April 1, 2019
My Grandmother’s name was Elenora, Wilhelmina, Johanna, pronounced “yohanna”. My name, a shortened version of hers, was one of many gifts from this intense woman.
During the Great Depression, to make ends meet, she ran the dairy farm as Grandpa ran a logging camp further north in Wisconsin. After Grandma and Grandpa left the farm and moved into town, they were fortunate to land in a place where they could in effect keep on farming on a smaller scale. They raised and sold produce from their “Garden of Eat’n”, raised chickens, geese, sheep and even a heifer. From that “farm,” she created goose down pillows for all her grandchildren.
The town decided to put fluoride in the water system. Incensed, Grandma took a dead chicken, to the hearing and slung it in front of whoever was in charge. She wanted to make the point that she used fluoride to kill the lice on her chickens; that it was poison. She was hauled forcefully out of the room.
I was enchanted by both my Paternal and Maternal Grandmother’s homes. One day when I was around eight, I told Grandma how beautiful I thought her chandelier was. When they left the farm, it was mine. The structure of the chandelier has not survived the years, but I use ten of the crystals on our Christmas tree; the rest I gave to my nephew.
Even after she left their place in town, after Grandpa died, Grandma raised chickens until she went to the nursing home. She couldn’t stand store bought food.
Next to Grandma’s kitchen sink, only a few inches deep, was a glass cake pan in which fluttered fan tailed gold fish amid feathery water plants. A philodendron grew out of the water. The set up was enchanting, especially looking down on the undulating fish. She created many such beguiling environments, including the gardens that surrounded their home.
Grandma wore her wedding dress dyed gold for their fiftieth anniversary, and trundled Grandpa into the church in a wheelbarrow.
At her funeral my sister was scandalized when the pastor said “Now, there were some who did not like Nora.” I found it wonderful – he clearly knew her and was not of that group. Not long before she died, she wrote a Christmas play with parts for people from the congregation. Not only did she write the play, she also sewed costumes for everyone: elder men as wise men, younger as shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and so on. She was annoyed that someone switched out the hymns she had chosen. At the time I thought “Good grief, Grandma, they did your play.” Now I am in complete agreement with her.
She was intense; she was not a sit back and criticize kind of person, she was a go for it and put in a lot of work to make something excellent kind of person. She was not always easy for people to “take”. I share that quality of her intensity; I hope I share her excellence.