So I’m not off to the best start with doing this every day. I’d say I’ve got a good excuse, but my whole life I’ve made far too many excuses.
Wednesday night my Aunt Florence passed from this life to the next. She never had children of her own and bought the house right next to my grandmother. In many ways it was like having two grandmothers, especially after my grandfather died when I was five.
In light of her passing, I’ve thought a lot about our trips to Wisconsin so I decided to share some memories from those trips.
Grandma Hayden loved to cook. Whenever we would come in to town, she would serve amazing homemade food for every meal. I helped her often and learned a few of her recipes. To this day I still make her homemade applesauce.
But a few times every trip Grandma would serve these crazy, disjointed meals with just a little of everything. Creamed corn casserole, sat beside pork chops. Fried chicken next to some kind of pasta. Everything tasted good but it was disjointed and never enough of any one thing for us all to eat it.
I learned later that Grandma said “eating with the Barrett’s is like eating with piranhas.” She’d keep all her leftovers and heat them up when we came over because she knew it would all disappear.
Mom wasn’t much of a cook. Pretty much every meal came out of a box of some kind. But she could make pasta and had a dish she’d make called Slop. Basically it was noodles, whatever meat and veggies were left in the refrigerator, and then cream of mushroom / cream of chicken / and some spices.
Since that was one of the only “homemade” things mom made, it was a favorite of mine. We were at Grandma’s house and she asked me what I wanted for dinner. When I responded “Slop” my grandmother, who raised her five children (including my mother) on a farm was horrified.
“What in heavens name are you feeding these children, Dianne?”
My mom’s family was what my dad calls “Dead Dog Democrats” and my dad was an avid Republican. He was Tea Party and a Trump supporter. I used to say under my breath he was a “Dead Dog Republican.”
Dad absolutely loved to talk politics, especially with people who didn’t agree. He took great joy in bringing up politics every time we went to Wisconsin, to many groans and protests.
Grandma, my aunts, mom, everyone would beg him to let us eat a meal without talking politics. But he’d find a way to slip in comments and, if anyone took the bait, he’d launch.
I know now as an adult that it was my father’s passion for America and the values that made us great that drove him to be such an unpleasant dinner guest. But growing up I just enjoyed watching the adults squirm trying to keep the topic away from government.
Aunt Florence made cross stitch and Grandma was a quilter. Both attempted to teach me but I ended up gravitating to cross stitch. The pattern doesn’t lie and the grid is not subjective.
Aunt Florence also made custom cross stitches for each of the 10 grandchildren. At birth she made my name and then around 12 she let me pick out a pattern for my 13th birthday (I chose a cat; that’s too young to do anything all that insightful).
Grandma made me a quilt at some point, I don’t remember the age. I chose one with a pasture in the middle and small cottages around it, choosing to believe they were churches. (It must have been my religious zealot phase when all things had to be faith related.)
I also inherited a quilt when my grandmother passed and chose the one that hung in her basement. I’d lay for hours letting my mind trace the lines and try to connect the colors. Now it hangs on a wall in my bedroom as a reminder of my Grandmother.
I hope you enjoyed these memories. Please share your own memories of my parents in the comments and let’s share a smile together.