Friday, March 30, 2012

The Women in My Life

     March is Women's History Month and  I would like to mention and honor the women who have made a difference in my life.

     Of course, we all think of our Grandmother's and I am no different.  My grandmother on my Mom's side was Hazel Jensen Brossoit.  She and my grandfather had 5 children in a very small house.  We spent many a day there, both with and without my parents. While in grade school, Washington Elementary, if my mom was not home at lunchtime, my sister and I would walk the few blocks to grandmother's house for peanut butter sandwiches.  She was one of my first Girl Scout Leaders, having meetings down in the basement and afterwards allowing us to go up and watch cartoons on the color television set, which none of us Brownies had at home.  She grew many varieties of flowers and taught me how to arrange them, which led me to working at a local florist after high school.  She baked bread and cookies and would invite us over to help with the baking chores.  I still use her pie squares and apple dumplings recipes as they are the best.  She ironed in the kitchen to the soap operas on the radio and canned tomatoes and pickles in the small pressure cooker on the stove.  In her later years, she didn't can as much but would come over to our house and can with us.  Her last canning was when she joined us for putting up pears in late August and she passed away in October.  I still use her pickle recipe and some say she could pickle herring like no other.

     When we would go over for dinner, as the folks all relaxed in the living room, she would let us go through her jewelry box and rearrange the contents and wear the necklaces and play "Grown-up".  We would set her hair with curlers and play "Beauty Shop."  Her and Grandpa taught us how to play "500" and cribbage and "I Doubt It". We played "Button-button" and would hide a button and tell us if we were "hot or cold" in looking for it.  She played the piano by ear while my Grandpa played the fiddle/violin.  She was the "Bookmobile Lady" and we shared a love of books.  I remember her giving me my first adult chapter book to read about marionettes and sharing the knowledge that we both read "Mandingo."  She taught me how to knit, made mittens or afghans for all of the grandchildren.  I still have my afghan, a pink number that was the same color as my bedroom when I was a teen.  It has been washed too many times but I cannot bring myself to throw it away.  But I never acquired the knitting habit.  Or crochet.

     She would always tell us "that it would get better before we got married", and taught my sister how to drive and hold a cigarette like a lady.  She belonged to the secret society of "Royal Neighbors" ladies who would gather monthly for a meeting and play cards. I was invited once to fill in when they were shorthanded.  Later in life, her and Grandpa would go to estate sales and Mom and I would go with.  We came home with many a treasure, some which I still have today.

     We often reminisce about Grandma and how she was a lady, never spoke ill of anyone, accepted all who came to her door and made everyone feel welcome.  I aspire to carry on those traits.

     My grandmother on my Dad's side, Ethel Rozella Marie Nascher Glewwe, was totally a different kind of lady.  Where Grandma Brossoit was Danish, fair skinned and a strawberry blond, Grandma Glewwe was dark-haired, larger boned, and larger than life to me.  She ran a tight ship.  We knew what was expected and where we could/could not play.  She had a wooden spoon that hung in the kitchen and if we acted out, she would threaten us with it.  I remember thinking how she liked my older sister better, because she was always scolding me.  (It was never because I did anything wrong.  Hee-hee.) 

     Grandma Glewwe was a seamstress.  She had a sewing area in her bedroom.  Her bedroom was a magical place to me, partly because of the sewing area and partly because of the furniture.  The dresser was large and dark with a marble top, a hairbursh vanity set, and looked Victorian and seemed like a princess' bedroom.  But back to her sewing.  She made matching outfits for my sister and I.  She made aprons for everyone.  I have a pink checkered apron that goes to the floor that I wore in a college production of "Oklahoma".  (Do you see a recurring theme of pink?)  And she made Halloween costumes.  Our first that I remember was for ghosts, made out of old sheets, with machine sewn mouth and eye holes.  She had "Little Bo Peep" and a clown and George Washington and many other pieces.  The costumes were kept upstairs in the crawl space in large, round, wooden cheese containers.  They smelled of mothballs and were the best!  I still have those costume boxes and I still make costumes for all of my children, even now that they are grown.  We had sleep overs with cousins in the basement, played office at Grandpa's desk and watched in wonderment when she would wring out the wet clothes in an old-fashioned washer/wringer machine

