Friday, November 22, 2013
Wisconsin 101: Wisconsin granmas
I thought of my sweet Wisconsin grandma when I saw this post.
My grandma didn't drink. (Well, not this one. The other one did.)
She didn't swear. (But the other one did.)
She didn't go to supper clubs. (The other one did.)
But she did go to church not only every weekend but almost every day. I don't know if she was a bingo player, but she played a mean game of sheepshead, which is a card game I have never seen outside of Wisconsin. It is such a big deal here, though, that they have it at Germanfest. People go to this festival with the ham hocks and the beer (to be fair, there is beer at every festival here) and the pretzels. The first tent you see to your left when you walk in is the sheepshead tent. Germans.
She baked. She baked for her grandkids. One time, I visited her from Texas and she sent me home with a Crisco can (she did not waste) full of cookies. It wouldn't fit in my suitcase, so I had to carry it with me on the plane. I was walking through O'Hare with a Crisco can under my arm and people were looking at me funny, but they probably wouldn't have thought anything of it if I had said, "My grandma."
When I was little, she would put French braids in my hair and let me help her bake. She must have had the patience of a saint. I have seen those photos of my siblings and me helping and it's a mess.
She made almost all of her own clothes. She mended her pantyhose. She grew her own vegetables and canned. She baked her own bread. She didn't do this to be trendy, she did it because she was very poor when she was little and that's how poor farm people survived 100 years ago.
She didn't get married until she was 28. She only went as far as 8th grade, even though she was very smart. For several years, in the winter, she worked as a maid in Milwaukee in one of the grand houses on the lake. She would walk on her day off rather than take the streetcar so she could spend her money on a chocolate bar.
At her 50th wedding anniversary, she wore her wedding dress. It fit.
She painted. She painted whatever she could. Every Wednesday, she went to Mr O'Brien's art class. Some things she painted OK - flowers - but others, like people, you could tell she lacked the technical training.
If she could have, she would have gone to art school in Paris. That's about the only personal thing she ever told me. I had no idea. I had no idea that this super competent, raised seven kids of her own plus another several foster kids, always the first one there when someone needed help person wanted to go to art school. In Paris.
That's my grandma. She would have been 100 years old this year.