Friday, December 10, 2010

Ginger Snaps & Grandpa M

Picture from here
Yesterday I bought some ginger snaps.  I don't generally buy them, but I needed them to go with some pumpkin dip I was taking to a church social.

Ginger snaps make me think of my Grandpa Mathewson.  I don't know if they were his favorite cookie, but I remember he seemed to always have a box of them in the cupboard - the brand with the striped box. 

When I was 4 years old, my dad got out of the Navy and we moved to upstate New York to live with my Grandma and Grandpa Mathewson.  This was around 1980, so at that time my Grandpa would have been 86 or 87.  (He was born in 1893.)  My grandmother was 11 years younger and in her mid-70's.  She also had Parkinson's disease.  We moved in with my grandparents so that my mother could help care for her parents. 

Although my both my Grandma and Grandpa Mathewson had passed away by the time I was 9, I remember more about my Grandpa Mathewson than any of my other grandparents.  So today, with ginger snaps on my mind, I want to tell you about my Grandpa Mathewson:
  • Grandpa was a dairy farmer in upstate New York.  
  • Grandpa fought in World War I.
  • Grandpa had bright red hair as a young man.  By the time my mother was born, he was 51 years old and his hair was turning white.  For most of my mother's life, his hair was completely white.
  • One day while we were living in NY my grandpa decided to go out and cut some tree limbs that were cluttering up the yard.  With an axe.  Remember that he was in his late 80's at the point.  I know he got cut at least once, because I can remember the blood on his arms - a good bit of it.  My mother gently scolded him for cutting wood, and said he shouldn't be doing things like that.  He dismissed her concerns and said his wounds were "just a scratch".
  • My grandpa always kept some of those old pink or white round Brach's mints in his pocket.  I can remember climbing into his lap and getting mints.
  • My mother tells me that when I was little I would climb into his lap at dinner, and would only eat off of his plate.  Eventually, my mother got clever and just put Grandpa's portion on my plate, and my portion on my Grandpa's plate.
  • Often in the winter we would make jackywax.  The kids would fill a big bucket or tub with clean snow and pack it in tight.  Then we would take our fingers and dig out channels all over the top of the snow.  Meanwhile, my mother would boil together sugar and water until it reached hardball stage.  When the syrup was ready, she would pour it into the channels that we made. The cold snow would harden the syrup and give us a very yummy, sugary, sticky candy that we would dig out and eat.  Once while enjoying this snack, my grandfather's false teeth got stuck together from the candy.  I remember that he had to take his teeth out of his mouth and soak them in a cup of hot water until the candy dissolved.
  • One day my mother encouraged me to sit down and talk with my Grandpa after school.  I must have been about 8 years old.  Grandpa told me about the first horse he ever owned.  I can't remember if he named the horse "Blackie" or "Beauty", but I remember it was after Black Beauty.
  • Right after my grandpa passed away, he got one of those junk mail envelopes that have a penny stuck on the outside.  I remember taking the penny off, and when I went by his open coffin at the funeral, I slipped the penny in the coffin so he would be buried with it.
Though my mother has never come out and told me so, I think he was her favorite parent.  He was the "softie" while my grandmother was the disciplinarian.  He was gentle and loving, and a wonderful man.  I wish I could have known him as an adult, but I am grateful for the memories I do have.


Amy said...

Awesome stories, Anita. Grandparents are so important in the lives of their grandchildren. That bond is one that can't be duplicated. Thanks for sharing!

Emma said...

thanks for sharing - brought back many memories of my own grandpa hap

Olive said...

Thank you for those beautiful words about my beloved father. You remembered lots of details. The name of his horse was "Beauty." I'm not sure I knew about the penny . . . I love you!