Anyway, Grandmas trailer house was located between Uncle Paul and Aunt Ollie’s house and the milk barn. My Aunt and Uncle had milk cows that they had to milk twice a day with NEVER a break…every day for about a hundred years. I knew at a very early age that I was NOT going to go into the milking business. I thought it was fascinating, for someone else to do and it was all ‘modernized” with lots of stainless steel and tubes and milk cans, but milking cows was not my gig. There was a large amount of cow shit involved, and I’m fairly certain that was not unusual, what with all the cows and stuff.
My sisters and I would take turns staying overnight with Grandma and sometimes all three of us would stay with Grandma. No offense sisters but I always liked it when it was just her and I. I think that’s where I learned to like quiet. There wasn’t alot of quiet in our house with 7 kids rotating in and out. At Grandma’s house she had a clock that filled the house with the sounds of it’s ticking. What I liked the most was when she wound this old clock. She would open the door of the clock and take out the key. First she would wind the spring for the gong and then she would wind the spring to tell the time. She might look at her watch and then adjust the hands of the clock a little bit so all would be accurate. This was probably the last thing she would do before she went to bed and I loved the ritual. All through the night this clock would tick it’s way toward greeting the hour with it’s striking ‘bong’ sound and then do it again on the half hour. These sounds I can recall vividly and this remains one of my fondest audible memories.
In the morning for breakfast she made the best breakfast. Fried bacon, half a grapefruit, fresh ice cold milk, fresh cream, a bowl of cereal and eggs fried in bacon grease. Included in this dining delight at no extra charge, was the most amazing toast with real butter. This woman lived to be well into her 90’s and always ate eggs and bacon. She would crack an egg or two into the hot bacon grease. Instead of the business of turning the eggs she would push the hot grease over the yolks with a spatula so they would cook from the hot grease washing over them. I always thought that was so cleaver of her. I loved to watch her cook and when I was older I got assigned jobs to do so I could help. After the meal I would stand on a chair at the sink to help wash dishes. I don’t think they make the kind of dish soap she used, but if I were to smell it, it would send me right back to her kitchen.
When the morning dishes were done it was time to go out to the barn to get some milk. Grandma had a stainless steel bowl with fanned handles that were incorporated into the bowl, with a lid that fit snugly. This bowl was about a quart and a half, maybe two, but this was always the milk transport system. I would help her down the steep stairs and off we would go to the barn. I would love to see that same area as an adult. It seemed so far to the barn, but it probably took all of 2 minutes to walk there. On the way to the barn I would try to catch one of the various barn cats, but they were too fast, skittish and mean. Every once in a while I would catch one, and it would scratch and claw and scream but I still felt good about the capture. Thus the love of cats started, although I never had one until about 20 years ago.
As the morning milking was being wrapped up, we took this opportunity to go get more milk. I grew up on Fresh raw milk and it never killed any of us. We didn’t know there was any other kind. So with this raw milk comes fresh cream. And just in case you didn’t know the cream would rise to the top after a while. I can’t imagine someone not knowing that, but you never know. Grandma would carry the stainless steel bowl back to the house and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning before breakfast it was time to skim off the cream. She would take the bowl out and set it on the counter. By this time I had pulled a chair up close to stand on so I could watch the process. Grandma had the best kitchen tools that were so old and work worn and she would never think of getting rid of them. She would take her shallow bowl ladle and proceed to skim the cream into the yellow tupperware cream pitcher. When the cream was almost all transferred into the cream pitcher, she would take her arthritic crooked finger and circle the bowl for the remainder of the cream that clung to the sides of the stainless bowl and wipe it onto the side of the pitcher.
I don’t know how many times I watched her skim cream from that bowl. But now when I’m wiping out a bowl of whatever remains, with my finger, I think of her. I loved my Grandmas hands. They were generous and gracious hands. These hands held the evidence of countless years of hard work. Her fingers were crooked and I know she didn’t like how they looked but she never complained. When she got older and she lived closer, she wasn’t able to be as active and she stayed inside most of the time. I would visit with her every day. I would pull my chair as close as I could and hold her hand, just so I could be near her. We would then proceed to talk about the happenings of day, which usually weren’t much.
I don’t think about my grandma every day, I’d be lying if I told you I did. She has been gone almost 30 years now. I was in college when she died and she must have been at least 96 years old. I know one of you siblings would recall the date, but I don’t oddly enough.
As I look at my hands and I start to see and feel the evidence of what is most likely arthritis I find my self in good company, no matter what my hands look like. I miss you Grandma, I wish I could know you as my adult self, we could talk about the ‘olden days’