Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Family History: Of Grandma and African Violets

I recently learned about the Grandmother Power Post campaign
from the Grandma's Briefs blog.  For my post, I decided to share an edited version of a tribute I gave at my grandma's memorial service four years ago.  I've removed any identifying information for those who are still living.



My grandma, Alta Mae, was born on May 25, 1923, the second child of Joseph and Edna Anna Telfer.



Grandma started school in a one-room schoolhouse when she was five years old.  Grandma experienced several challenges during her childhood, though she didn’t really mention them much.  When she was seven, her older sister Helen died of walking typhoid fever.  When she was 11, her baby brother Donald Gene died of pneumonia.  Sometime in the 1930s, her dad started working in the mines again.  A little over 3 months after the death of baby Donald Gene, Donald Joseph had a terrible fall in the mines which left the family fatherless. 



Edna and the children lived with Donald’s sister’s family for a while after the accident.  A few years ago, Grandma and her cousin reminisced about that time.  Her cousin talked about being “naughty to Alta”, saying that she and her siblings “played lots of tricks on her because she was from the city and we were in the country.”  Grandma laughed about being called a “city girl”, but agreed that there were “dirty tricks” played.  From the amount of laughter there was in the remembering, obviously some positive memories came from that difficult time.



After a while, Grandma’s mom found an affordable house, and so the family moved.  Great-grandma Telfer raised the children on $62 a month. 



The summer before Grandma’s junior year of high school, she fell while riding a horse and sustained a bad skull fracture.  That prevented her from attending school any more.  Sometime after the accident, the family moved again and Grandma started working for the postmistress. 



On Easter Sunday, 1940, Grandma met Grandpa, and they soon married and started a family.   Grandpa worked felling timber.  In 1944, however, he enlisted in the US Naval Reserves.  Grandpa and Grandma already had one child, and another was born while Grandpa was on leave from boot camp. Grandpa was discharged in 1946, and later that year, their last child, Bonnie, was born.  Tragically, Bonnie died in an accident when she was barely 7 years old. 



Despite the pain of tragedy, or perhaps due to it, Grandpa and Grandma were two of the most generous people I’ve met.  They opened up their home to old and young alike, family members and strangers off the street.  I never knew exactly who would be at their house when I came to visit.



Grandma was an expert at many homemaking arts.  She worked at a restaurant in a popular tourist spot.  We always came home from her place with bags of bread heels, which they didn’t serve at the ranch, but which were really the best part.  When we were really lucky, we would have huge, left-over cinnamon rolls.



Grandma also crocheted, and while growing up, our table always sported a tablecloth made by Grandma.  As an adult, I am awed by the sheer volume of work she produced:  not only tablecloths, but bedspreads, doilies, and vests and ponchos for the grandkids.  The amount of time that must have taken her is staggering. 



Though she definitely fit the bill as a happy, treat-baking, domestic grandma, there was more to her than that.  I always loved listening to her, as she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.  She wasn’t mean, but she was straight-forward, and that delighted me.  As I grew older, I discovered that she enjoyed reading true crime novels.  I also discovered that she loved baseball, particularly the Seattle Mariners.  I had the privilege of accompanying her to a Mariners game when we lived in the Seattle area.  I love the memory of watching her in the Kingdome watching Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and her favorite, cute Joey Cora.  The only thing that could have been better is if Grandpa had been alive to watch it, too. 



Grandma lived a good life.  She had adversity and challenges, but she met them with strength.  When I think of Grandma, I think of her laugh.  I will miss her, but I know that she is happy, healthy, and well now.  One experience that I have had lately has brought me great comfort, and I view it as a tender mercy of the Lord.



In order to fully understand this experience, we need to know that Grandma loved plants.  Her house was filled with African violets.  About a year or so ago, I bought some African violets because they reminded me of Grandma.  They aren’t often carried in the stores in my area, for good reason—I live in the desert, and even inside, the humidity is very low.  Not ideal conditions for growing African violets.  But I bought them anyway.  They were blooming at the time, but quickly stopped.  Amazingly, the plants lived on, though they did not bloom anymore. 



Around the time my mom called to tell me that Grandma wasn’t expected to live much longer, I noticed that my African violets were starting to bud.  As I would get daily reports from my mom on Grandma’s failing condition, the buds started to swell.  After a few days, I had the impression that the day Grandma would leave this earth would be the day my plants would have the first buds fully opened.  I told my mom that if my plants were any indication, it would be in the next day or two.  When I got the call early Sunday morning, that Grandma had passed away shortly before midnight, I went downstairs and checked my plants.  Sure enough, the first buds were fully opened.  Not only that, but each plant had more blossoms than ever before.  The African violets were exploding in color.  I couldn't help but smile when I saw them, and I think that is what Grandma would have wanted. 



I am so proud to be Grandma’s granddaughter.  I hope that I can take with me her example of strength through trial, and generosity of spirit.


This is one of my African violet plants, the day before the memorial service.  Isn’t it beautiful?


Thanks for grandmas.


You might find my posts on these blog hops:

Sew Darn Crafty Party,  Find a Friend Friday, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Show Your Stuff, The Wildly Original Link Party, Wow Us Wednesdays, Down Home Blog Hop, Tuesday Archive Link Up, Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River, Grandparents Say It Saturday
The Creative Home Acre Hop Best Blog Post Ever, Grand Social,
Crafty Garden Mama,
Let's Get Social Sundays
Freedom Fridays
Tuesdays with a Twist
Pattern Party 
All My Bloggy Friends 



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8 comments:

  1. What a wonderful grandmother you had Kristi!! and what wonderful memories you hold of her!!
    Loved it..

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  3. A lovely tribute to an amazing woman.

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  4. Lovely post Kristi and so interesting! Nice that you know so much.

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  5. What a wonderful story. You are so lucky to have had such a close and special relationship with her and I do think the violets bloomer in her honor.

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  6. What a lovely tribute, it made me cry; I too am proud to be my Grandparents granddaughter, your story was beautiful just like your wonderful grandmother thank you for sharing!

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  7. I hope my grand children will have as special a relationship with me as you had with your grandmother. I strive every day to be a good role model and loving grand to them.

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!