Sunday, November 18, 2012
Lesson from Grandma Grace (Filson/Coplen lineage)
One very blistering snowy day in 1972 I had to walk from school to grandma's house. I know what you are saying, but my snow story is real, not made up. The snow was coming down hard and the wind was so strong it stung my face. My spine hurt from the tightness of my body. I walked as fast as I could for about 20 minutes for I was not prepared for snow that day and had no gloves. I made it to Grandma's house and ran to the sink to run hot water over my hands. As the hot water started to run, the pain in my hands escalated to horrifying pain. Luckily grandma was in the kitchen and she quickly turned off the hot water tap and ran cold water over my hands, explaining to me that when anything is frozen it has to be thawed slowly, heat would make it crack. I envisioned my fingers falling off my hands. She filled the sink up with cold water, added a few ice cubes and then gradually brought warm water into the sink. My eyes were filled with tears from pain, but comforted that Grandma knew how to fix it.
In 1971 we moved away from Plymouth, Indiana for two years to another Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, but then returned to the family farm in 1973 when my father retired from military service.
At that time Grandma Grace had bought a mobile home and put it on a cement slab next to the crib on the Filson farm. I enjoyed going over there to play gin rummy and eat her butterscotch hard candy. She had a little Chihuahua that would jump all over and annoy me. She would make rhubarb pie with the wild rhubarb that grew in the field and dandelion green patties with the wild dandelions that grew all over the yard. Looking back on it, I see it was one of my first lessons on how to live off the land. The thought that if I could find nothing else in the world to eat I could go out in my yard and pick the dandelion weeds, the weeds that most people hate and spend an exhaustive amount of time trying to kill, then mix them with egg and flour and fry them in a pan with butter. It makes me feel as if I have some secret knowledge of survival that my city friends do not. She also taught me how to make gravy, it would take me another 10 years to remember her gravy lesson and implement it into cooking routine, but it eventually stuck. She said to make good gravy; you had to slowly brown butter and flour to a toasty color and then slowly add hot stock to keep the gravy at a slow bubble. “You can’t rush the gravy” she would say. It makes for perfect gravy every time.
I soon got busy with school and with my life and moved away from Indiana. Grandma Grace went to live with her oldest daughter on another farm a few miles from the family farm where she raised her children. Her oldest daughter died in 1993 and due to her poor health Grandma Grace went to live in Miller's Merry Manor Nursing Home in Plymouth. We would write to each other, but I regret I was not as attentive as I should have been. She lived there another 10 years, to the age of 97, and by that time she said she was tired of living. She was in a wheelchair and she did not like the fact that she was lasting so long.
She died on August 25, 2003, which is the same day I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary. She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Indiana next to her husband Russell.