Two of eachMay 10, 2012
There have been many discussions (jokes) over the years about the types of fun that Grandma Beanie and Grandpa John provided for their family. Grandma Beanie provided the daily fun of board games and card games, daily singing to make chores more fun, letting us watch her burn stuff, preparing yummies with the fish, rabbits and sticky harvests we brought home (ie. jams out of berries) and best of all: watching Grandma Beanie engage in her various hobbies and activities.
But before we get into Grandma Beanie and what I called her hobby-hopping, let’s talk about Grandpa John and his two of each.
With seven children in the family, two of some things were expected. A chicken dinner had to have two chickens. A pizza dinner was no more than a snack without two pizzas (or more). Extra people at dinner caused the need for two tables. When it came to recreational equipment, we often needed at least two. Each of us was limited to one bicycle and we shared a long line of tricycles, wagons and half-built go-carts over the years—any more wheeled contraptions would have caused the garage to bulge. We had two canoes, and two wooden toboggans with curled up ends.
The idea for the canoes and toboggans was to have four people in, or on, each. Grandma Beanie didn’t relish flying down Bendix Hill or paddling her way northward to Michigan on the St. Joseph River.
The canoe trips all went well. Grandpa John lashed the two canoes to the top of the station wagon, Grandma Beanie drove us to Pinhook Park where we launched, and she later picked us up in Niles, Michigan. We paddled slowly and had very nice trips up the river. Grandma Beanie drove fast and always threw up a bit of gravel when she came to pick us up in Niles. We called her Hot Rod Harriet.
The two toboggans were lovely and reminiscent of the old world of our Minnesota relatives. But we weren’t as hardy stock as our relatives, and the toboggans were not nearly as yielding to our control as were our small plastic models. We froze. We whined. We were afraid that the hill was too high. We were afraid that we wouldn’t make it down the hill in one piece. We lined up four to a toboggan and fell off on the way down the hill, rolling, flailing and sliding in our slippery coats. We went home and put the toboggans in the attic of the garage. They were never used again.
We didn’t need two Christmas trees, and that was a good thing when Grandpa John decided one year that we would cut our own. We laughed about that later, too. Grandpa John loved sharing with us things that had been important to him as a child, but some activities were beyond our ruggedness.
At home, we never knew what to expect. One day as I was walking home from school I saw Grandma Beanie standing on her head against the outside of the house. She had discovered yoga. With a big grin on her face she folded herself up like a pretzel. She took swimming lessons and car repair lessons. She studied astrology and prepared all of our charts. She always looked like she had walked out of a fashion magazine. She prepared taxes and sold insurance.
She drove the Easter Bunny around town one year, and had to run to the emergency room for an injured kid with the big bunny in tow. She sewed and taught us to sew. She crocheted, did crafts and paint-by-the-number. She lost control of her laughter at tense times. She grew (and still does grow) the most beautiful roses I have ever seen. She canned, with our help, a couple hundred quarts of tomatoes each year. She had her brunette hair dyed platinum blond, piled high on her head and was the model for her hair dresser’s professional competition (we think that is how the youngest sibling, Uncle Dave, came to be).
She loved psychics, especially Edgar Cayce. She fed steaks to policemen who came to take stolen bicycle reports. They never forgot her. She fed everyone, and sometimes the dinners were a bit unusual. She collected Halloween witches and St. Patrick’s day decorations, and insisted she was Irish every March 17th (she’s not; she’s of English and German descent), while she wore a hat—a beanie—emblazoned with Beanie O’Greenie. One year she wouldn’t allow anyone to visit the house on her birthday unless they brought her a card. We had to send our friends out for cards for our mother. Oy.
She danced to Kansas City. She loved Fats Domino, Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots and Engelbert Humperdinck. She hosted bridge club and let us get away with grabbing bits of bridge mix and Chex party mix from her cut glass candy dishes.
She drove up to the house honking and with the wheels throwing gravel on grocery shopping day, with a station wagon full of groceries loaded from two carts that she had dragged through the grocery store. God help the kid that didn’t go running to help with the groceries. After Johnny died she had a dream that he sat at the end of the kitchen table with his huge flat feet propped up, laughing at her because he was dead and didn’t have to help with the groceries.
She was a formidable 5’2″ powerhouse that scared even the vice principal of the high school. She kept us in line, when we weren’t laughing at (with) her. She was quite entertaining.
We didn’t need two Beanies. One was plenty.