I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy! AMEE
Sitting alone in my kitchen with a fresh bowl of homemade vegetable soup and a handful of buttered saltine crackers, my eyes filled with tears. Now, there were onions and black pepper in my soup, but that was not the reason for the tears. It was the memories that flooded my mind as I sat there enjoying the fruits of my labor, or in this case, the vegetables of my labor.
As far back as I can remember, one of my most favorite meals was homemade soup. My momma would drag out the pressure cooker fill it with water and plop in a bunch of soup bones and the process would begin. Back in “the day” pressure cookers were not digital with timers like the ones available today. My mommas pressure cooker was that beautiful golden color of that era and the lid on it must have weighed at least ten pounds. Sitting a top of that big ol’ lid was a little jiggly thing that bobbled back and forth as the pressure inside the pot increased. After the meat was cooked she would carefully adjust it to allow the steam from the inside of the cooker release slowly. If it didn’t release slowly she would have a big mess to clean up. And once in a while she would have a mess to clean up. Once the meat was cooked, she would add lots of vegetables and let the soupy concoction simmer on the stove for the rest of the day. The result was a wonderful soup that would fill us up on a cold winter’s day.
Sitting there eating my soup and crackers my mind not only drifted back to my own mom, but to my grandparents. My Grandma and Pap were two of the most wonderful people I have ever known. They were hard working, honest people who never asked for anything and worked hard for everything they had. My Pap worked at a local car dealership detailing cars and Grandma worked in a blue jeans factory as an inspector. While they loved me more than I could ever put into words, they never spoiled me (or the other eight grandchildren). It wasn’t their way. And as an adult, I am so thankful they did not lavish us with gifts and material things. When I was nine years old, my grandparents purchased their very first home. That was 1976. They purchased a dining room table, chairs, china hutch and china for their new home. I remember going to see their purchase and hearing my grandma say to me “Karla Anne, when I am dead this is yours”. Now I was nine and the thought of my grandma leaving this earth would have never crossed my mind. However, she was a realist and she wanted to make sure that I knew that her treasured furniture would someday be mine and that everyone knew it. I am sitting at her dining table as I write this.
As the years passed, I grew up, married my Carolina boy and moved away. I stayed close to my beloved grandparents with visits, phone calls, cards and letters. It wasn’t until after I married that I learned a family secret. My grandmother had a child before she married my grandfather. In today’s world, that’s not a big deal to most. It happens all the time you might say. But nearly 70 years ago, that was a big deal. Most young girls who found themselves in this particular situation were sent away, had their baby, gave it up for adoption, returned home never to speak of it again. But you see, my grandma was different. She chose to go against the grain; she kept her little boy and raised him. It wasn’t until three years later that she met and married my grandfather and they became a family. In the years that followed their family would grow with the births of three daughters.
After finding out this “secret” my admiration for my grandparents grew. Some may have been embarrassed by the knowledge that their grandmother did “that”. But I on the other hand found great comfort in realizing just how strong she really was. And while I believe that her strength and courage to take on such a task as being a single mother all those years ago, I believe it took an even stronger more courageous man to take on the role of husband and father to a child he did not conceive. I realized that my sweet, loving gentle Pap was a giant who faced adversity head on and did it with grace and dignity. I began to reflect on this gentle soul who would take me to the garden to pull up a turnip, peel it and eat it while sitting on the tailgate of his truck in the back yard. I remember many times he would sneak in the house and return with a piece of pepperoni for our little dog, Mindy. I remember how no matter what broke, he would fix it. One time the antenna fell off my car and when I told him, he went into his shop and returned with an antenna that he just happened to have on hand. I remember the phone calls he’d make to our house on cold snowy mornings to tell me if the roads were safe for me to travel to the community college I attended. He fixed toasters, clocks, flat tires, and so much more. He was funny, opinionated, hard headed and big hearted. He loved to ride his moped through town. He would never wave at us while on the moped; he’d just toot his little horn and keep going.
My grandma was one lucky woman. He loved her and she loved him. She called him Dad and he called her Mom. I remember staying at their house one night (we didn’t do that very often) because my parents had gone somewhere. We slept in our sleeping bags on the living room floor. Grandma had tucked us all in and she and Pap were getting ready for bed. The lights had been turned off and I heard her slip into bed. Seconds later I heard Grandma say “Good night, I love you old man” Pap in turn said “I love you too old woman”. As a young child I thought that was funny, as an adult, it warms my heart to remember such a special moment between them.
Pap had a stroke in 1990 and spent nearly ten years in a nursing home. Grandma spent every day at the nursing home with him. She looked after him and even took his clothes home to her house to wash. She didn’t trust the nursing home staff to do it the way he was used to. Every night before she left, she’d lay out the next day’s clothes; put a fresh folded handkerchief in his shirt pocket along with a fresh toothpick. She lived according to her wedding vows; in sickness and health, for better or worse.
My Grandma passed away from lung cancer on June 14, 1999 and Pap quietly slipped away in his sleep February 1, 2001. Theirs is a love story that I cherish and am thankful to be part of. The memories I have will remain with me forever. And as I continue on my life’s journey with my husband, I hope that one day down the road…far down the road, when I am a grandmother, my own grandchildren will be able to look back at my life and find their own memories in their bowl of homemade soup.