.

All of my grandparents were born in the early 1900s, and my in-laws and my own parents were born from 1910 to 1928. So their childhoods and upbringing were quite current with that two-volume dictionary. In fact, my grandparents,my parents, and in-laws saw World War II as well as the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Living through those days left an indelible impression upon all of my family. But that impression has only faded to the extent that my memory has lapsed because I still remember the stories and the admonitions to make do with what we had and not waste whatever we used.

My paternal grandmother taught me how to embroider and to make a cake using apple butter or jams from the cellar. Sugar was rationed during the time she was cooking most of her meals on the farm, and she had to make do with whatever she had to sweeten a special cake for her family. She also embroidered simple designs on all of her pillow cases so that anyone staying the night with the family thought that “Mrs. Astor” had no better place to sleep. She served cake, made a lovely bed, and fed her guests from her garden. She was not a pioneer woman, but her mother before her was the epitome of pioneer. Grandmother learned from one of the best. Great-grandmother used her husband’s tobacco sacks to piece together quilt tops that were made from leftover scraps of flour sacks. When she wasn’t having babies, she cared for the pigs and chickens and milked a cow. She churned her own butter and made pound cakes with real pounds of ingredients. And when she was not feeding the hired hands or relatives, she took off on her horse and delivered babies as a midwife.

The men in our family were good providers; the women made what they provided work to the last inch of usefulness. When I think about the examples set by my grandmothers, I realize that I am as different from them as the old dictionary is to the language of this day. We still serve our children and grandchildren and do our best to lead by example, but our world is changing so very quickly that the children may never understand what it means to grow their own food or sew their own clothes or even to provide a restful place for their families. My grandparents did these things as a matter of course—by default of the times in which they lived. Today I try to adapt my commitments to the grandchildren in much the same way as my grandparents adapted to their world—one word, on love at a time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Rose Moss Bed

This past Saturday I worked on the yard, planting flowers and a few tomato and pepper plants. The daffy-dorks, as Hanan calls them, have just about finished doing all they can do for one spring. The pretty yellow bells have rung until they are wilted and ready to be cut back a bit. The green leaves will look fine until it is time to dig them out of the ground and store the bulbs. And the dahlias have shot up some strange looking stems under the cedar tree where the sunshine hits them every morning. But one area was still waiting for the weather to change a few degrees warmer. In that area was where I planned to plant rose moss--and Lewis' ashes.

Lewis once said that he regretted that he had lived his entire life on this old hill. He grew up here and then stayed after we married. We never lived any other place; and he died right here in his bedroom. And now what little remains after cremation is stirred into the soil to be mingled with the rose moss seeds. He loved my  flower beds out in front of the house under the cedar tree, so if he has to stay here, at least it will be in a pretty bed of moss. If it should work out that this place is still in the family when I die, maybe the children will let my ashes mingle with his in the same flower bed. We made beautiful memories together. Maybe we could be the foundation for something else beautiful as well.