I always remember her with extra thought on March 4th. Not because it’s a standout day for any other reason except it was my grandmother’s birthday. Still is, even though she’s been gone a good while now.
I remember not because she would be blowing out 105 candles if she were still here today. Not because of anything except the exceptional person she was in my life, and she did so without even trying. She mentored, guided, taught and loved in her manner of daily living. Not something she even thought about.
Even at the ranch, she wore a dress every day and did so well into the 1960s. And always with an apron that functioned as clothing protection and a tool for carrying things, wiping things and handling a hot skillet if needed.
In the winter in those cold old ranch houses, the kitchen was kept warm with something she was cooking and the cooking went on most all day. She would open the oven door to help warm the room a bit. In the early mornings, you would see her backed up to the open oven door with the back of her skirt lifted, letting the heat warm her up.
She cooked, canned, baked, gardened, sewed and sang the whole time she worked. “Send me the pillow that you dream on,” she would melodiously belt out like she really could sing. She could not but she didn’t care. “So darlin’, I can dream on it too.”
She spoiled each grandchild like they were the only ones. She took in a few others that saw her as a grandmother with no real lineage except love. She was fun, she was stern if needed and she was always, always there.
Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren developed the ability to quickly duck their heads, as her favorite reprimand was what we called the “sip on the head.” She would take her thumb and middle finger and snap a “thump” upside a misbehaving child’s noggin. It was worse in anticipation than it was in actual delivery, but then some kids got a few more chances to duck than others.
The days never seemed too long with all that got done from daylight to dark. The early morning pancakes, feeding the chickens, tending to the garden, bottle feeding a couple bum lambs and maybe some jelly making, bread baking, a little sewing or some crocheting to come later.
It’s notable to mention here that she became generationally famous for her “rabbit pancakes.” No, not made from rabbit, but in the shape of a rabbit. Every child that ever ate a pancake at her house had rabbit pancakes. Most of them still eat them when they make them for their children and grandchildren.
Her kitchen always had those wholesome smells of food creativity and her dark and cold room-size pantry smelled of sauerkraut brewing in a crock, apples in a box waiting their turn for a pie or cobbler, and potatoes that still smelled of the dirt they were harvested from before the ground froze hard. The walls were lined with shelves full of mason jars filled with bounty from the garden and the orchard.
Her indulgence for kids being kids went unappreciated while we were kids. But I understand now how really special she was. She let us run and play, explore, imagine and create to our heart’s content. She shared with us stories of her childhood and yet knew we were creating our own. I don’t believe she turned a blind eye to our running the hillsides climbing huge sandstone formations or the hours spent next to the river running through the trees. But at the time, we felt completely untethered.
She has a great-granddaughter getting married this fall. As I browsed through my grandmother’s jewelry box for that “something old” to become part of the bride’s brooch bouquet, I connected to those treasured times tucked away where memories live.
I was again reminded that memories are so important for each of us, but in keeping those special moments sacred, we must not forget to make new memories with those that will be carrying them forward.
She didn’t make rabbit pancakes to be remembered decades later because of them. She made them for the fun of the moment with people she loved. It’s really that simple. Love, be loved and the memories will take care of themselves.
Julie, whipping up a batch of rabbit pancakes, can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.