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Friday, August 10, 2012

"Freeze"

My grandpa stayed with me for a while once.  I had a waterbed, which he was absolutely sure he couldn’t sleep on until he woke up the next day and said he had the best night’s sleep in decades.  He strongly suggested that I iron the sheets with starch during his stay, but no matter how much I loved him, I wasn’t about to iron sheets, and I’m real sure I didn’t own starch.  Then he requested “dry apple pie”, which didn’t even make sense in my mind.  Why would someone put dried apples in a pie?  He couldn’t give me a recipe, and that was before instant internet recipes, so Grandpa didn’t get his pie either.  Don’t worry, he didn’t go hungry, but ironed sheets and pies?!  Grandma spoiled him.

Since I wasn’t burning my life ironing sheets and baking, Grandpa had a lot of time to tell me about drying apples.  He grew up in Tennessee, and the late summer days had a lot of sunshine to dry out apples laid out on the barn roof.  He talked about life before stores (?!), when they had to make everything from scratch or it didn’t exist.  Pillows were stuffed with the chest feathers of geese, Clothes were made at home, and his favorite toy was a stick whittled into a gun.  He told me about that gun twice, in way too much detail.  He talked about going into the mountains in winter with the menfolk to saw up frozen lake ice.  They packed the ice in straw and loaded it onto horse-drawn wagons which they drove home to store in underground pits lined with more straw.  Grandpa said the ice often lasted through most of the summer.  They needed the ice to keep food fresh because this was life before refrigerators.  Iced tea was a luxury for company.

Grandpa was born in 1896.  He served in WWI, but got the flu in the great epidemic so he didn’t go to Europe to fight.  He was disappointed about that when he was young because he liked traveling.  He was of a generation after the Civil War, and that war wiped out the family finances since they were on the losing side.  Grandpa said they were “land rich and money poor”, so he hopped on a train to Detroit for work.  The train stopped in Akron, Ohio and he and his brother stayed because they were told there was work in Akron.  He worked for Goodyear until his retirement, which all happened before I was born.  Grandpa was always old in my mind, but I suppose he was young once.  He talked about parties he attended in the neighboring county, drinking and carousing, and all sorts of stuff I couldn’t imagine of my completely sober Grandpa.

I thought he was handsome, and women seemed to think it too.  When I see pictures of Matthew McConaughey, I think Grandpa.  Well, maybe not quite as buff, but for all I know, Matthew has a place in my family tree, and Grandpa was buff in his day before Grandma was fattening him up with pies.  Or perhaps white people all look alike?  Or Southerners are all related?

I wanted Grandpa to tell me stories about the people he knew when he was young, but he just didn’t.  He talked about activities, like sawing the ice or watching his grandma plucking feathers from very mad geese.  I knew he loved his grandma, but I don’t have any details about why he loved her except that she made dried apple pies.  I don’t know if it matters.  The way he told stories, or didn’t tell them, was part of who he was.  The fact that he took pictures of steam engines, or the tv during the moon landing, was a reflection of the fact that he lived through a lifetime of miracles.  We talk about the wonders of the internet, but what about living in a life before electricity, cars, vaccines, tv… when ice in tea was precious?

15 comments:

  1. Family history is fascinating Linda and so good that you have some of it written down. Your Grandpa certainly was handsome ;0)
    Life before the internet seems like a lifetime ago and yet we did not even have pocket calculators at school and I am NOT that old! I wonder what will be around when I am an old lady...;0)
    Have a great weekend, we have some wonderful summer sunshine for the final days of the Olympics...fantastic!
    Janex

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  2. A wonderful story and great photos Linda. Thanks.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your grandfather's story. I never got to know any of my grandparents, because I was born and raised on a different side of the Pacific. But I feel like I got to hear a bit of their own life stories through your grandfather.

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  4. What a lovely post, Linda. Yes, your grandfather was handsome. You describe a time lost to the internet and social networks; the time of sepia-coloured photos and marriages that lasted a life-time. You have told your grandfather's story rich in feelings and reflection.

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  5. What a great post! Thanks for sharing with us your Grandpa's amazing life...sort of reminds me of Legends of the Fall! I know what you mean, sometimes I wonder how people in the old days got by without all the luxury we have now. A few hours of power blackout always seems to drive me nuts! :))

    PS: Your ice tea is making me thirsty now...it's very lovely!

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  6. I find this collage type illustration just charming! You picked just the right mix of patterns and colors. Wonderful story, too. It's amazing how quickly life goes by.

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  7. I remember life before calculators too, when we had to actually remember multiplication tables. It seems so long ago and far away. I like to think that remembering people online means they never get forgotten. Thanks for the comments everybody!

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  8. We had a very interesting evening at our block party listening to stories from an 86 year old gal who has lived here 50 years. One of my favorites from my childhood was from my uncle. He said they locked a big tom cat in one of the barns once. And it stacked up 17 rats by the front door!

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  9. Ew yuck! (Typed while laughing about the rat pile.) Old people have the best stories. I'm just practicing for when I get there :)

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  10. Wonderful history! Thanks for sharing it. Great old photos, and your collage illo suits it all to a "T."

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  11. Wow! Those old photos are so cool! Love the pics and the history. Great "Freeze" design Linda!

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  12. Thanks for making me smile today Elizabeth! Long time no see Jack. I've missed your Jacktoons! Thanks for the comments!

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  13. Great pictures and story about your grandpa Linda. I could never get my grandmother to tell me the stories that I wanted to hear either, but I got detailed accounts of her having to pick cotton as a child ;) I often hear myself telling my kids about when we didn't have computers or cell phones. ;O They just shake their heads and laugh. I guess it's kind of like a "I had to walk 20 miles to school everyday, in the snow, barefoot..." kind of comment to them.

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  14. 20 miles barefoot in the snow uphill both ways was the way I heard it! When I pointed out to Mom that I knew where she lived and where the school was, she could've only walked up one hill, and it was less than a mile. LOL

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  15. A dried apple pie must be worth dying for. A beautiful post. You bring your grandpa so alive when you write about him. Quite a different time he comes from. I wonder what will make our grandchildren frown about our time and wonder how we could survive it? The pictures are great.

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