     Grandma G had a three-season porch in the back.  We would spend many hours playing there and outside in the backyard.  It was a small back yard with a very tall hedge that shielded the view from the neighbors.  She also had a large vegetable garden and would grow lettuce.  She would serve lettuce leaf salad, my Dad liking it best with just sugar sprinkled on top.  And she had a large rhurbarb patch, where we would grab a piece and eat with suger.  She also grew hollyhocks in the side garden and lily- of-the-valley in the front.  But she was best remember for her birthday cakes.  Oh they were special, because they were layer cakes with banana filling and "Seven Minute" frosting that would firm up and be like candy.  But the best surprise were the wrapped-in-foil "charms" that would be hidden inside.  Maybe a penny that would speak to your future poverty, or a dime.  Sometimes it would be a button or a game piece from the Monopoly game.  Each piece of cake held one surprise and it wasn't until much later that I found out how the charms were "baked" into the cake.  She also made the best applesauce this side of the Mississippi River.  She always said that the best applesauce came from free apples.  I know that the best applesauce is still homemade and I can 3-4 bushels of apples every year.  To go with the cheesebuttons that I learned how to make standing beside her in the kitchen.

     I came to realize how much like my grandmother I really am.  Especially now that I have blogged about her.  I remember the last conversation that I had with her while she was in the hospital.  I came in from teaching religion class and we talked about teaching kids about God and the Lord's Prayer and how we both taught the same things.  Different religions, same calling.  She too, was a Girl Scout leader, a religion teacher, a community volunteer, mother to many and matriarch.  I follow in her footsteps as well.

     Other women who made a difference in my life - my piano teacher when I was in 4th grade, Violet Barr.  She not only taught me the piano, but the organ as well and the guitar.  By the time I was twelve, I was playing the organ for Sunday masses and the guitar on Saturday nights and sang at the ones in between.  She encouraged my love of music and using it for service.

     And there was my art teacher in high school, Phylis Anderson.  School came easy for me, I don't remember really applying myself to study or do much homework.  My grades got me by and I had many friends.  But my passion in school was drawing and painting.  She taught us all how to really see the body and draw from live subjects (our fellow students).  My final oil painting, a copy of Ruben's "Two Sayters" was not quite right.  We were to be judged by our peers as well as Ms. Anderson, so the night before I took home my painting and reworked it.  At class the next morning, she wanted to give me a "C", but I felt that I deserved an "A" as did my all my classmates.  She taught me how to stand up for what I deserve but to also work hard for the reward.  I did get that "A".  I thank her for pushing me to be a better artist.

     And I also thank my other art teacher, the one who taught me everything about using watercolors, Ginnie Adams.  She was a local artist and she encouraged me every step of the way, not so much with instructions on "how-to", but more of "how much" I reminded her of her younger days and pushed me to keep on painting.  She has since passed away, and I haven't picked up a brush in over two years.

    At not least, but first, my own mother Joan Adele Brossoit Glewwe.  We have had lots of adventures together.  She always believed in us.  She taught me how to sew, cook, can, sing lullabies and care for babies, play games in the car to pass the time, make lists so as not to forget to pack something we might need, and how to wallpaper.  We've shopped, lunched, went to ceramics class together, played the piano together, wrapped presents late into the night and she has taught me how to make the perfect bow.  I learned how to dress for any occasion, set a table properly, host any party and have the best garden on the block.  She has allowed me to rearrange the furniture for every season and have the biggest Christmas display indoors and out.  She is my father's best friend, closest confidant and doesn't let sickness or mishaps slow her drive and spirit.  We've read the same books, corrected each others works and loved the best we could.  I recently came across an email that my sister wrote to her about ten years ago.  The sentiment still works for the both all of us.

"Dear Mom,

Yesterday, while on the phone, you said something that surprised me.  You told me that I was a better mom than you.  That is so untrue and I need to tell you why.

Everything I know about parenting I have learned from you.

1.  Never use bad language and always be a lady.

2.  Love your grandchildren unconditionally.

3.  God is love.

4.  When your child walks into the house, always smile and say hello with such warmth that they know they are the most special person in the whole world.

5.  You always listen to me, no matter how many times I complain about the same thing.

6.  How to mend clothes, cuts and broken hearts.

7.  How to cook with love.

8.  How to always make room for one more at the table.

9.  How to always have good friends no matter how old you get.

10.  How to keep a marriage strong and how to work at it if it's in trouble.

11.  How to never give up when you believe in something strongly, be it an opinion, a cause or a person.

12.  Always try to look your best, take care of your body, your grooming and your clothes.

13.  Gifts made from the heart are the best.

14.  It is okay to laugh at yourself.

You have taught me us all that and much more.  Never doubt the influence you have on us all.

(We) love you very much.

So to the women of my life, you have made me who I am today.  Thank you.

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