Friday’s Fave Five Things I Learned From My Grandmother

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Today is Friday and you know what that means. It is time for Friday’s Fave Five. Today I thought I’d share with you five fave things that I learned from my Grandma Graf. She’s my mother’s mom so my maternal grandmother. I always told her that she couldn’t pass away until her first grandchild was born. She lived up to her side of the bargain and held in there until her first granddaughter was 3 months old. Here are some things I’ve learned from Grandma.

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1. You are never too old to follow your dreams. Grandma had to quit school at 16 and become a schoolteacher to bring in income for the family. This always haunted her because she was obviously very bright. My mom told me several years ago that years later, when her classes would have their commencement ceremonies, Grandma would sit in the back of the auditorium and weep because she was so ashamed that she never had received her diploma. Well, when Grandma was in her fifties, she decided to take summer courses in Mankato, MN at the Teacher’s College there to earn her high school diploma and additional college credits that would allow her to continue to teach elementary school. She earned that diploma and was so proud of it and she was a much-beloved teacher in her small rural community.

2. Preparation is the key to success.Grandma taught me to sew. She was a wonderful seamstress. I remember the day I took some fabric over to her and wanted to make a dress to wear the next day. I was quite annoyed that she was taking so much time to show me how to carefully lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric when I just wanted to throw them on there, cut them out and get on with it. Yet Grandma explained to me the importance of following the grain of a fabric and how cutting on a bias would affect how a garment would drape on a person or stretch when you didn’t want it to stretch. It was an important life lesson because later, I ignored that lesson and cut out a pattern willy-nilly and found out what happens when the garment looked horrible. Taking the extra time to do something right will always pay off in the long run.

3. If you don’t have something, make do. Grandma would probably have been considered poor by today’s standards but I have never met someone with such a rich attitude towards life. She knew how to adapt. She’d cut the unworn pieces of a dress apart and refashion another dress from it. My mom would wear redone clothes (much to her girlish horror) that were really quite ingenious. I once experienced Grandma’s inventiveness when she made pancakes for breakfast on the farm and discovered she was out of maple syrup. I was crestfallen since I love syrup. She just got out the Karo syrup and made some white syrup for the pancakes. I wasn’t too gracious about the substitution at the time, but I have to admit that those pancakes didn’t taste all that bad. In today’s economy, knowing how to cheerfully “make do” is not a bad skill to have.

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4. If you don’t let people know what you want, don’t be disappointed when you don’t get it. I come from a long line of strong-minded women. Have ya guessed that? One story that has been passed down in our family has to do with how my grandmother agreed to marry my grandfather. Grandma was the town schoolmarm and only 18 when she got married to my grandfather, who was in his 30’s. Before she agreed to marry him, she told him that he had to build her a house on the farmland that he was homesteading. She refused to live in a sod shanty. So every Sunday afternoon after church, Grandpa would take Grandma out riding in the buggy to the farm where she would inspect the progress being made on the house. When it was finished and passed her specifications, then and only then did the wedding take place. The word passed around town that day was “Say, did you hear that Tightwad and Spitfire got married?” Can you guess which one my grandmother was?

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5. Work out your frustrations and bad temper in productive ways, not on each other. Ever since I was a little girl roaming about the farm, I’d see my grandmother working hard at odd hours out in her garden. Many a morning I’d get up and find that she was already outside and hoeing away. One day I went out to join her and noticed that she was digging quite a big hole. “What are you doing, Grandma?” I asked. “I’m getting ready to bury Mr. Nobody,” she answered. I’d never heard that one before. “Who’s that?” I asked. “Well, Mr. Nobody’s grave here is where I put all the bad words I might want to say and all the angry thoughts I might feel like thinking. I just dig a hole and throw them all in here and then I cover them up. That way, all those angry thoughts and words won’t make anyone feel bad.”

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“But I don’t see them,” I countered.

“Nor will you see them,” she replied. “They shouldn’t be seen or heard because they don’t do anyone any good. But once I’ve got this hole dug and covered up again, it’s amazing how much better I’ll feel.” And thus Mr. Nobody entered our family lore, the garden got a good tilling, and “Spitfire” worked off a head of steam.

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3 Responses

  1. Great 5 moments. My Grandmother just passed away 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t agree more with you on all five of these. Great Post

  2. I love this post! What a precious woman your grandma was. #4 made me laugh out loud.

  3. I love this fave five! What great memories.

    Guess what! My maternal grandmother’s (married) name was GRAF! My mom was one of the ‘Graf Girls’ from Multnomah Village in Portland, OR. I wonder if we’re related…

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