I’ve been feeling a lot lighter these days. Sure, work is work and life has its hardships, but overall I think the biggest thing that affects my mood is the weather and we have been having some glorious spring days. But even better this time of year – and the warmer days – remind me of my grandmother.
My Dad’s mother was one of those people who makes things look easy. Her house was always clean, she was a great cook, and she and my grandfather had a slew of friends from one coast to the other, the result of years of travel. On any given day warm enough to sit outside, you would be offered a glass of fresh iced tea and a lemon square or other treat. My grandparents’ garden seemed to harvest exactly enough to feed whomever ended up at their table that day, with spare for canning and freezing. Ever money-conscious, as so many folks of that generation, my grandma would hang her sheets outside to dry on the line whenever it was not so cold they would freeze solid. Grandma’s flower bed would rival Martha Stewart any day, and I swear the weeds didn’t dare grow there. After thirty years as a nurse, she waxed poetic about the practicality of wearing white pants – always perfectly clean and stain free, of course – and I never saw her wear jeans. Each spring she ordered geraniums from one booster club or another (low fuss, always in bloom) for the front porch, where they hung proudly on either side of the American flag. I can hear her voice, see her face and the yard, smell the grass freshly cut by my grandfather, feel the coolness of the gazebo and hear the clang of the metal chain on the swing, as if I just left after stopping in for lunch, when it’s been nearly eight years since I’ve driven down that country road and pulled into the gravel drive.
I don’t know if Grandma’s gift of “making it look easy” was inherent or a learned skill, but at this point I’m pretty sure I’ll never have it – my living room looks like a mine field of toys and I barely have time to pour cereal in a bowl most mornings, let alone make fresh desserts for people who happen to drop in. Luckily, there are plenty of things I picked up from her that don’t rely on baking or cleaning or being organized (phew!). I finally talked my husband into installing a clothes line in our tiny backyard, and actually look forward to washing sheets in the summer so we can enjoy the warm, sun-kissed smell of them. The sun-tea pitcher sitting on the back wall is a constant well into the fall. We started a garden, and each year I experiment a bit more with what does well – and what doesn’t – in our sun-challenged backyard. I even learned to can; too late to inherit Grandma’s huge collection of supplies, but I think she would have been proud of the tomatoes I put up, not to mention my ability to use the summer’s bounty to get my family through the winter months. I’m like a kid in a candy store when my lilacs bloom; Grandma had the most gorgeous lilacs, you could smell them from across the street. A few years ago I planted a peony similar to the one that used to showcase her flower bed and was thrilled to see (finally!) three of the most gorgeous, fragrant buds appear.
Grandma would have been 86 last week and I have no doubt that, if she were still with us, she’d be picking flowers for the table and offering up some iced tea. Neither my husband nor my kids had the chance to meet her, but I like to think she is part of their lives through me – and I can only hope that someday T’s kids will be talking about how my house was always clean!