Stephanie Hill: Remembering Grandma’s Hands | Features / Entertainment
“Happy Mother’s Day Mom! (And while I have you, a quick apology for 13-21 year olds) – PureWow
As I get ready for work in the morning, I often notice my maternal grandmother’s handkerchief draped over a framed print on a dresser. It was a gift from my mother several years ago. Recently, as I observed her gentle embroidery work, I picked it up and sniffed it in a futile attempt to catch the scent of my grandmother, Helen.
Grandma, whose scent was a unique blend of Folgers coffee, Avon cream, peppermint and Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, was always reassuring. This morning, I was tired and felt particularly nostalgic holding Grandma’s scarf. Her scent would at least have brought some comfort. Instead, I had to trace the delicate seams. Upon closer inspection, I noticed what appeared to be a stray pencil mark or two, and I was taken to the past.
My mind drifted to this fundamentalist country church from my youth. I have often asked my mother for permission to sit with Grandma and Pappaw. Grandma’s handbag, the size of a shoebox, was always well stocked for long-lasting church services. Peel off the top and inside you could find mints, assorted candies, eraser, pencils, pens and old C&O notepads from when Papaw worked on the railroad.
While my grandmother and mother expected me to stand and hold the hymn whenever we sang, the grandmother allowed me to continue to hold the hymn in my lap as makeshift desk for writing, drawing or even playing the dots game or hangman with a brother or cousin. In this way, I was able to remain respectfully calm, which was also expected by my two female “leaders”.
If the sermon offered to the flock present strikes a certain emotional note, or if someone sang a special song, like the one originally performed by a popular gospel group at the time, the Happy Goodman family, “What a Beautiful Day, ”“ God Walks the Dark Hills, ”or if the congregation would just sing“ Amazing Grace, ”I would often see tears running down Grandma’s face. She searched for a handkerchief in her purse, dabbed her eyes and would continue to hold on to that handkerchief, squeezing it as if her life depended on it. Looking at the handkerchief, I suddenly remembered with great realism, grandma’s strong hands clutching mine. He was weak, then he disappeared.
I looked at my own hands. These are the hands of my mother and my grandmother. Already, at 55, they start to warp slightly from squeezing things too tightly. My fingers, like the women before me, are short and wide – nothing like the Palmolive hand models from advertisements a long time ago. However, like the two women, my hands are strong as I am generally better at opening jars and bottle caps than my husband.
Grandma’s hands were strong after years of manual labor. She single-handedly ran a grocery store and ran / cooked / served for her lunch counter, butchered store meat, maintained and cut her deli cheese and deli while raising two young boys (she wouldn’t have my mom before. over a decade later.).
Later, after my grandparents lost almost everything in the 1937 flood, they moved to higher ground, quit the grocery business, and Papaw began working exclusively for the railroad. Grandma then became a full-time housewife and devoted mother. His hands had a specific schedule for daily, weekly, and yearly cleanings, cooking, laundry, ironing, etc. In fact, looking at his handkerchief, I can tell that it has been worn away from repeated washing and ironing. If there was one thing Grandma was good at, it was to create a reliable routine and schedule.
My mother also used her mother’s ability to create a reliable daily structure with my three siblings and me. We got what she cooked (although Grandma was much more indulgent with her grandchildren), and we cleaned regularly. In fact, every Saturday we had to remove the sheets from our bed, re-make our beds with clean sheets, and then dust / sweep our rooms. Later, when we were older, we were also assigned another room in the house to clean on Saturday. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that very few of my friends had the same expectations! In fact, a friend of my sister’s once said, years later, that she took inspiration from my mother’s Saturday program to raise her own children.
In Grandma’s daily routine, and later in Mom’s schedule, there was also time set aside for rest and relaxation. You worked hard when it was time to work, but there was time to read and relax. Grandma’s house, and later my own childhood home, was filled with books, magazines, and Bibles. Maybe it was because grandma’s 8th grade education bothered her, even though she was more educated than Papaw, reading was especially important for grandma so reading was important for my own home as well. of childhood.
Recently my mother has spent a lot of time telling me about her church. She said that a friend of hers at church worshiped Vestal Goodman, and the rest of the Happy Goodman Family, whose songs were frequently sung at my grandmother’s church. Mom played videos on Facebook of the church pianist performing grandma’s old church gospel tunes from a long time ago, and praising the pastor who knows how to touch her on the floor. both intellectually and spiritually. I can’t help but remember grandma and secretly wonder if my mom also wears a handkerchief to church.
As I prepared to write this piece, I clicked on a few youtube videos of the Happy Goodman family, reminding myself that their albums echoed around my grandparents’ house as Grandma dusted and swept. It wasn’t until I had paused long enough for the entirety of “God Walks The Dark Hills” that I noticed Vestal was holding a handkerchief. As I clicked through more videos, Vestal was indeed holding a handkerchief in each one! I returned to my room and once again to pick up Grandma’s delicate handkerchief. Holding grandma’s handkerchief, I saw myself in the mirror and saw the faces of my mother and grandmother staring at me.
“It’s not how many years we live, but what we do with them. It is not what we receive, but what we give to others. – written by my grandmother, Helen Slater, on November 13, 1957, in my mother’s autograph book
Grandma Helen, thank you for the “hands-on” reminder of the importance of faith, family, and all those intangibles that I once took for granted. Even now you still give me a hand.
If you can see me in Heaven, I send you a handful of gratitude for this upcoming Mother’s Day.
And, Mom, I know I was a full hand, so I especially send you these Mother’s Day words of appreciation with so much love. You taught me not to start a sentence with “and”, but you know that I have often struggled with obedience. This quote is for you, mom:
“When your mother asks you, ‘Do you want advice?’ It’s just a formality. It doesn’t matter whether you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. – Erma Bombeck
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a life resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992
@ zoominternet.net. Or you can check their website, stephsimply.com.