When I was a little girl, my Grandma’s each represented different things to me…wonderful explorations and totally foreign things for my young imagination.
They both lived in Southern Minnesota, and, since I lived in Nevada and Colorado all of my childhood, the landscape and climate alone were adventures. And lets not forget that breakfast was breakfast, but lunch was dinner and dinner was supper…and that there is some kind of special magic associated with the Hubbell House.
Grandma K’s house was filled with antique furniture, old brochures and order forms from the Johnston Ring Company, and pictures of my dad and uncles as children and teenagers. Grandma K lived “in town” and appeared to care little where I wandered so long as I could hear when she called.
There was a creek near by with frogs I liked to capture and cousins my age romping about all the time. We were allowed to walk or ride our bikes around the streets, to visit the corner convenience store for a Coke and a Hershey bar, or cross the creek to the Ben Franklin Five and Ten (a magical place to a small girl with quarters in her pocket!). Grandpa K grew potatoes and beans in his garden and, because Grandma K had to receive dialysis, there was at least one trip a week to Perkins for pancakes.
And Grandma K collected dolls – not baby dolls, but unusual dolls. Dolls from the Amish and dolls with porcelain faces and feet but soft bodies. Her dolls were usually boxed up in a closet somewhere to be “preserved” but every once in a while, she’d break one out and have it on display. While I was a bit tom-boyish, those dolls were the coolest things to me. Each was very different – probably one of my first exposures to the folk art I love so much.
Grandma Q’s house was equally enchanting, though entirely different – she lived on a FARM. There were cows and cats everywhere. There was an old house on the verge of falling down, an old hen house, and a barn with a hay loft. I got my first driving lesson on an old green tractor and captured toads in glass jars to tease my Grandma with. We picked blackberries and raspberries from the bushes behind the cow pasture and Grandma Q had an enormous garden. She grew corn and beans and squash and the most beautiful roses. AND strawberries…she was famous for her strawberry jam!
And probably most importantly for me, Grandma Q cooked. Not just jam…but meals to make your head spin! One meal might be pork chops, fresh sweet corn, fresh green beans, fried potatoes, jello salad, bread and butter, and, if you could cram another spoonful of food in your mouth, ice cream with strawberries and sugar. I learned many of my cooking lessons standing on a foot stool in Grandma Q’s kitchen.
One other thing I remember about Grandma Q’s was that she had dishes and cooking utensils for things that I had never dreamed of in my young imagination. One of the most memorable for me was a green glass luncheon set – a smallish rectangular plate of glowing green glass with a little rim built right onto the plate to hold a little glowing green glass tea cup. Oh, those were magical dishes! How clever, I thought, to put that ring on the dish so you could carry your drink and your sandwich in one hand! She broke that luncheon set out for a ladies church luncheon once. I got to help make the sandwiches and fruit and a very complicated three-tiered dessert called a Neapolitan Bar. When the ladies oohed and aahed over that dessert, I was so proud.
Both of my Grandma’s have been dead for more than 15 years. The death of a grandparent is a weird thing. People ask you, “Is there anything you want?” and your mind kind of goes blank. I was in college at the time of their deaths – one in one year and on the following year. My mind was on my sadness and finals, not on the things I might want left over from a life…
Luckily, the K side of my family arranged for each of the children to have a doll from Grandma K’s collection. I was the oldest in the house at the time and got to pick first. I chose an Emmet Kelley doll with a soft body and porcelain head, hands and feet. I also ended up with an antique chest that once sat in her living room.
But it wasn’t until years after my Grandma Q’s death that I realized I wanted that green glass luncheon set. There had been a theft at the farm and many things were missing. It was then and only then that I realized there was something in the house that stirred me– green glass dishes. Why I long for it, I do not know. I don’t “luncheon” and I have no girlfriends in my current location yet to invite over to tea. And the set was quaint and completely out of style – perhaps something that would rarely be used in my current life. Still, I imagine breaking it out for myself, making some tea and some cucumber sandwiches and enjoying a moment with Grandma Q.
My grandfather has long since remarried and moved out of the farm house. I have no idea where that green glass luncheon set is. I’ve heard rumors that it is in the basement of the house owned by my grandfather’s second wife. Considering the distance, I may never know.
Recently, I opened up my latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens and in the first pages, there are, lo and behold, something called “tea sets.” They are new renditions of my beloved luncheon set.
Imagine that…my sweet memories of Grandmas and my childhood adventures has come full circle…my quaint little, much longed after luncheon set is a fashionable item.
If you happen to see one made of glowing green glass, drop me a line. I’ve been waiting for it!
I’m sort of hoping they bring back the Ben Franklin Five and Ten….