In the best of years, January is a harsh month. In addition to the usual cold temperatures and gray skies, the days seem long and barren if care isn’t taken to fill them with projects and special outings. There was a welcome respite yesterday when my cousin/sister came to visit. It’s hard sometimes to schedule these all-too-infrequent visits but, when we do get together, it is worth the wait. I would tell you my cousin’s name, but it is so unusual and since she knows about half of the people this side of the Rocky Mountains, I’ll keep her name a secret to protect both of us. Plus she made me pinky swear not to give her name. I think she thinks I talk too much!
She isn’t a computer person and had never seen this blog so while she was visiting, I let her in on what I have been doing. The entry on Grandma and her fainting spells and “nerve medicine” brought a chuckle. She remembered the name of this magical elixir - Miles Nervine. According to Wikipedia, Miles Nervine was a success by 1890 in “treating nervous ailments, including nervousness or nervous exhaustion, sleeplessness, hysteria, headache, neuralgia, backache, pain, epilepsy, spasms, fits and St. Vitus’ dance.” There is no wonder we were feeling no pain after being dosed with Nervine! My cousin said that Grandma was looking for vanilla and somehow - by mistake or design - substituted Nervine for the vanilla the night we decided to make candy.
Grandma was well known for other talents too. She would often spend the night with my family or my cousin’s family. Before daylight, though, she was up and out the door and could be seen high stepping it down the street before the earliest risers had risen. She didn’t just walk down the street like most people, mind you. She walked down the middle, crocheting a doily all the while and talking to herself. To everyone else she was probably a bit of an eccentric, but in my child’s mind, she was simply Grandma.
Most children have memories of their grandmothers baking cookies or reading to them. As far back as I can remember, Grandma never baked cookies for anyone. Her favorite treats for guests were store bought canned peaches and those little hard, no-taste butter cookies that are still available in grocery stores today. You know the ones - on the bottom shelf that sit there until they are so hard they could double for rocks. Those little treasures were served up on a pretty plate and the canned peaches were presented in little glass bowls. This little scene was the height of gentility in Grandma’s world.
Grandma never read to us either, but she did tell the most delicious stories of her family. Most of the stories are tucked away somewhere in my mind where I can not find them, but I do remember her telling me that when she married my grandfather, she was dressed in blue - from the skin out. That little detail always fascinated me as I knew of no one else who wore blue underwear.
She also told about how her mother was the daughter of a man who was part of the class of gentry in England. She said he was sent to the United States for his health and should have inherited a fortune in the old county. I don’t know if Grandma really believed that story or if she was making it up as she went along, but on the truth scale with 10 being “right on” and 1 being “no way,” this story rated a minus 10. Good genealogical research does have a way of separating fact from fiction, you know.
I’ve done it again - started out telling you about my cousin/sister and ended up telling a tale on Grandma. But that’s what happens when she and I get together. Thank heavens for Grandma or we might not have enough to talk about!