“Thanks for making this,” Mom said. “Keep a few bars for yourself.”
Mom and I were at Grandma’s house. By some strange alchemy, she had produced several white squares of laundry soap with the fat the butcher saved from the latest steer he dressed for our family and the lye Mom bought for her at the hardware store. Grandma took one bar of soap for herself but had her eye on something she coveted more.
“Irene, that coat looks a little shabby. Please save it for me when you get a new one. It’s exactly the right shade of green for the leaves in the hooked rug I’ve got on the go.”
Whenever the mat for stamping our feet at our back door was worn out, Grandma always seemed to have just finished a new one, as if by magic. Grandma and Mom had a symbiotic relationship.
I could always predict my Christmas gift from Grandma Mills – a fresh pair of flowered, flannel pyjamas. She made one every year for all three of her granddaughters. Her five grandsons each got a long-sleeved plaid flannel shirt. I discovered only recently in a conversation with one of those male cousins and his daughter how Grandma managed to make all of these items to fit perfectly without a pattern and without measuring us. She didn’t want to let the “secret” of what she was making out of the bag.
I knew that watching the kids jostle past her place on the way home from the village school was a highlight of Grandma’s day. She used to rock on her enclosed front porch and make comments like, “That little fellow is new. He and his family just rented the such-and-such house in the summer,” or “That one is growing up fast, just like Garry (one of her grandsons).”
Little did I know that she was comparing all of them to her grandchildren in the fall. The story goes that she would take a tape measure, pencil and paper and intercept the ones she judged to be the same size as each of us. The selected child had to stand still so she could take measurements. Today, I’m afraid she would be arrested for similar behavior! Or maybe not in a small town like Wheatley.
Like my grandfather, she modelled resourcefulness and creativity. And Grandma threw in a little moxie for good measure.