Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Dear Grandmother

Virginia Marie Donovan Herle

For those of you who don't know, my grandmother passed away on Saturday at 1:52pm. She died peacefully in her sleep after many years of home health and hospice care. She was 90 years old, born in 1918. I don't know as much as I would like to about my grandmother's younger years and I am in awe of her every time I learn something new. It has been really wonderful to be able to read what some of my family members have written about her in their blogs because we each remember something different about her. One thing that I have learned after reading all of these tributes is that she treated each of her grandchildren like we were someone rare and special and always made us feel like we were her most treasured possession. I would like to share some of my favorite memories of my grandma, Virgina Marie Donovan Herle:

Breakfast! Every time I came to visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning, my grandma would make THE best homemade hash browns. I could never get enough of them and would often eat an entire pie tin all by myself!

The way my grandma said the word "something". She pronounced it "somethint." It made me laugh every time.

When I was little my grandma had this miniature furniture set made out of tin cans. They were painted and upholstered and looked very real. It was a treat when she let me pull them out and set them up for my Barbie dolls.

My grandma was a very crafty lady. She often had little things for us to put together but never made us conform to a pattern. She always encouraged our creativity and reveled in our creations, even if they looked nothing like what she had intended the finished product to be. I always felt a little sad as I got older and I was too "busy" to sit and do crafts with her...

I think my grandma must have been a very stylish woman in her youth. She always took painstaking care of her hair and nails. You would be hard pressed to find her sitting in her easy chair without an emery board nearby.

The Golden Girls. I remember falling asleep to that show many times while spending the night at her house. "Thank you for being a friend..." When I hear the theme song it still makes me feel peaceful.

My grandma always let me play in her makeup. Even when I didn't ask before using it, she never got mad when I came out of her bedroom with bright magenta lipstick all over my face.

Before bed, my grandma gave us a midnight snack, even if it wasn't midnight. Graham crackers and (sometimes warm) milk. She always bought whole milk and I will always love whole milk, even though I don't drink it anymore.

I used to get so mad as a child when I got socks and underwear from her for Christmas! I wanted toys! But as I got older, I learned to look forward to her very predictable Christmas (and sometimes Easter and Birthday) gifts of socks and underwear. Because of her, one of my favorite sensations to this day is putting on a new pair of socks for the first time.

My grandmother celebrated every holiday. We always got little candies and gifts no matter how big or small the occasion. One of her best craft ideas was taking the little green strawberry baskets and turning them into Easter baskets by weaving yarn and ribbon through them and stuffing them with Easter grass. For Halloween she always made sure she had baggies of different candies tied with yarn for us and all of the neighborhood children.

It used to bother me that several of the children who lived in my grandma's neighborhood used to call her grandma too. I would think to myself, "she's my grandma, not yours!" Now I realize how truly gifted she was with children and how special she made each one feel. I am grateful that they loved her enough to call her grandma too.

Some of my favorite foods that my grandma made were her homemade macaroni and cheese, Top Ramen, pot roast and potatoes, terriyaki (or was it bbq?) chicken, pancakes, chicken noodle soup, and tuna fish sandwiches (on toasted white bread with lettuce). If you've noticed, half of these things are packaged foods. That shows just how wonderful she made each meal. No one can make Top Ramen like my grandma did! (Although I do know her secrets for the ramen and mac and cheese, so if there is anyone who is interested, let me know!!! :)

I don't really like apples. I don't remember ever really liking apples...unless they were yellow apples that my grandma cut up for me. She always peeled the skin off with a pairing knife, cored it, and then cut it by hand into perfectly shaped slices. The best!

My grandma was the sweetest, most gracious, gentle, and demure person I have ever met! The scariest thing I have experienced in my life is when she got mad. Dissension amongst the grand kids was the fastest way to incur the wrath of my grandma...and if you cried about it, the worst thing in the world was when she said, "I'll give you something to cry about!" This, due to my grandmother's unceasing patience, happened very rarely.

My FAVORITE memory of my grandma was when she would put me to bed at night. She would always recite a poem while she gently tickled my face and ran her fingers through my hair...
"Winkin and Blinkin and Nod, one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe
Sailed on a river of silver light
Into the Sea of Dew
Now Winkin and Blink were two little eyes
And Nod was a little head"
She would recite this over and over until I was either asleep or very drowsy. If I was the latter, I would pretend that the last recitation was a magic spell that would be broken if I opened my eyes. This helped me fall asleep on restless nights.

My grandmother was a very special woman. I wish I knew her better than I do, but I have so many wonderful memories of her and I am at peace with what I have in my heart and with the legacy she left behind. I think I can speak for all of her grandchildren when I say that she has forever changed us for the better and she was the kind of grandparent we want to be. I love you, grandma, and I will see you again someday soon. Tell grandpa we all say 'hi'!


The Anglesey Family said...

Oh my gosh! What a sweet lady. She looks sooo cute sitting next to you. I am soo sorry she passed away. But what a good like she had!
I feel soo stupid...Here I was talking to you about weight watchers and bad haircuts at church....While you were dealing with the loss of a grandmother. Bless you for being so nice to inconsiderate visiting teacher :)

moliver said...

What a beautiful post. I'm sorry for your loss but how blessed you were to have had her in your life for so long. Some of the memories you shared remind me of my Grandmother. When I am missing her I think of those special memories and how lucky I was to have her. Be sure to keep those memories alive and tell Anslie about her often. Then through you, her legacy will live on for generations.

Tera said...

Beautifully said, you brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad you wrote your memories of her. So many of them are things that I remember too but had forgotten! I think it would be beautiful if we could put all of our memories together and display them somewhere at her funeral. What do you think?

Rachelle said...

I agree with Tera: beautiful memories. Many of them I too had forgotten. I think that we should definitely collect our memories of grandma and distribute copies to the family.

Diane said...

Very sweet tribute Shillawna!

The Van Boerum Family said...

What a great post Shillawna! How wonderful that you have so many great memories of your grandma and that you can share them with your kids. I love the picture of her ... I love seeing pictures like that, she was very stylish indeed. I wonder if she and my grandma ever met, they did a lot of the same things...maybe it is just a grandma thing!