I've decided that in my pursuit of happiness I'm going to try to see my life through her eyes, well the best I can figure anyway. We're not talking old school, we're talking old world. I would often sit in her kitchen while she reheated leftovers in her heavy cast iron skillet while the microwave (a model about a decade behind the times by the way) sat untouched in the corner. I watched her hang clothes outside to dry while her dryer sat cold in the basement. These were wonders beyond my imagination as a child. I mean, why do things the old fashioned way when there were all these modern conveniences to make life easier, better?
I wished I had asked her then, but now I see her wisdom. In our effort to make life easier, we have created a whole lifestyle that keeps us running in place, a treadmill we can't get off or slow down. We overlook and waste much of what we have, and the worst crime of all - we don't appreciate all the opportunities we have. We forget that before the manufactured "spring breeze" scent added to our detergent to make our clothes smell sweet, there was fresh air and sunshine. Now I hang my clothes out to dry whenever nature cooperates and I know there will be people who wonder why, but I know it's because mother nature has given me this gift and why use up more of her resources, like the very expensive propane needed to bake my clothes in the dryer, when I don't have to.
I often think back on how my grandmother could make leftovers taste better than the original meal. I mean if you've never had fried macaroni and cheese from the skillet then I truly feel sorry for you. It's fantastic. So that's why her easier to use microwave barely ever got used. She knew that if leftovers tasted just as good the second time around they'd definitely be eaten and my grandmother didn't like to waste food because she knew a thing or two about being hungry. I remember my grandmother saving even a small bowl of cream of wheat for the next morning's breakfast. Most of us wouldn't think twice about throwing it away, wanting something different or fresher to start a new day with, but then again most of us are lucky enough to never have learned what it really means to be hungry.
My grandmother has told me stories about being alone in war torn Germany during World War II with two small children. She said that food was so scarce she was still breastfeeding my uncle at the age of three. She talked about how people ate whatever food they could find and even things most of us would never consider food at all, like bugs. She said she was lucky to have some sour soup at one time when most had nothing. She recalled my uncle crying from hunger and her feeling so utterly helpless since there wasn't anything to give him.
So now when I look in my fridge I don't sigh and say, yuck leftovers and throw them out. I see an opportunity to make another meal for my family. Although my family has experienced a loss of income now that I'm staying at home, I know I am lucky that I don't have that fear of telling my crying, hungry children that I have nothing to give them. I have opportunities that I know my grandmother didn't at that point in her life.
I recently found my rear tire flat on my way to the grocery store and wondered where we were going to get the money for a new one. I found myself remembering my grandmother's Buick Skylark. I think she had that 1970's model my entire life, spending thousands to fix the transmission when most people would just call it quits and find a new car. We ended up just getting the tire plugged.
My grandmother had the distinct advantage of growing up in a simpler time, where everything was not manufactured to be disposable. She kept her possessions clean, in working order, and thus she was able to keep things for a long, long time. That's why she is the keeper of my childhood. Her house, her things, her love - these were the things that NEVER changed in my whole life.
Five years ago, I told my grandmother that I couldn't possibly stay home with my child, that we needed my income to survive. Now I realize how utterly foolish I must have sounded to her, what did I really know about "survival" anyway. The sacrifices I'm making for my children are meager compared to the ones she made for hers, but she gave me this amazing gift of perspective. I didn't see it five years ago, but better late than never.
Martha Fredrick, my grandmother, mentor, friend, and the voice in my head pushing me to be a better person.
I would give anything to talk to her one more time, but unfortunately time can't be refunded once it's been spent. So every time a new challenge presents itself, I'm going to ask myself four simple little words - What Would Grandma Do? I hope I can find her voice in my head when I need her, giving me strength and showing me opportunities the next time I only see obligations.