Friday, January 13, 2012
I mentioned it before in a comment on my post about refurbishing my Gramma's cast iron cookware that I was able to save from my Granddad's new wife. So many of my Gramma's things went to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the dump before any of us got to even look at it. I was so angry and so hurt.
The skillets you see here, though, I've had ever since I can remember. My Gramma taught me how to fry eggs in them when I was so little I had to stand in a chair to see the top of the stove. I baked my Granddad birthday cakes in them when I was 4 or so. They're kitty wompus, off balance, lumpy, and the handles stick off at odd angles. You can't set them down without something in them, because they won't sit up. The weight of the handles pulls them over. I love them to pieces, and I hope that they never wear out. They're copper clad steel, and cookware like that costs a VERY pretty penny these days. I'd never be able to replace them financially, but it's the sentimental value of them that makes them priceless. I propped them up on my knife rack so you could see just how small they are. They'll only hold a single serving. I made individual apple pandowdies in them the other day. It makes me happy every time I get a chance to use them. Every time I use them, I remember standing on the chair trying so hard to flip a frying egg. I remember proudly presenting the little cakes I'd baked to my Granddad. I remember working in the garden, helping with the canning, and evening tea with a bit of cream.
I guess in some ways that doesn't make sense. Usually if you treasure something you put it up, keep it safe, only bring it out to admire it occasionally, then put it back away. Gramma's gifts were like that for a while. I didn't want to use them, because I didn't want to mess them up, damage them in some way, wear them out. But, my attitude changed over time. Why in the world would Gramma want me to hide her gifts away, never use them, never get any enjoyment out of them other than a fleeting glimpse now and then when I remember her? I began to think she'd laugh at me if she saw how I was treating the things she'd given me. She'd probably say "baby, I gave you those things to *use*."
The middle quilt Gramma made when I was very little. I can't remember for sure, but I think it might be one of the ones she taught me to quilt on. I've got her quilting frame in the basement, and now that I have my spare bedroom back, I think I am going to set the frame up and try to mend these old quilts. It will change them, and that is also part of what I was afraid of. I thought if I mended them, it somehow detracted from them, but it really doesn't. It connects us all. A long line of women sitting on stools, at tables, at frames, with needle and thread, and eventually with machines, mending, piecing, patching, saving bits and bobs of fabric from dresses or shirts, pants and uniforms. Each one of those pieces is a word, or a phrase, or maybe a paragraph of our history. I can't read it, per se, but I can feel it, and I can pass it on one day maybe if I am not irrevocably sterile.
Whenever I tuck myself in to bed, pulling up one of the quilts she made or helped make, she's there with me humming off key, or yodeling, showing me how to embroider, teaching me how to piece, helping me sew a seam, or cuddling in the dark after I've had a bad dream. My Gramma is with me a lot more now that I use the gifts she gave me. Not just fleeting through my thoughts now and again. It sometimes means I miss her a lot more now than I used to, but it also means that I don't miss her the same way, because she's here in many ways, too.
The things we create, the memories we give to our loved ones, that is our immortality. And how our loved ones care for our gifts, mend them, use them, and make memories of their own with them is how we live forever. I used to think that having to mend the things Gramma made and gave me would somehow diminish her presence, but it really doesn't. It just puts a little bit of me in there with her.
I miss you Gramma.