Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 27, 2016
May is a somewhat bittersweet month for me. It is wonderful to share in the accomplishments of my graduating students, yet there is the knowledge that some of them I shall never see again. But May also brings a welcome break from work. The month is also a bit special for me because three of my four grandparents were born in May. So it's not unusual for me to think about them during this month. Coincidentally, Grandma Ethel Freeland's middle name was May.
Since Mom's death in February, I've thought about my grandparents even more. As I have gone through the things in her house, I kept noticing the pictures on the bookshelves between Mom and Dad's recliners. In about 1980 or 1981, when late husband Jerome and I couldn't afford to give much for Christmas, we made gifts that we thought would have some personal meaning. My present to the folks was a pair of wood sections from the cedar tree on the farm that Grandpa Freeland and his mother had planted in the early 1900s. The tree had to be cut down because of lightning strikes and pests. My parents used pieces to make various items, and I claimed a couple. One has a photo of Grandpa Robert and Grandma Ethel Freeland and the other has a photo of Grandpa Nels and Grandma Hulda Mostrom. Next to each, I attached some of my recollections about them.
As was common then in home art work, I burnt the edges of the paper and photos to make them look old, attached them with glue and then covered them in a clear finish. The result was somewhat crude, but Mom and Dad seemed to like them.
First at the farm and then at their home in Manhattan, these cedar pieces soon became part of the background - things seen, but not really noticed. Part of that may have been because they had been there so long, but a bigger part was because they were just a snapshot of the flesh and blood people I knew.
But that was not the case for husband Art. These were people who were gone before we met and so he said that whenever we went to the farm or visited at Mom and Dad's home in Manhattan, these cedar snapshots were something his eye was drawn to - something that made him think about what had gone before in my family.
So as I packed them up to take them home, I stopped to reread what I had written 35 years ago.
Grandpa and Grandma Freeland:
When I think of Grandpa and Grandma Freeland, I picture many things: all of us cousins rolling around on ripe watermelons or jumping in trucks filled with copper-colored wheat ... I can smell the honeysuckle on the windmill, taste the chocolate-ice-cream-and-milk concoctions Grandma made while we watched "Major Astro" on television, hear the snapping of fresh green beans from the garden, feel the creaky music of the porch swing as it rocked me to sleep ... I remember Grandpa gave us a whole drawer at the bottom of his big desk for our office things ... I remember giggling under the quilt frame while Grandma and the other ladies worked on their quilts and talked about the latest news in town ... I remember the fiftieth wedding anniversary when we were all so happy and glad to be together ... My grandparents gave me these fleeting moments, but they also gave me much more - a belief in laughter, love and life itself.
Grandpa and Grandma Mostrom:
When I think of Grandpa and Grandma Mostrom, I can see many things: the shady lane leading to the house ... the brilliant orange trumpet vines and the dark sweet grapes on the fence ... the white owl perched way up in the loft of the barn ... the pond where I tried to fish for the first time in my life ... Grandma's paintings covering an entire wall ... the wicker chair. I can hear Grandpa boom out "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" or "This is My Story." I can see Grandma putting corn cobs into the old cook stove. I can taste the oatmeal we had for breakfast. I can smell Grandpa's turnip pies. I can feel Grandpa's bouncing knee as he said a Swedish verse. I remember Grandpa telling me about the reindeer in the northern part of Sweden. I remember him reading his Bible faithfully ... making multi-colored potholders ... telling us about God.... saying "Dat be all right! Grandpa and Grandma Mostrom gave me all these memories and much more ... they live on in all our hearts.
These small snapshots of the past are now at home, resting on the brick ledge in front of our fireplace where I can look at them and think about the memories my grandparents gave me.
Christmas presents made from the Freeland cedar tree.