Monday, July 4, 2011

My Grandmother

I have been thinking a lot about my Grandmother lately.
I don't know why, I just have been.
Please allow me to tell you about her.

She was born in 1914 in Kendal, Saskatchewan. I think she was the 4th of 11 children. Or maybe it was the 11th of 40 children. Hard to tell way back then. Her parents were immigrants from what was once Italy but was taken over by Austria. The last name was Righetti. Doesn't sound too Austrian to me.

She married my Grandpa in her early twenties. Both he and she were school teachers in rural Saskatchewan. They made their way to Regina where they had two daughters, one being my mother. There they lived their whole lives.

She was a very fancy woman. She always wore dresses except when we were on the family vacations at the beach. She always wore a hat when she went out of the house. She always wore high heels, even in the house. I can still remember the sound of her shoes on the linoleum floor as she moved around the kitchen. She had a collection of purses too.( Must be where my sister got the idea as she has more purses than anyone I know. I have three. One handmedown that she gave me, one for summer one for winter.) In them she carried a comb, an aspirin and a tissue.

She was a good cook. Like most women did back then, everything was made from scratch. I was the lucky recipient of her recipe collection. Almost all of the recipes had side notes like 3 Tbsp of cocoa (2 is okay). And some cookie recipes have quantities and costs and the year written on the back. I'll never get rid of these. I remember all of us Grand kids, both my family and my aunts family getting together for family dinners. We would eat so much that our bellies ached. All of the adults would go to the front room for drinks and coffee and all of the kids would go to the den after the meals. We always had pimiento stuffed olives and celery with cheez whiz.

She was very strict. We daren't cross her, or heaven forbid, talk back. I don't know what she would have done if we did though. We wouldn't even try to test her to find out. She expected children to behave at home and in public. No difference. And behave we did.

Her house as always sparkling clean. She had a little bottle with a pierced lid like a salt shaker to sprinkle water on her ironing. She had a routine. One day was wash day, one was baking, one was the day she would go downtown. She used the very hottest water to wash dishes with. Scalding hot. She used Ivory dish liquid. I bought some a few years back and was disappointed that the scent had changed. She used Crest toothpaste and Promani hand lotion.

My Grandma had a jewellery box full to the brim of "expensive" jewellery. Later we found out it was not expensive at all. When we went to visit, my sisters and I inevitably would ask "Grandma, can we look in your jewellery box?" She always said yes. We would also get to play "office" at her desk. She had a desk area with the neatest telephone attached to the wall. Her sewing machine was stored under the cabinet which was her desk. Fun stuff.
When I was a young mother with three little girls, she would take the cab to our house every Thursday and help me out. She would play with them and read to them and always take a nap in the afternoon. She was still as strict with my children as she was with me. And they adored her. After supper, Paul would drive her back home. In fact, he gave her her first ride in a pick up truck and to the dump her one an only time. Like I said, she was very fancy.

She taught me about gardening and gave me the love of it. My Grandpa grew Gladiolus and she had Mums and Lilies. She taught me to make plum dumplings. I recall her asking for my meatloaf recipe, which I considered an honor.

She and my Grandpa would always spend the evening in the front room having coffee, reading the mail and listening to the news. She taught me that it was not necessary to talk to my Grandpa all evening, just being together was the gift. Years after my Grandpa died I was visiting her and she was looking for something in her bedroom and we were talking. She picked up a little green angel whose wing had been repaired and tears fell down her cheeks. She told me that Grandpa had bought that for her many years ago, back when money was tight. She chided him for doing so, telling him it was a waste of money. And now, it brought tears to her eyes.

I never did appreciate how hard it must have been for her after he died. I was 19 years old when he died. I figured he was old and she lived with him a long time. Old people die. How wrong I was. She loved him. He loved her. I never saw them hold hands or kiss. They just didn't do that in front of people. But make no mistake, they loved.

When my Grandma was dying of cancer in the hospital only 6 years after my Grandpa died, I remember the very last thing she ever said to me. She spoke of how proud she was of me and of Paul's new job and of the kids, but the very last thing she ever said to me was "Don't give anyone my Lima bean recipe."
It is true. Seems funny now, especially since I have that recipe and it is not hand written but neatly clipped out of a woman's weekly magazine.

She died Christmas morning, 1990. She was 76.


Jen said...

I love this post Mom.

A few comments:

Grandma (Maura) sure looks a lot like her, especially in that first picture. I never realized that!

Somehow I think Josie (and Jill) looks like YOU in that one picture.

I remember looking at her jewelry too and thinking it was so fancy.

Kaivalya said...

I really loved reading this!!! I think it's my favourite blog post of yours ever. The photos are special and brought her story to life. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your memories and love. She sounds like a elegant and vibrant woman.

nadia said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing :)
And thank you for stopping by the other day, it's always wonderful to meet new inspiring people :)

xo Nadia

ladybird39pm said...

Hi Michelle I love stories of the past. would you give out the plum dumpling reciep My grandmother use to make it it was steamed in a cheese cloth over steam a sauce of some sort could be poured over when serving. In my grandmothers time this dish was a cheap dish to fill bellys. My grandmother called it plum duff. it could be a different reciept

Michelle said...

I don't think this is the same recipe. It is more like perogies that you serve with melted butter, sugar and browned bread cubes. If this is what you are looking for, Jen has the recipe.

Mona said...

Once again, your writing is a joy to read.

Alex and Cassandra said...

This is an awesome post. Glad I stumbled upon your blog today :)

Hollie Olivia said...

Hi Michelle,
I came across this post about your grandmother today, while I was searching for a picture of the Promani hand lotion my own grandmother always used.... That wonderful almond scent takes me right back to her soft, well-cared for hands. She, too, was an elegant lady, despite being a Saskatchewan farm wife, her hair was always set 'just-so', she never went out without lipstick and took great care with wearing jewellery and proper lady shoes and coats.
I love how these women held their femininity in the highest regard no matter the hardships that being on the Saskatchewan prairie can bring. I am proud to be a prairie girl and reading your post and thinking of my own grandmother encourages me to honour my inner 'fancy lady' a little more..... Thank you for sharing this treasure of your memory. Wonderful!
With gratitude,
Hollie Olivia
PS - if you ever find a picture of that glorious turquoise plastic Promani bottle, I'd love to see it!