Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grandpa and Grandma Hurst

I don’t think I was very old when Grandpa and Grandma moved to town, but I do have memories of when they were on the farm.

On the farm, Grandma had her chickens, and she loved her chickens. She had one that would follow her around, and me, too, but I was afraid of that chicken following me. Grandma would always tell me that that chicken wasn’t going to hurt me, but I was still reluctant about being friends with a chicken.

They had a collie dog. His name was Spook. I don’t remember what happened to the dog, but I remember that he was a beautiful dog.

Grandma had a garden. I can’t remember a lot about the garden, but I do remember how she loved the long line of purple lilac bushes that were in the yard. The garden was just north of the lilac bushes. Even after they left the farm and we lived there, I always connected lilacs with my Grandma. And the wild roses and tiger lilies that grew beside the house in the back yard. They were always Grandma’s flowers to me.

I remember the old crank phone that was in the living room. And the one thing I distinctly remember is watching Grandma when she talked on the phone, not just the crank phone, but later, when she had the phone desk in the hall in Colby. Whenever Grandma would talk on the phone, her face was filled with expression....happiness, disappointment, sadness.... whatever response was appropriate for the conversation. I remember her nodding her head in agreement as she spoke to whomever was on the other end. And she always called the operator Central.

I don’t ever remember Grandma wearing anything but a dress on the farm, and she always had on an apron. She had some beautiful aprons, and she also had beautiful hankies. Any time she went somewhere, she always carried one of her hankies with her. She always dressed up if she left the house to go somewhere. She had lots of pretty necklaces and pins that she wore. She loved Evening in Paris perfume and had cin cin’s sitting on her dresser to freshen her breath.

When the weather would come on the radio, we stopped whatever we were doing as she said “listen, listen” softly to let us know the importance of the weather to her. Later, when she and Grandpa lived in town, we would get in the car and drive over the viaduct and outside of town so that Grandpa could see the weather for himself. They also used to take me for a drive, I guess to get me to go to sleep, but those drives were special to me. I can remember Grandpa driving from Colby to the farm one time, and he would lean forward, put both hands at the top of the steering wheel, then encircle the steering wheel with his arms as he drove. I do that myself sometimes and always think of Grandpa when I do. It bothers Al to no end because he just can’t see how anyone can drive like that.

Grandpa and Grandma had twin beds. I never gave it a second thought about why, although Mom and Dad didn’t have twin beds. It was just normal for them. Now I wonder if it was because Grandma was a great snorer. After Grandpa died, I would sleep in the same room with her and remember going to sleep listening to her snore. Now, I think I snore as well as she did. And as strange as it may seem, the snoring has become a fond memory of mine because it was a part of my grandma. I even find that the few times that Al snores, it is a comfort to me.

Grandpa and Grandma took me with them when they went to Great Aunt Lulu & Uncle Henry’s to play canasta. I didn’t get to play, but Aunt Lute always had cookies for me or something I could play with while they played, or I would sit with them and watch. Grandma taught me how to play canasta. We played many, many games together, and it has become one of my favorite card games. I can remember when she would click her tongue in sequence several times while she was thinking of what to discard. If I took the discard pile, she always had a strong look of disappointment on her face, and an “Oh, no” as I picked it up. If she took the pile, her face would glow. When we played canasta, she used to ask Grandpa if he wanted to play with us, but he wouldn’t. He didn’t play canasta unless he was at Uncle Henry’s, or at least not that I remember. He would watch us or go for a drive.

Grandma depended on Grandpa to take her everywhere. As far as I know, she never learned how to drive and didn’t really want to. Grandpa took us shopping, bingo, to main street to park and watch the people. And many people would stop to talk to us as we sat there. After Grandpa died, Grandma kept the car for quite some time. She always had us drive her to the store or to bingo.

I remember the tree beside the garage in town, and the pampas grass that grew not far from the tree. Grandpa would set his lawn chairs under the tree and we would sit with him or I would go play while he and Grandma sat. Once, when Grandma wasn’t around, he took firecrackers and threw them into the street when cars went past. I thought that was great. I’m sure the people in the cars weren’t as pleased. What fun for a little girl. He would use his cigarette to light the fuses. I always remember Grandpa with a cigarette in his hand.

I learned to play Chinese Checkers at Grandpa and Grandma’s. They kept the Chinese Checker board in the coat closet. And this is a memory that my daughter Julie has, too. Just thinking about the many times that I played Chinese Checkers makes me think I need to get that game for my grandchildren. It was great fun to jump marbles.

Grandma would turn on her record player and we would listen and sing together. That’s where I learned It Is No Secret and The Old Rugged Cross. I think It Is No Secret was Grandma’s favorite, it was mine, but she loved them both. Then I can remember Grandma dancing. She had this neat bounce when she was doing the waltz and I loved to see her dance.

We also used to spell together. Grandma was quite proud of her spelling ability, and I always wanted to be able to spell as well as she did. We practiced a lot.

