Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here's to the O.G. homesteader!

That would be old Grandma Hazel who was born April 24 1913 and died April 14 2011. I haven't had a real conversation with my grandma since I was a little girl. I always thought she was a little weird. She was always pleasant, typically self-deprecating, and usually said goofy things to lighten people up. Her world in Sauk Centre, MN seemed very small town to me and I figured she wouldn't really get me or the things I was up to. I sent cards with pictures of my house and my life and a refrigerator magnet with my face on it that seemed to make her really happy. She loved to brag to her friends about her kids and grand kids so apparently those items gave her bragging rights. I didn't realize just how arrogant I'd been with my Grandma until a few days ago. I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief and guilt and felt like I'd really missed out on knowing her. It hurt. Some of what I've come to see about Hazel Anderson is that she was born before refrigerators were around, way before tv, before cars even. She was born in a whole different world. and many of the skills I am acquiring and pride myself in (for how innovative and cutting edge I am with my homesteading style house and stuff) are all things my Grandma did before I was even born.
I'd forgotten that my Grandma kept a pantry in the basement full of canned fruits and vegetables. I remember going down there when I was little and having to choose between apple sauce and cherries to put on our dessert. And what kind of desserts? Grandma made everything from scratch. She made cracker jack from scratch and the worlds best caramel rolls and Sallie Anne cookies and old Scandinavian favorites like krumkaka (delicate lacy crisp "pancake" with powdered sugar on it that looks like a snowflake cut out in 3-d).
And those are just some of the things I remember. She would spend weeks baking before we came to visit. My Grandma's kitchen was a wonder to behold. I hope I can get a piece of it when I go to her funeral. What I wouldn't give for Grandma's canning supplies! I think she probably got rid of that years ago as she used it less and less. I'll find something wonderful and strange and perfect for the job it's designed for and invite it back home with me.
My Grandma was widowed when my Dad was 8. She had two sons and had to get a job to support her family. I can't imagine what a challenge that must have been in those days.
She was very proud of all the jobs she had. She used to take my brother and I to the Elks Club where she managed the kitchen and show us off to all the old folks. It never occurred to me that my Grandma was a pioneer working like she did.
I don't remember Grandmas garden but where else would she have gotten all that stuff to can? Shows you what selective memories kids have.
If I ever have grandchildren (and I'm still hoping) they will remember my garden. They'll probably think I'm weird and old fashioned and out of touch with the world. They might even make jokes about me when I'm not around. and I'll just love them. Because that's the lesson my Grandma Hazel keeps giving me. No matter what she loved me and all her kids and grand kids to the end of the earth. She was surrounded by friends when she passed because she had invested in the social capital of her community her entire life.
I wish I had realized how inspiring and awesome she was when she was still around. Maybe she can still teach me how to make krumkaka or lefse when I use the fancy tools she had for those delicate jobs. It will be nice to go celebrate her life with family this week. and I'm incredibly inspired to meet the people who kept vigil at her side and held her hand - that's the kind of community I want to build around me. I'm glad I can finally see what props I have for my O.G. Homesteader! Rest in deep great peace Grandma Hazel!

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