Hazel’s Granddaughter

By

As I sling imperfect measurements of flour and brown sugar into a big enamelware bowl this morning, as I sip my coffee out of the Swede coffee cup (“you can always tell a Swede but you can’t tell him much”), as I drag my brushes through the vibrant liquid colors and commit them to the paper, my grandma is with me in the kitchen today. Hazel was my mother’s mother. Her middle name was Fern.

She loved her family and was a consummate homemaker. She loved the nothingness of the Arizona desert. She loved the pink, cloudy evening skies of the West. In her opinion, the Tetons were God’s most extravagant gift to his children. S3263887429_3c6ffa1f2b_ohe was an artist and took painting courses by correspondence. She had a real gypsy spirit and didn’t mind moving around, wherever the winds of opportunity blew her and her family. She was a rascally tomboy when she was young, and kept a healthy portion of that feisty nature as long as she lived.

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When my grandfather first saw her, he was dumbstruck by her raven hair, her smooth, dark skin and her tiny waist. (His name was Philip Oscar.) Hazel was a profound beauty. Her deep, rich, lolling laugh was unmistakable and filled the air. She had able arms of Biblical proportions; she worked hard alongside her husband and supported him in his endeavors as a farmer and a carpenter. She certainly wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She was a creative thinker. She took apart the children’s clothes and made more clothes out of the fabric. Mom said that one year she made a Christmas topiary tree out of spray-painted tumbleweeds. Her homemade butter was always sweet and much fresher than Aunt Berneece’s because she pressed every bit of water out of it, the story is told.

She kept her soap in a little red plastic flower-shaped dish by the kitchen sink which I always thought was beautiful. She taught me how to read in the back seat of the Ford which carried us to California in the summer of my fourth year. One of the first phrases she helped me identify and sound out was “extraordinarily long arms” from the book “Mr. Tickle.” She had soft skin — the very pillow-softest. When she held me her neck always smelled powdery and clean. She made clothes for my baby doll using patterns she made by tracing her form onto paper towels. One piece was a double-breasted, winter white overcoat with a Peter Pan collar. She even made matching nightgowns of pink flannel for me and my doll.

4279351877_36544b1f62_bI remember sitting on the back step, watching her scrub the birdbath in the garden faithfully; her birds always had a fresh place to splash around. In their back yard grew plum, cherry, and apple trees, and she even had a blueberry bush which she covered with ethereal netting when the bugs got bothersome. Her Swedish meatballs were the stuff of legends. She made bread more fragrant and toasty-buttery-tasting than any I’ve ever had (Angela and I greedily consumed whole loaves of the stuff on our own).

She was a faithful woman. She loved Jesus with all of her self, trusted in him wholly, and lifted her family up to his care daily. She left us when I was ten years old, and her lasting gift was this brilliant, shimmering collection of so many glad memories. I was given grandma’s art supplies when she passed away. Every time I hold one of her drawing pencils in my hand, I wish that she could know me today as a grown woman. She would laugh that marvelous laugh and shake her head at how alike we are and how I am, most definitely, Hazel’s granddaughter.

 


13 Comments

  1. Emily

    Thank you for this tribute to your grandmother. Your writing reminds me of my own Nanny, who passed away before I became a Christian. Her life, lived faithfully, inspires me every. single. day.

  2. Loriann S.

    Dear Evie,

    I always love your posts! This one is no exception. I too had a GRammie I adored, who lived in a trailer park, made polish stew, and got her news from the National Inquirer. She was strong from living with 4 abusive, alchoholic husbands, and she was truly one of a kind. So different from yours, but I cherish her as you do yours. Blessings to you, keep writing.

    Your friend on the pilgrim road,
    Loriann

  3. Stacy Grubb

    This is sheer beauty. I am also Hazel’s granddaughter and the comparison of your Hazel to mine made me feel so connected to every word you said. My grandma is still living, though she’s now in a home and she wasn’t really sure who I was when I sat with her a few days ago. She knows Stacy and can tell you all about her. She just can’t figure out that I’m Stacy when we’re together. It’s a strange blessing to hear her talk about her little granddaughter not realizing she’s telling her how special she is. She’ll say, “Oh, you sing? My little granddaughter sings. She’s the best you’ll ever hear.” She is the only grandparent I would ever know. Aware of that, God made her extra special. She turned 90 this year with the same promise she’s made every year since I can remember: “If I can make it past Groundhog Day, I’ll live another year.” I rely on that and feel sure we’ll have her at least until the geese start calling. She’s not the same Hazel I had 5 years ago, but she is every bit as precious and, Evie, you’re precious for sharing your love for your Hazel reminding me to recall the days when mine was 10 feet tall.

  4. Susan

    Your memories are precious and inspire me to put a few of my own on paper. I too shared a kinship with my grandmother. My mother tells me often that I am so much like her. And I too share the desire to be able to know her as an adult and have her know the adult me. I still miss her, and as my paternal grandparents’ health is beginning to decline, this is a reminder for me to treasure every moment I have with them. Thank you, Evie, for that reminder and for inspiring the recollection of so many wonderful memories with Nana!

  5. Susan B

    Thank you for sharing. Edna was my grandma. She lived her Christianity out loud simply by loving others and she was my greatest hero. She was who I wanted to be when I grew up. I did not grow up to be Edna but the impact she had on my life affected every major life decision from my choice to serve Jesus to my choice in marriage. I am so thankful.

  6. becky

    Lovely writing as usual, Evie. Makes me, like others here, think of my wonderful grandma.

    She grew up the only girl in a family of real Nebraska cowboys. Her name was Eleanor Lucille, but if you knew what was good for you you never called her Eleanor or Lucy. She met my grandpa at a weekend dance at the town hall, and it was love at first sight for her. He swept her away in his “Golden Chariot” (Model A Ford) to a tiny house in the middle of an apple orchard in Oregon, and then to a little town in northern California where he was able to work in a sawmill during the Depression and the War. In Oregon, her window looked out on Mt. Hood. In California, the view was of Mt. Shasta. When my dad was about 7 years old they packed everything they could into their car, and moved home to Nebraska. I wonder if she missed the mountains when she came back to the plains? Her specialties were pork chops and rice cooked in a big black roasting pan, cinnamon rolls, and homemade ice cream.

    She followed Jesus her whole life. Once, when I was visiting her in the care home, she told me that God had been speaking to her about her temper. And toward the very end of her life she decided that God had put her in the care home to help other people. So she started checking up on her neighbors, and talking to people who didn’t have much company. She was a great example to me, and I am proud to have inherited her red hair and freckles–although she could have kept her hips to herself and that would have been just fine. 🙂

  7. Kimberly

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your memories. Grandmothers are so special and I thank God for the relationship that I had with my own sweet Mamaw.

  8. Elisabeth

    Beautiful. She sounds so like my grandmother, although so different too. (My grandmother, for example, it British through and through! : ) ) And I love being known as my grandmother’s grandaughter. Someday I’d love to have a grandaughter who loves being known as my grandaughter. That’s a precious heritage. I love the bit about her scrubbing her birdbath so her birds had somewhere clean to splash.

  9. JennyD

    So glad I took the time to read this today. What a precious story..what amazing memories you have.

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