Thursday, November 29, 2018

How I Remember Grandma Cordell

We lived a quick bike-ride along a dirt road between fields to my grandma's house. And we loved going to my grandma's house!

It was a working farm, in that my grandparents raised all kinds of livestock. Including chickens, sheep, and cattle. So there was all kinds of territory to explore--old sheds smelling of machine oil, decrepit farm machinery found out in a pasture, the steep sides and crawdad-filled deeps of a dugout, shadowed interiors of "old growth" shelter belts where you could always find a handy walking stick from windfall, and lots more.

That was all great. But what was really wonderful was seeing Grandma Cordell. She was always so, so happy to see us. She demonstrated that in words, hugs, and as was probably most appreciated by us kids, FOOD! All different kinds, from meals, to snacks, to candy and dessert. Mayonnaise and Velveeta sandwiches were my favorite, but you couldn't go wrong with marshmallows on toothpicks dipped in Karo syrup! Of course, there was also apple butter on toast, cold cuts, and yep, actual candy. For a kid who was always voracious, it was like heaven.

Grandma also loved games. We played all kinds of paper and pencil games, like tic-tac-to and Dots & Boxes, plus card games like Go Fish. Later, Grandma's love and facility for word-find games was awe inspiring.


My grandmother currated a constantly evolving art wall in her basement. The white washed cement cinder blocks of the foundation created hundreds of rectangular canvases that she asked us to fill, one every few years, with whatever we wanted. Over the years that wall filled with life filertered through crayon by dozens of growing children and  grandchildren, cousins, in-laws, and friends. It was always an honor to be given another pristine space to fill with art. Or at least in my case, earnest childish scrawling :).

Grandma and Grandpa had a lively relationship. Sometimes their back and forth would really make me laugh. Like this one time, Grandpa Cordell said something he thought was funny, who knows what, but Grandma didn't.

So she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, go jump in a lake."

"But I can't swim."

"Well, you better learn!"

No matter how much fun visiting Grandma was, sooner or later, we had to leave. Which meant it was time to wave goodbye. This worked best if you were driving or being driven, of course. Grandma would start waving from the driveway in front of her house, then move inside to the front window, then finally on to the side window as we got farther and farther away. And of course, we waved furiously back all the while. "Bye, Grandma! Goodbye!"

Whether it was food, games, or a chance to let our freak-art-flag fly, Grandma Cordell was amazing because she lavished attention on us grandchildren. We didn't realize it back then, but she always put us first. It delighted her to do so, and of course it delighted us to be the complete center of attention for those brief periods we were with her. Like we were royalty visiting, or guests in a foreign land where everything was candy, games, and love.

That was my experience of Grandma Cordell. I looked forward to going to her house more than anything else when I was young. That time is long over, of course. But not in my memory. She lives on there. If I close my eyes, I can still see her grinning, welcoming us into her kitchen. And of course waving, waving goodbye.

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