Saturday, December 15, 2012

Memories of Grandma

Memories of Grandma

            There are many ways one could describe Joye Ella Freeman Anderson.  She was a spunky court clerk who worked for many years alongside her husband, Judge Keith Anderson.  She was a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.   Joye was an avid reader and had a deep love of music.  She was a socialite and enjoyed her monthly club meetings with her friends. One could even describe Joye as a ‘biker babe’ as she spent many a mile riding motorcycles with Keith.  But I would choose a different way to describe Joye.  I would choose a word that speaks of kindness, adventure, generosity, and love.  That word is Grandma.

            Grandma was fun. Childhood adventures were her specialty. Summer day trips on the Heber Creeper Railroad were an annual favorite.  We would ride the train up the canyon, visit the old fashioned shops at the Heber Station, and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company as we rode along to the clickety-clack of the rails. Other expeditions took us to the zoo, or to Salem Pond to feed the ducks and have a picnic.  I remember thinking Grandma must be rich because she would buy us a brand new bag of Wonder bread to go feed the ducks.  Once Grandma and Grandpa started collecting motor homes it was a special treat to join them on a trip to Yellow Pine in the Uinta Mountains.

            Grandma was beauty.  From the sparkling crystals hanging from the chandelier in the entryway, to the glorious blooms that always filled her yard, to the sleek lines of her Cadillac, Grandma liked beautiful things. High heeled shoes, fur coats, and shimmering gems were always a part of Grandma.  Appointments to get her hair “done” were a part of Grandmas weekly routine. You had to get up pretty early in the morning, literally, to catch Grandma before she “put her face on”, but if you did, she would let you sit in the bathroom and watch as she carefully applied her makeup in front of her mirror with the adjustable light settings. Grandmas home was always impeccable, and had a special smell- I think it was a mix of her moisturizer, combined with fabric softener, and a splash of Grandma magic mixed in. It smelled like love and security.

            Grandma was holidays. On Valentines Day each of us would receive our own tiny box of chocolates. On Easter, she would hide bags of candy and colored eggs throughout the shrubs in the backyard for us to find. On Memorial Day she would load up the trunk of the car with what seemed to be dozens of jars of carefully cut lilacs and irises, or pots of mums, and lovingly place them on the graves of every known relative and ancestor in the area. Never a birthday passed without a special wish from Grandma.  She spent the months leading up to Christmas creating some kind of crafty sensation in bulk. One year a whole gaggle of decorated wooden geese took over the back room, the next year a large flock of stuffed sheep were her project. Yet another year produced enough pound puppies to fill an entire animal shelter, each one embroidered with one of our names across its haunches.  But Christmas Eve was the crowning glory for Grandma. It was a truly magical time for all of us. Some years Santa or one of his elves stopped by after we’d enjoyed a lavish holiday dinner. There was always new Christmas pajamas and an abundance of holiday gifts.  We were spoiled- but it was marvelous!

            Grandma was food.  In recent years Grandma was a cheap date as her preferred meal of choice-a scoop of cottage cheese and a side of biscuits and gravy-would set you back about $3 at Jim’s Family Diner. But not long ago, she was a fantastic cook. She would make mountains of mashed potatoes, perfect lemon meringue pies, pink apple jelly, and the fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever seen. We all recall bowls of macaroni and tomatoes, eaten on a TV tray while we watched the lunchtime news. Grandma would invariably offer you a drink if you came to visit, and there was always a plentiful supply of Sunny Delight and an assortment of sodas in the fridge.  If you needed a snack, there were pudding cups, bottled peaches, microwave popcorn, fruit snacks, and tiny colored marshmallows to munch on. If Grandma didn’t feel like cooking you could look forward to stuffing yourself at Chuck-a-Rama, or getting a kids meal at Wendy’s.

            Grandma was a haven. We all loved to have sleepovers at her house.  She would tuck you in with an army of stuffed animals to watch over you in the night. Then just before she went to bed herself, she would turn on the night light in the bathroom in case you needed it, and tiptoe in to make sure the blankets were snug around you.  I would lie there with my eyes closed pretending to be asleep while she came in.  If it was just the girls spending the night, she would let us each choose a flowing scarf, a silky nightgown, and a long pair of socks- pulled up to our thighs, and we would put on a performance. Grandpa would play the organ, and we would dance and sing with the whole valley as our audience, watching through the large bay window in the living room. 

            Grandma was ingenious.  She inspired us with her firm belief that a stack of paper cups was the answer to boredom.  Turns out she was right. You can go bowling with paper cups. You can fill a paper cup with berries that you’ve picked.  A paper cup makes a lovely temporary habitat for a bug you’ve captured. You can build a tower with paper cups.  If you have enough paper cups- and Grandma always did because she had a dispenser of tiny paper cups in every room in the house- you could build a fort, then knock it down and build it again. 

            Grandma was loyal. She loved her family fiercely, and once you were in, you were in. A break-up or divorce might cause a diplomatic removal from the picture mantle, but not ostracism. Her charitable nature left her with a soft spot for strays.  It wasn’t uncommon to find Grandma taking care of someone. From a neighborhood cat named Tom that would hang out at her house during the day, or a neighborhood kid that happened by, to a grandson that needed a place to stay before heading off to college, to the occasional ‘random friend staying in the basement until they can get back on their feet’, Grandma would do almost anything to help the people she loved.

            Grandma was generous. If you needed to earn money for something she would always find you some chore that needed done, and then pay you far more than you were worth.  We organized cupboards, mowed lawns, polished plant leaves with mayo, swept the porch, and washed cars.  I remember Grandpa watching with great trepidation as all the grandkids gathered in the driveway to wash his shiny black car one evening. The streaks and spots seemed to literally pain him, but both he and Grandma stood by and endured our “help”.  Another time, Grandma offered their new Cadillac as transportation for their 16-year-old grandson’s prom date.  Again, Grandpa stood by, pained, as Grandma sweetly smiled, and somehow got her way.
            Grandma was family history. She kept volumes of records on ancestors, and was proud of our pioneer heritage, and our family claim to fame as descendants of George Washington’s drummer boy. She preserved family memories with vast albums filled with photos.  If you sent her a letter she would save it.  If you were in a play at school she would save the program. If your picture was in the newspaper, she would buy about 20 copies and clip it. If you sent her a wedding invitation, baby announcement, or thank you note, it went in a file or a drawer. She was so proud of each of us, and each of you, that she treasured your every milestone.

            And now Grandma has gone on to her next milestone. And while we will miss her hugs, her super speedy phone calls “just to hear your voice”, and her unconditional support- we are so very thankful for the time we had, and are grateful that she can now go be with Grandpa, because she has missed him desperately.
            Grandma was love, and we will miss her.


  1. What beautiful, lasting memories, Soni! Thank you for sharing them not only with your own family but with all of the rest of us.

  2. Wow. Soni. I hope my grandchildren can remember so many things about me when I'm gone. (good or bad things---just hope they remember) :) You did a great job in remembering so many very special things about your grandmother. What a beautiful tribute! You are all blessed to have had her in your lives.