A Woman’s legacy

It’s the Summer of ’97.

The morning sun overflowed into the living room while we sat together next to the corner window. With my orange flavored Push-Up, the pull out couch still unmade, and Bob Barker explaining the rules of Plinko on the television, it was a classic start to a beautiful day with Grandma. Before long we would venture outside to check on the tomatoes whilst the Black Capped Chickadees sing songs to one another, as if it were a private summer concert that only the two of us got the privilege of hearing. All while the scent of lilac bushes divulge into our space, generating a perfume so beautiful only a summers day at grandmas could produce.

Days like this were common as a child. Days that were deemed as “simple” or “non-eventful”. These are the days that we tend to hold on to the tightest as we get older. We think to ourselves; “if only I could go back”. But what if that’s the beauty of it all? These golden souvenirs from the past are to rest securely in our reflections, only to be uncovered when we need a carefree giggle or grin.

With my first entry, I wanted to dedicate it to the women who left a legacy so immense, our future generations will always have the paved pathways she designed, if only to learn greatly from it.

Prairie Ave. house- Barrington, IL

Born on April 9, 1927, Helen Mae was a woman with many hats. She was a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, avid women of Christ, Polka enthusiast, friend, and the hardest worker you’d ever met. She’s the women who knew everything and nothing at the same time. She cared for the excluded and prayed for their judgers. She possessed a humor so unique that only one with the thickest of skin could appreciate. She sported a perm so tight that only someone from The Silent Generation could fully appreciate, but with brown hair so pure up into her 90’s that you’d bet money on her dying it, only to find out she just got lucky with genes. She was the embodiment of all that was beautiful in a grandchild’s eyes.

Senior Portrait, 1945

Growing up on the farm, she quickly learned the value of a dollar which she so eloquently passed down to us. Whether it was picking up sticks outside, pushing the hand mower throughout the backyard, or helping her garden the flowers, she would always reward us with Dog Tracks where the Vienna beef hot dogs called home along with a giant bag of fries.

As I got older, the visits didn’t seem to slow down. At 14 she gave me the keys to her car as she rode shot gun, just so I could “see what it’s like to drive”, even if it was only in the local soccer field parking lot. The card games at the kitchen table went from Bingo to Old Maid to Crazy 8’s. She was “grandma” to my friends and the local grocery store bagger at Jewel that everyone in the community knew and loved.

The truth is I could never stop writing about why my grandmother has been one of the greatest people in my life. Sometimes you just get lucky with who you get as family. For us grand kids, we won the lottery (despite always losing when she’d gift us the scratch off tickets). Helen wasn’t a perfect person. But in my eyes, she always tried to make up for that. To this day, she may be the only person to have made bacon cooked in the microwave look appetizing in the morning.

Sometimes while you’re living in the good days, you take things for granted. Why didn’t I call her that day? Why couldn’t I have done more… I ask myself these questions all the time. But the truth of the matter is, we can’t go back to these days. As hard as we are on ourselves, she knew the love we shared was so immense. We have to know how blessed we are with what we were given and learn to appreciate who and what we have, just like Helen did.

I’m living with the realization that my future children won’t get to personally meet the women who helped shape who I am today. They won’t get that sweet, magic touch of how to make the perfect Rice Krispie on the stove, or witness that peculiar humor only from someone who’s as tough as nails can give. It is the responsibility, we as family, have to continue this marvelous women’s legacy to ensure we all can still have a little Helen in all of us.

It’s the summer of ’97. The day has passed as we finish our final serving of ice cream. We’re sitting barefoot on her front stoop, watching the cars go by as dusk begins to break, only to wake up the next morning to check on those tomatoes and be greeted by our song bird concerts once again.

Cheers to a woman’s life.

Thanks, Grandma.

Love, your Gracie