Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Passing of an Era

Edith and tomato

My “Nana” passed away yesterday.  She was 96 years old as of December 25, 2010.  And until the last 2-3 years was in good health.  The last few years without my grandfather weighed on her I believe.  But she left behind a half century of memories for me.

She was the cook for my grandfather’s railroad crew for years.  I have spent time on the railroad that very few people have.  They had quarters in converted box cars.  One was their living quarters, a second one was a cook car and the third was for the crew.   I know how to open the door at the end of one car and step on the coupling and step over into the other car.  I can sleep at night with a train passing inches away from where I’m sleeping on in the camp car on a siding.  I can cook for 20 without batting an eye.  The first pie I can remember cooking was the Lemon Meringue pie using Eagle Brand Milk.  I still have to fix it at least once a year and get my ‘fix’.  Only thing is, when I fixed it I had to make 2-4 of them.  After all, I was spending time during the summer with her on the railroad and I helped fix the three meals a day she cooked for the crew.  Meals, on and off the railroad, would consist of 1-2 meats, 4-5 vegetables, homemade biscuits and/or cornbread and dessert.  And she could fix Tennessee style BBQ in the crockpot which was as good as you could buy anywhere.  After we moved to Texas, she made sure I had my BBQ every time I came to see her because she knew how much I missed it and enjoyed it.

More than that, she started me down the road with yarn and hooks.  She was a crocheter – using it to while away the time between meals while my granddad was working.  They were so often on railroad sidings in the back of beyond in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee.  She crocheted a bedspread for a double bed with fine cotton thread.  There are countless little squares making up the spread.  It’s a soft ivory and you can feel the weight of it when you sleep under it.  I would love to make one for myself, partly because it’s so beautiful and partly in her memory.  But the hours and hours it took to make it……I don’t know that I would ever get it finished like she did.  And when leggings were the big craze years ago….well, let’s say it’s the thought that counts.  Same for the shipment of hats.  But I have some crocheted lace collars to wear tucked away in the back of my drawers.  The edging on a set of sheets she also crocheted for me.

I would get to go to the ‘cabin’ with them when they took a break from the railroad.  It was miles from nowhere in Tennessee near the lake.  And this was my chance to get to eat at the ‘goo-goo’ stand on the way to the cabin.  A ‘goo-goo’ stand was something like a Dairy Queen to her.  This was pre-McDonald’s days, so it was a major treat. 

Nana & Tim Here we are in the early 60’s on the porch of the cabin.  This was a house she and my grandfather built to eventually be their retirement home.  At this time it had one living room/kitchenette, bedroom and a semi-working bathroom.  I learned to pee in a coffee can or find a tree at an early age!

The memories are endless and at this point in time, very bittersweet.  I do regret I never learned how to make biscuits like she could.  But I know she is happier and more comfortable now.  Bye, Nana.

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