Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Little Grandma Swanson

I think of this wonderful little lady more often in spring and summer than other times of the year, primarily because of this little creature:

The Mourning Dove

We have a lot of the cooing birds in our yard and neighborhood, and I never ever hear the soft, lovely sound without going back to my grandma's house and yard. My memories of her are so strong and so sweet.

My dad's mom was a tiny little Swedish lady named Olga. Amazingly, my grandpa saw her as an infant and declared "That's the girl I am going to marry." He was 10. I can hardly believe that story, but it's true. They eventually had 4 sons and one daughter, the baby and very spoiled! Dad was #3. The two oldest boys became missionaries to Africa and my dad became a pastor.

Grandma was a hard worker. She was a farm wife. She had a contagious laugh, when her eyes would close and her face would scrunch up. She loved to tell stories, and I wish I had written them down. I wish I hadn't become tired of her stories after the many times I heard them, and had paid closer attention as a teen and not just given her an occasional "uh-huh, Oh" as she talked and cooked.

Grandma was so short that she couldn't comfortably knead her bread or do her cooking or wash her dishes with standard kitchen counters. So her kitchen was built especially for her - I outgrew her when I was 10 and had a really hard time helping her with the dishes as I got taller and taller.

One of my fondest memories is when we'd come to visit, she'd run with her short little legs into the room where she kept her freezer and come back with frozen pieces of cake. She'd have the coffee pot on immediately. She kept her baked goodies in the freezer so she could serve a snack at a moment's notice - typical Swedish hospitality. The pieces of cake were tiny, and I loved eating them while they were still frozen. Ironically, this affected me later in life when I would buy Hostess treats and put them in the freezer to keep myself from eating them. Turns out I liked Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes better frozen! Made me feel like I was back at Grandma's house.

Grandma had a huge strawberry patch and an equally large cucumber patch - which she called "cukes". She was often out there working when we'd arrive. She had chickens, which I can remember her preparing for supper that night - thus, I have a mental image when I hear someone is "running around like a chicken with its head cut off!"

Grandma had quite a few farm cats - not pets, per se. But she must have endeared them to herself by feeding them scraps. Grandma had a very large goiter on her neck (now most likely known as a thyroid tumor). It was actually the size of a small grapefruit, and she finally went to Minneapolis, 50 miles away, for surgery. When she was still in the hospital and recovering, she heard the nurses talking about this cat that kept trying to come in to the hospital whenever the door opened. Turned out that it was one of her farm cats.

My brother Barry loved to spend as much time as he could with both sets of grandparents in the summer - they lived a mile from each other. He loved working on the farm, driving the tractor, helping with the cows, and all things farm related. He also had two brothers who were friends - they had fun doing things that they couldn't talk about for 5 years, when the statute of limitation was over.

So - I thought I needed to get in on the fun of spending a week or so with them. But, surprisingly, I was bored out of my mind. Grandma W was employed at a bakery in town, so was not home during the day. Grandma S was out in her large garden all day, and goodness knows I didn't like being out in the hot sun digging in the dirt. I know - what was I thinking?? I shouldn't have been so self-centered. I can remember lying on the bed upstairs reading all day long - imagine that!

One of my best memories is Christmas time when the missionary cousins were home on furlough - every four years. It was always like we'd never been apart - (I wrote about Ann and our wonderful time last summer). We played in the farmhouse upstairs, ate wonderful food, opened small gifts, often helped Grandma decorate her tree when we all arrived. Can you spot me in the picture?

Grandpa was pretty much "couch-ridden" for the last ten years of his life, and he died when I was 17. Grandma lived for 13 more years, the last 5 in a nursing home. She had sold the farm and moved into a tiny house in town. I didn't get to see her often as an adult, but took Kristen to meet Grandma when she was about a year old. Grandma didn't know me, and that was very sad.

Not long before she died, my mom, dad, and I took her for a ride to all the places she'd lived that we could find. She enjoyed the day so much and had such vivid memories. When we took her back to the nursing home, I have a strong memory of her standing on the sidewalk waving good-bye to us. A few minutes after leaving, Dad remembered that he'd left his glasses behind in her room. We turned around and went back. When Dad saw her, she said, "Who are you?" That was really hard on Dad. Just a few weeks later, she went home to the Lord she loved. Dad was privileged to be the minister at her funeral.

