Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentines and Ten Dollar Bills

My mother with my Grandma Ruth, circa 1953.
When I was a little girl, my Grandpa John and Grandma Ruth sent us cards on holidays. We each got our own card, and inside were two dollars. We got them for Valentine’s Day and Halloween. I don’t remember now if she sent cards for other holidays, but I definitely remember those two. I have a clear picture in my head of opening the card and seeing the two bills, so exciting.

They lived in Wichita Kansas, in the house my mom grew up in, and we’d go visit them at least once a year. They’d visit us about that often, too. On those visits they’d give us each a ten dollar bill to spend during the time we were together. Grandpa John was a recovering smoker. He carried hard candies in his pocket because having a candy helped him when he wanted a cigarette. He’d put his hand in his pocket and pull out a bunch of candy and offer me one. I usually picked butterscotch.

Grandpa John died in 1983, when I was 13, and Grandma lived on her own in their house for nine years. By then she was getting close to 90 years old, and realized that she needed to be close to family who could help her. So in 1992 she moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area where we were. She had a little apartment and took care of herself. Mom visited her a couple of times a week, took her shopping, etc. I saw her as often as I could, too, when I was home. I was in my early twenties then, and it was good to spend some time with her as an adult. When you’re young grandmas are for playing and fun and the ten dollar bills, but when you’re older you realize how interesting they are. Grandma told about her family when she was young, and about meeting my grandpa. She said he had style, wore nice clothes and always kept his car very clean. She talked about extended family who’d I’d never met but who had some great stories. One time she showed me three old pottery bowls that she’d gotten in Mexico. They’d been in southern California on a vacation, and walked across the border to Mexico. She bought the bowls and carried them back again. After telling me that, she got thoughtful and said, “I’m not sure that that was legal.” I laughed, and still get a kick out of Grandma carrying contraband over the border.

Grandma Ruth died in January 1997, at the age of 93, fourteen years ago now. When Mom and my aunt Beverly were going through her things, they found an envelope with ten dollar bills in it that she was saving to give to the grandkids when she saw us again. There were enough for each of us to get one more. I still have mine tucked in an envelope at home. I also have the cedar chest that Grandpa bought her before they were married (in 1929), and the clay bowls from Mexico.

This morning I was signing and addressing Valentines to send, and it made me think of Grandma Ruth. I’ve wanted to carry on the tradition of holiday cards with nieces and nephews, and have actually succeeded some years, but I’m not as good and Grandma was.


Nicole said...

Awwww. Very sweet post.

Also, why is your Mom all business in that awesome photo?

Stacy Peterson said...

WOW!!! So there's your blog and there's out family!! This really struck me. So incredible that this is our shared history and shared amazing people. We've been so blessed by the grandparents we have, haven't we!!!! My hope is that we learn how to best give back and support family in the current time. Thanks got this post Angie.

Also, I am kinda behind at knowing how to keep up to date using all the social networking tools available- but just know we'd love to continue to stay connected and share.