Grandma loved to do dishes. We used to clean her buffet that sat in the dining room and wash every dish that was in it. She would always caution me to be very careful. She also had what I call the blue lady figurine. It is mine now, and each time that I look at it, as worn as it is, it is a part of my Grandma that I see. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.

Grandma used to fry steak. And it was the best steak in the world. Grandpa, Grandma and I would sit at the kitchen table and have our fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy and whatever else went with the meal. And we always had bread with our meal.

I remember going to the garage with Grandpa. I don’t know what we went to the garage for unless he was looking for something, but I remember being there with him. And getting the car out of the garage so that Grandma didn’t have to get in until she had more room.

I also would help Grandma with her laundry. Washing the clothes and putting them through the wringer, then taking them outside to hang. I don’t know that I was much help to her, but I thought I was. I’m not sure just when she got an automatic washing machine and a dryer, but I know she did. She still liked to hang her clothes outside.

Then when Grandpa died, I was heartbroken. I remember staying at Grandma Faber’s and crying the day that he died. I didn’t want my Grandpa to go.

After Grandpa died, Grandma used to take a table knife and put it in the frame of the front door after she locked it as an extra precaution against someone trying to get in. I found myself doing that when I lived in Wichita. It was just an extra sense of security.

I lived in Goodland when Julie was born, but we went to Colby to the hospital. Before I went to the hospital, I sat at Grandma’s and waited. And guess what we did while I waited? We played canasta. After Julie was born, Grandma loved her so much, and Julie loved Grandma in return.

Grandma was a worrier. I think she enjoyed the little girls more than the boys because she didn’t worry so much about what we would get in to. But she loved us all, and so did Grandpa. And I loved them.

Christmas Tree Memories

(I wrote this 8 years ago and found it on my old computer. Thought it was worth sharing.)

Three little girls with sparkling blue eyes, and smiles spread wide across their faces, their reddish-blonde hair glistening in the light of the freshly decorated Christmas tree. They each don new nightgowns, two dark blue with teddy bear prints, and the other a light blue with clouds floating throughout the pattern. Beautiful red garland is woven not so neatly around the tree. Decorations on the tree cluster in certain areas, leaving other areas not quite filled. The twinkle lights sparkle, and the illuminated star sitting at the top of the tree reminds us of what Christmas is really all about. To the left of the tree, sitting on the counter, is a jolly ol’ Santa Claus watching over the little girls.

Three, four and six; that’s the age of the little angels standing in front of the tree. At least they look like angels for the moment. But I can still detect a gleam of orneriness shining from their eyes. At least they aren’t fighting for the moment.

I love my three granddaughters, and seeing their picture, I can’t help but reflect back to when I was a child. Our Christmas trees were much like this one. The kids always played a big part in decorating the tree each year. At my grandmother’s house, we would string cranberries and popcorn, carefully putting several pieces of popcorn on the string, then a cranberry. Cranberries cost more than popcorn. We also made paper chains. Sometimes we used green, white and red paper, sometimes we colored our own paper, but the time we shared together while making the decorations became a memory I cherish.

At home, my brother, sister and I also decorated the tree together with the help of Mom and Dad. And the last two things that went into the decorating were the star or angel that sit at the top....my dad usually put this piece on...and the wooden manger scene that sat below the tree with one light shining from the back to illuminate the baby Jesus in the cradle. I remember well my mother’s quest to find the perfect tree when we were older. One year, she found what looked like the perfect tree, but when we went to put it up, it was top heavy. We had to tie a rope from a nail on the wall to hold it up. We still laugh about the trees Mom so carefully chose each year.

My own children helped to decorate our tree. I incorporated some of the old ideas into the decorations. Sometimes we made chains of paper and popcorn. Sometimes we made our own wooden ornaments to hang around the tree. But we always did it together and placed the angel or star at the top, then placed the wooden manger scene that I bought the first year I was married at the bottom, carefully putting the light behind it.

I still use the old decorations, and I still have children to help me decorate. I derive great joy from telling my grandchildren how we made the decorations. And even more joy comes from getting out the paper so that they can make decorations of their own. It is all an important part of Christmas.

I see many beautiful trees each Christmas season, but none of them will ever meet the beauty of my Christmas trees. There’s something missing in the other trees. Love, togetherness, companionship and last, but certainly not least, the memories.

Christmas is Coming!

(Written 9 years ago.)

Of all the gifts I have received in my 51 years of celebrating Christmas, one gift always comes to mind when I try to think of my favorite. At the time the gift was given, it didn’t seem like much, but now it is the gift my mind constantly returns to. I’m not even sure it was my gift. It could have been my brother John’s or my sister Jackie’s, or it could have been a gift given to all of us. The gift given to all is what I choose to remember.
The gift was a Monopoly game. I remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning playing with Jackie and John. I’m sure we fought, laughed, screamed and probably accused each other of cheating that evening. But it was the evening of the first of many Monopoly games we would play.
Now that I look back, I realize that it wasn’t the game at all that was the gift. It was the fact that we were together, that we shared good times with each other.