When I was growing up my Grandma Marie lived on the corner. I’ve mentioned before how most of my cousins on my dad’s side grew up on my street… it was an idyllic childhood of climbing trees in the summer, eating green apples (with salt, of course) and running barefoot down the black top street. One of my favorite places to run was grandma’s house.
For years she had a sign that hung on her back door that read:
“Back door friends are Best!”
It never occurred to me that I should knock before I ran into grandma’s house or that she might be busy and not want me to play at her house every day… I just knew that when I went in that back door, I was one of grandma’s best friends!
Grandma passed away a few days ago. She would have been 92 next week and though I am sure she is having a glorious family reunion in Heaven, I miss her.
And so, because grandma would have loved to read the “history” I wanted to include just a few of my memories.
Grandma Marie was a teacher for 23 years and playing school was one of our favorites. Rindi and I used to play at grandma’s for hours. We would use her old school books and her gigantic chalk board and we would read “Ten Pennies for Candy” and sing “I can’t spell Hippopotamus”… or we would climb up her old red metal swing set and perch on the top rung. We would sing at the top of our lungs into the pipes and we would hear “Love is Spoken Here” echoed through the corn fields.
Rindi and I liked to write “readers theaters” and we would take our little plays and perform them for grandma. We also fancied ourselves as little spies. We would sneak around looking for clues to all sorts of mysteries. I remember one time we gathered some goodies in a basket and carefully crafted a note signed “your secret admirers.” Later we learned that grandma knew it was us all along! (Perhaps it was our 7 year old handwriting that gave us away!)
One of the things I always loved about Grandma was her poems. She wrote books and histories and thousands of poems. She wrote a poem for each of her grandchildren and I always loved mine. Last month when I visited with Grandma she held my hand and told me several times how special I was to her. My poem reminds me of that too. As a child when I would read it I would hope that I would live up to the beautiful things that she saw in me.
Granddaughter EmilyToday I am vacationing
Near wide rivers,
Lush green forests,
And snow-capped mountains,
But, for a little while
I will not think of rivers
Or forests or mountains.
I will be thinking of you,
You, who will soon have a birthday;
You, with your sweet loving ways;
You, who can brighten my day
With a smile and a hug;
You, who carry responsibilities
Beyond your years;
You, so quick to learn and to share;
You, with a gentle, tender heart.
These wide rivers, lush green forests
And snow-capped mountains
Are awesome and beautiful
You, dear Emily have a beauty
That outshines them all.
You are special, and I love you.
Written by Marie, August 1985
I could (and should) spend hours writing my memories of grandma, but for the last few days I have just been missing her. As I have been rereading her history I have glimpses into her life before she was “grandma”. As a child I naïvely assumed that my parents and grandparents were always as they are now. Reading grandma’s history has reminded me of stories she told of her youth. Parties, dances, dates, falling in love, and raising babies. I remembered stories about how she struggled for years with infertility and I felt a kinship with her in suffering. I read about she wondered if she had made the right decisions while raising her boys and I felt that same question within myself as I raise my little ones. As I read her history I feel more inspired to create my own and to leave my story for those I love. I am so grateful she left hers!
When I had Lila we decided to name her after Johnny's grandma Lila and my grandma Marie. I wrote this poem for grandma Marie one year. (She was named Alice Marie after HER two grandmothers.)
and so for my child, I have chosen the same.
It's a name filled with history, promise, and grace.
One I hope she will cherish and also embrace.
To my grandmother loved - down the street I would run
for hard candies and hugs, stories, learning and fun.
Your back door- always open for pigtails and rhyme,
your swing set a musical playground to climb.
From you I have learned how to read, write, and spell.
Hippopotamus, ten pennies... I know them all well.
As a child, your words filled with musical prose
touched my heart in a way that hel ped my talents grow.
You have helped me to love those who went on before
as I read through your words and I long to know more.
My memories will always be close to my heart
for you helped to give me an incredible start.
And now for my little one, I hope for the same.
I hope that she'll cherish her beloved name.
For to me, my dear grandma, you're one of the best.
My life has been touched and I call your name blessed.
Emily Haws Russ
All the kids with Grandma July 28th, 2011 (A month and a day before she passed away)
Love you, Grandma! We will miss you!