Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Grandmother's Legacy

As a child I vividly remember my paternal grandmother washing clothes in her old ringer washer in the basement of the country farmhouse my grandfather built. I remember watching her wash the clothes in the big tub and then running the wet fabrics through the ringer before hanging them out on the line to dry in the sunshine. She did it with the skill of a woman who had done so many, many times probably every day of her life. It was in this manor that she washed all of the clothes for her family of six.

Later in life my three uncles and aunt pooled their funds and bought grandma a brand new Kenmore washer from Sears. She told them she did not want or need it, esoterically since there wasn't anything particularly wrong with the washer she already had. Not being a woman who easily embraced new things, the new sparkling white washing machine stood in the corner of the basement mostly becoming a great place to store garden baskets and canning jars.

When grandma developed Alzheimer's and had to be put into a nursing facility, her children, knowing that she would never come back to her home, sadly began the  task of dividing and selling off her possessions. Because money was needed for her care, many of the things in the old farmhouse were sold. One of the things I loved the most about grandma's country kitchen was her old hooiser cabinet. I remember her rolling out pie dough on the worn enamel topped work surface and sifting flour from the built in sifter. Taped to the inside of the doors were her most cherished recipes, most scrawled in pencil on yellowing index cards. I dissembled the treasured piece and brought it back to Richmond where it lives in my kitchen today.

Near the end of cleaning out her house, there were inevitably some things that no one wanted or knew what to do with. My dad told me in passing that they didn't know what to do with her old ringer washer. He laughed to himself when he thought of how his mother had snorted at the new Kenmore and had instead continued to wash and ring on the tried and true machine that she knew oh so well. I told him to not throw it out but instead bring it to me on the next trip to town. A few weeks later I was the proud recipient of a trophy to my grandmother's sweat and toil to keep her families clothes clean. I also had the cherished memory of a short, feisty woman with the tenacity of a pit bull, and the smile of an angel.

Today my grandma's "angel" smiles at me every day when I open my back door. Her old ringer washer beams back at me from the corner of my deck - but now instead of washing and ringing - it holds green and growing things that remind me every day of her. Love you grandma!


Christine Hall-Sizemore said...

Loved this post! The love you had for your grandma brings great value to her prized possessions.I love the description of her as part pit-bull and part Angel. Mine was like that too! Today, I AM a Grandma. Nothing better!

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Delighted to find your blog Tony. My Mom had a machine like that when we lived in the historical district of Hopewell. We lived there until I was in the 3rd grade. I remember getting my hand caught in the rollers of that old machine once. When we moved she upgraded to a "new fangled" machine. Glad you inherited and kept it and having her hoosier in your kitchen now is fabulous! xo