Tag Archives: grandparents

What We Remember (or a Story about Love)

The following was written by Donna Jean (Franks) Schmid, my grandmother. All punctuation and poetry are hers alone. I believe it was written for a Wooster Historic Society or Daughters of the American Revolution (or the like) event where she spoke; no date was listed in her handwritten notes.

“This is my favorite time of year. I am invigorated by the crispness in the air, the gorgeous colors of fall leaves. For me this is a time of renewal, I hope you too can relate to the bounteous harvest and enjoy the fruits of your gardens and trees.

While we are putting our tilled areas to rest, we can dream of next year and the reading and sifting of information during the more dormant months. This is an especially beautiful area and it is no wonder that our ancestors found it to be so. In the coming weeks we can make use of the conveniences? at our command and get to really know those who went before us. Can’t you feel their characters emerge from the thing you read about their lives? Reread portions of Wayne County history books, perhaps the Douglas book, and imagine the wayour area once was. Then place your ancestors in the scenario. Great!

I look out my dayroom window and see the dreamy lilac of the Russian Sage and I think of my grandmother’s starched cotton dress and actually remember the feel of her soft white hair as I plaited and wound it into a bun. Isn’t it odd the things we remember?

I remember the fields of glowing orange pumpkins my father raised and see him in memory with a spade over his shoulder and bending his back, clearing drainage ditches on the lowlands. I see his chambray shirt and faded jeans – you know, I really would like to ask him about the reunion of the Franks family which he attended. What was Grandpa like when he was young? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peek in a window at evening and see the family gathered around the piano and hear the blended singing of the old songs? How about the homey smells of baking bread, frying ham and then too canning and making jam for the cold days? Do you remember the early orphaned lambs behind the old wood range? Or the bleats of sheep on the hillside? How about the ringing of the dinner bell? The smell of drying hay – the prickly stems as it was tramped into the snow? I remember. I remember and my soul yearns for the old ways.

But then I think of electricity and the inefficient kerosene lamps. I think of penicillin and I guess time and progress is not so bad – just different.”

~

After discovering the above writing in my grandmother’s Bible, I realized I never really knew who she was or how she felt about life and memory. I didn’t know that autumn was her favorite time of the year, or that she experienced intense desire to return to the old ways. I can’t describe her memories of life on the farm because I never really asked. We visited the farm almost every summer and I never thought about it being a working farm. And now the farm is for sale, and I won’t be returning to it. I’m mostly okay with that since Ohio was rarely a happy place to visit.

There was one visit though where my grandparents were at their finest. Keith and I visited them about 10 years ago for Easter, just the two of us, and they were full of such joy showing us the countryside and their community. Unfortunately, I don’t recall many details from that visit but I wish I did. I do remember my Grandma insisting on making us food to take to the airport because airport restaurants had terrible food. She rarely cooked by that point, but managed to scrounge up a thick slice of ham and fry it up for the best ham sandwich of my life.

I guess what I’m trying to write is this: I am confident that my Grandma loved me, she just didn’t usually know how to show it. But as the generations were added to the family, it seemed like she figured things out a little better with this business of love. She ALWAYS made time to love my boys and talk with them about their lives. She hung their art on her fridge. She loved them.

For my mom’s sake, I wish she could have figured out love sooner. She never really told my mom that she loved her, and that’s something my mom carries with her. Breaking a cycle is incredibly difficult, but my mom and her sisters figured it out and my cousins, brother, and I feel fiercely loved by our parents. And I know I love my two boys no matter what, and tell them as well as show them every day. So in her way, my Grandma taught me to love unlike she had loved, in an infinitely forgiving and exponential way so there can be zero doubt in it.

My Grandmom

Miriam Trauger (c. 1970s)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandmom lately. She lived through the Depression, stopping school in the 8th grade to help her family run the farm. As the oldest child with no brothers, it was her responsibility to work the land as a farmhand when money was tight. She didn’t even inherit the farm she toiled over because she wanted to marry my Grandpop, a man my grandparents thought inferior for her. 
maybe their 50th wedding anniversary


A housewife, she loved her family, went to (first Mennonite, later Congregational, and lastly Presbyterian) church regularly, and cherished food. She always admonished me when I failed to clear my plate. Don’t worry, she saved whatever I didn’t eat and included it in her weekly soup (any and all leftovers, mostly produce, that didn’t get eaten became her soup). As far as I know, no one ate the soup except for her. I guess growing up not having enough to eat will do that to a person. 


She also advocated for food security in the best way she knew how – through walking in the Arlington area’s annual CROP Walk for Hunger. The most prolific fundraiser for years, she walked the six miles with joy knowing she was helping those who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. She loved to walk (she could be seen in the mornings and evenings each day walking throughout the neighborhood), and was the oldest person to complete the walk her last couple of years of doing it. 


But that’s not why I’m thinking about her these days. Most of the time, I just think about how much I miss her. She lived less than a mile down the street from me while I was growing up, and she was my first and most memorable babysitter. One of my favorite moments as a kid was piling all my stuffed animals on the bed and reading books while laying on top of them. She did that with me. She also braided my hair in pigtails whenever she was around after bath time, something I loved because only she could do it (my mom never did). Funny, I ended up being the one to brush and braid her hair in pigtails at the end.


We took walks to the neighborhood playground, collecting nuts that fell from trees to throw in the St. John’s River, played endless games (she loved card games the best), and ate weekly Sunday dinners together. As I got older, I spent less time at her house, and more time with sports and school activities. She came to those when she could, but mostly I saw her at our family dinners (which I didn’t even really want to attend (ugh, teen life)).
 
During high school, my parents chaperoned a trip for my brother for a week one summer and I was bummed to have to stay with my grandparents. Looking back now, I’m so happy I did. I’d never spent a whole week with them before, being part of their regular lives. It felt special, and I felt loved.

Before she died, she told me how happy I made her, especially since I was excelling in college. She said that’s why all of my birthday and Christmas money (never presents) had to go to my college fund – it was that important. She didn’t see the importance of it when my dad wanted to attend college (first in the family), but after he did, and saw his support of us and my grandparents, she told me she was glad to be wrong. 
The last time I remember seeing her was on a car ride on my way back to college. She was pretty frail at that point, but she insisted on making the two hour ride to and from Gainesville with me and my parents. I think she slept most of the ride. But I knew she cared for me and was there for me unconditionally.

I hope that I’m continuing to make her proud in my raising of two young boys. I often think about how she would react to a situation or what kind of advice she would give me. I miss her. And our Grandmom/Granddaughter bond is why I’m thinking about her so much these days. Right now, Henry spends two days a week with his Oma and Opa, who live 20 short minutes away. It’s a lifesaver for me as I adjust to life with two kiddos, but it’s amazing for him (and hopefully them) as well. I know he’s going to have lovely memories of his time spent with them now, and I hope these memories continue to build exponentially in the years to come.

my favorite picture of her