Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 11, 2007
Both my grandmothers were born in May, so it's natural that this month, the one that also includes Mother's Day, brings them to mind.
I was only 7 when Grandma Hulda (Carlberg) Mostrom died, so my memories of her are more general impressions than specific recollections. I recall how I enjoyed visiting her and Grandpa at their farm near White City. She was gentle and soft-spoken and let me have as much brown sugar as I wanted on my oatmeal. My sister Gaila and I played with her set of miniature pewter dishes in the pantry and were fascinated with her oil paintings of puppies, birds and the Marion Hill Lutheran Church that lined the wall in the parlor.
Grandma Ethel (Stewart) Freeland lived only a few miles from us so my brother, sister and I were in and out of her and Grandpa's home almost as much as our own. Grandma was petite and, when I hugged her, I could almost lay my head on top of hers. Many days after school, we went to their house. While we watched "Major Astro" on TV, Grandma fixed us her own special milk shake - milk poured over a dollop of vanilla ice cream and served in aluminum tumblers that kept the concoction ice cold. She always seemed to be in motion - darning, mending, hemming, quilting, embroidering pillow cases or tea towels, fixing meals, feeding her multiple cats, tending to her flowers, or dusting - always dusting.
The last time I saw Grandma Freeland, I was just 10. She was being carried out of her house on a stretcher because she had fallen and broken her hip when she put her foot up on a chair to tie her shoe. As the medical attendants carried her outside, she pointed to the skirt she had just finished hemming for me.
I adored both of my grandmothers, but I wish I had known them long enough to know them better as people. I was too little to understand that they were once young and had dreams just as I did.
But their lives were also shaped by many heartaches. Both lost parents as youngsters. Grandma Ethel's mother died of tuberculosis when she was just 5 and her father - who suffered from depression - was incapable of taking care of his children. My Dad often said Grandma and her siblings went from "pillar to post" among different relatives who helped raise them.
Grandma Hulda's father died in a coal-mining accident in Iowa when she was just 6, and her mother moved the family to the rough and tumble gold-mining town of Victor, Colorado to be closer to other relatives.
Both were musically inclined, playing the piano and organ for their churches. And both married in their late 20s, relatively late in life for women in the early part of the 20th Century.
Grandma and Grandpa Freeland raised my Dad and his two brothers, living in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and California to try to make a go of it during the Depression years, finally settling on a farm in Kansas.
Grandma Hulda met and married Grandpa, who had emigrated from Sweden several years earlier. They buried a stillborn child in Colorado before having two daughters. The family moved to Kansas, where they eked out a living on a small farm, also during the Depression.
Yet despite not having my grandmothers very long, I was better off than my parents. Mom knew only her maternal Swedish "Mormor" (Grandmother), but Maria died when Mom was just 3. Mom has only fleeting memories of her as a woman who wore a long black dress to church and spoke only Swedish. Dad didn't know either of his grandmothers as they died before he was born.
I treasure the tangible reminders I have of my grandmas - a couple of Grandma Hulda's paintings, her gold locket and a piece from her pewter dish set and the tiny gold band Grandma Ethel wore as a girl, as well as several of her embroidered tea towels, her postcard collection from the early 1900s and a yellow and blue quilt she made.
But more than those possessions, I appreciate the fact that I am better acquainted with my grandmas through my family history work over the years. Through letters, photos and newspaper articles, I have come to appreciate different aspects of their lives more than I did as a child.
And, as my daughters get older, I am thankful that they have come to know and appreciate their grandmothers, too.