Long after Grandma died, cousin Ann, sister Vicki, and I spent some time out at the property where we'd been so happy as kids. Nobody had done anything with the land since she had sold it, and it was over-run with weeds. We found the foundation to the house and the bits of the barn and outbuildings that were still there. We looked for the spot where we had buried a bird, which we called "Five Rock Patio." We looked for the ditch that had seemed so deep and full of lilacs. We began to wonder what people might think if they drove by and saw all of us tromping through the high weeds. Ann said, "They'd think we're a bunch of missionary and preacher's kids looking for their roots!" It was true.


Needled Mom said...

What a great post, Dawn. She sounds very much like my own grandmother - a tiny but mighty farm wife. I was blessed to spend many wonderful visits with her throughout the years and my children also loved staying at her house. Don't you wish that you could go back and relive those days with a different perspective?

I was going to write a little blurb about my own grandmother in my next post because my aunt just sent me some of her coffee cups.

I am sure that you are making wonderful memories for your own granddaughters these days. Perhaps they will someday write beautiful things like this about you!!!

Beth said...

My Dad has told me all these things about her. I think I am a lot like her in the things I love to do. I wish I could have known her.

Linda said...

Oh Dawn, what precious memories. She sounds just precious.
It is easy to look back and wish we'd done things differently, but I think it is understandable that when we're young we don't appreciate the things that are so dear to us now.
It's wonderful that you are putting these things in writing for your children and grandchildren.

Karen said...

I truly cannot get enough of these kinds of posts, Dawn. I love them so much and you have no idea how much I appreciate hearing your memories and seeing the pictures.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

What a precious story of your Grandma! My Grandma on dad's side was only 4 foot eleven. A fiery little German lady!

grammy said...

Great story of your 'Roots'.
Just today...really!! I was thinking of my Grandma and wished as a child I would have walked up the hill to her house more often.....but there is nothing you can do about it. My best friend that I grew up with had 'tiny aunts' I am not sure where they were from...names like Versa...hmmmm
Loved the whole story (o:

Gram said...

What wonderful memories you have of your grandmother.

Glenda said...

What a beautiful picture of your "roots," Dawn! You do have a rich heritage! I can picture in my mind many of the things you wrote about. I, too, know the behind-the-scenes preparation of fried chicken!! You are so blessed to have so many good memories of your grandparents; I never knew either of my grandpas, and my grandmas died when I was 5 or 6.

Great post! Have a good weekend - and beginning of summer!

Brenda said...

Beautiful! A life filled with wonderful memories.

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Oh the wonderful memories you've shared. Some made tears well up. And it brought vivid memories of my grandma's house. And our secret hideaway...what my sister and I would call picnic mount in our youth --- a huge tree on an irrigation ditch that grandpa built a tree house for us girls. We'd take crackers and a bottle of spring water...spending the day there. I loved all the chickens. When I would spend the week there in the summer, that was my duty every day...collect the eggs. Still to this day, I could walk around in a chicken coop.........BAREFOOTED!! Bud can't fathom that at all. But he HAS seen me. rofl

What a great walk down memory lane.

And, Dawn, Kudos to YOU for getting the city out and cleaning the dead trees. Way to go.

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing Dawn! She sounds like she was a wonderful woman

Sammy said...

Oh Dawn. This is a really, really good one. Wow. Nearly made me choke up at the end. There are so many parts of this I love, so much of it I could imagine. Great piece of writing! Thanks so much for sharing all this!

Sharon Lynne said...

I enjoyed this post about your grandmother and the memories. Although you can't go back, you have the next best thing. Wonderful memories!

Maine Mom said...

"Amazingly, my grandpa saw her as an infant and declared "That's the girl I am going to marry." He was 10."...Wow! I think they were really meant to be together if he felt so sure at the age of 10 toward a baby girl. Do you know more of their dating/marriage story? I'd love to hear it if you do! :-)

Becky said...

This was fun to read, Dawn. It reminded me of all the great memories and stories of my own grandma that have never been written down. Shame on us. Grandma had 10 children, 36 grandchildren, and somewhere I have a list of the great grandchildren which number at least three times that. What a legacy!

Midlife Mom said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother! I loved every word of it! I too have wonderful memories of the farm and my grandmother that did so much hard work there. I loved to visit and see all the animals except the dead ones hanging from the barn being readied to be butchered! YUCK!

I too wish I had paid more attention to some of the stories my grandparents told. I guess we just don't appreciate those things until we are older.

Wonderful post!!!