12.14.2006

Tea Granny

Liz hanging clothes during the 1950 flood
My grandmother, and all her friends, used to get a kick out of my love of tea. I would insist on my milk in it, as taught to me by Grandma, and of course three sugar-spoon spoonfuls of sugar, mixed just right...then I would ceremoniously and most carefully sip my tea spoon by spoon, blowing on it a wee bit to cool, then slurp it up with gusto. "You're quite the tea granny, Patricia Kaye," Grandma or Toots would say, as I sat at the little table in the kitchen. It was right by the back door with the frosted glass showing a scene of a hunter with his dog in the woods. Behind that door was the back porch, with the wringer washer and the slop pail. That's where Grandma put all her vegetable and fruit peelings, etc., and it had a complex organic odor that I didn't dislike, but definitely identified as uniquely Grandma's. She would use it on her garden in the spring, mixing it in to help the next batch of vegetables grow. She had a small garden by her outbuildings, a line of small sheds in the back yard, ending with an outhouse. Looking out the back door was her clothes line, which she used year round, even in the winter. I learned from her that clothes could also 'freeze dry' just like coffee! I even have a photo of her standing in a boat hanging clothes during a flood. I tell you, nothing could keep my Grandma down. She was a stubborn and persevering Irish woman if there ever was one. Life experience had taught her that if you want something done it's best to do it yourself, that God helps those that helps themselves, and that hard work never hurt anyone. She had a lovely touch about her that people remembered for years afterward, whether it was because they had stayed at her Fitzpatrick maternity home under her care, or knew her as a town resident and neighbor in another capacity. Her friends could count on her, and she was generous with her hospitality and time. I knew her for far too short a time, and of that for even shorter when she was still in her prime; but I remember enough to have been inspired down through the years by her, and feeling very blessed to have known her, and to have had many days and even nights where I spent them with her and got to see her make many things with her hands - amazing baked goods, knitted mittens, embroidered dish towels, scrumptious meals, or ingenious wheelbarrows made out of what was at hand (including tricycle wheels for the front wheel...). She had a strong large body, and wore her hair long all her life, always up in a top bun during the day out of the way, but down at night and brushed well before bed. In later years I got to help her brush it out. Only at the end, when she was tired and in the wheelchair, did she allow it to be cut, and even then under protest. I think it was one of her only vanities, being a fairly plain woman. I can surely understand that and not begrudge her. But she was a lovely woman all the same, and I smile to think that Grandpa saw that too, those many years ago when he admired her carpentry handiwork upon meeting her...