Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Rich Heritage

By Hazel Holland

"Westcot", my great grandfather's sister's house in  Devon, England, painted by my grandmother in 1928! 

This is one of grandmother's water color paintings that she painted in 1928, and that I had tucked away in a manilla folder for safe-keeping.  I was delighted when I recently discovered it, because forgotten memories and lost dreams can now be restored with the aide of a digital camera!  A little help from Microsoft Office Picture Manager... and the painting came back to life.

And with it came a flood of fond childhood memories... the good times spent at my grandparent's home in Hertforshire, England.  In fact this painting resembles their house and English garden. 

My grandmother planted and took care of the flowers, and my grandfather raised the vegetables and fruit.  Geraniums were grandma's favorite flower to grow, even though as a child I couldn't understand why because they never smelled pretty.  And my grandpa's vegetable garden and apple orchard were his pride and joy and the envy of anyone who saw it.

Practically everything we ate we grew.  And whenever we needed something from the store my grandmother would put it on the shopping list, and grandfather would pick it up on his Friday shopping trip.  He could have ridden the bus to the shops downtown, but he always preferred to walk the three miles.  Sometimes the return trip home would take him a little longer than usual, and I would hear my grandmother mumbling under her breath as she looked at the clock: "You should ride the bus home George... and not be so stubborn!"

But he never did.  He took his time walking the three miles home because he preferred to stop along the way and admire people's gardens, and perhaps chat with a stranger or two.  People would recognize him when they saw him walking with his cane and shopping bag, and he would tip his hat.  He was in no hurry.  He had time to smell the flowers... 

I enjoyed smelling flowers, too.  As a child I liked picking raspberries and strawberries in the early morning while the dew was still clinging to the fresh fruit.  Digging up new potatoes with grandpa and counting how many peas were inside each pod was always fun.  

Most people wouldn't eat raw rhubarb or sour gooseberries before breakfast, but I did.  Never mind that later I sometimes got an awful stomachache... Grandma's Andrews Liver Salts (antacid) always worked... and I loved the fizzy feeling in my mouth!

So many more outdoor memories I have, but I have wonderful indoor memories as well.  My grandmother loved to paint, and I was eager to learn.  She gave me my first art lesson in mixing watercolors when I was seven, and I found out the hard way that it wasn't as easy as it looked.  I discovered quite quickly that "mud" was an easy color to make!   

But it was exciting to see how the colors would change when they were mixed together.  I immediately wanted to make beautiful pictures like she did, but my grandmother was wise.  She gently told me that it would take time, and that I must be patient, and that I must keep practicing.

But it wasn't just art that she taught me...  It was sewing and knitting and crocheting and making doll houses out of large cardboard boxes with real glass for windows, and matchbox furniture.  

She taught me how to play the piano and the auto harp.  And on special occasions she would put my hair up in rag curls at night so that I would have beautiful ringlets the next day.  The list went on and on...  

There was never a dull moment at grandma's house, because she always had time to listen to my childish dreams.  Sometimes she'd even let me eat a cookie or candy between meals... a treat that was never allowed at home.  

Christmastime was the best time of all because I loved the way Grandma's house smelled.  It wasn't just the Christmas tree, the holly berries, or the gingerbread men...but all the wonderful smells that brought back the good memories of the closeness we felt and the love that we shared whenever we were together.

So if you're a grandma or grandpa reading this post right now, grasp every opportunity you can to spend quality and fun time with your grandchildren.  Their little minds are so open and receptive to learning new things.  So find out what they like to do and what makes them happy...  

Then share with them age appropriate things that you liked to do when you were a child, and see what their response is.  More than likely they will be excited to use their minds and hands to create something from their hearts as you sit by and gently guide them.  You'll know that you're a success when you see the pure joy on their faces!

As I look back on my childhood memories...the ones that made the greatest impression on my young mind were the many times grandma and I spent time doing things together.  I learned many life-changing lessons from her loving spirit and patient example. 

My grandmother's actions made me feel like she had taken me into her heart.  That's why I never got tired of the burnt toast and scrambled eggs and cheese she fixed for breakfast every morning because they were prepared with love... and I knew it. 

What a rich heritage I've been given. It wasn't material things that were important to my grandparent's, but loving relationships.  How blessed I am to have experienced this at a young age, and now recognized as an adult.  

My rich heritage has not been in houses or lands or the tangible "things" of this life, but in the intangible things of the heart.  I've inherited a gentle spirit and a compassionate heart, and a great desire to help others learn how to protect their important heart-to-heart relationships, too.

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