Friday, June 29, 2007

Vacations (9) - The Lewis Side 2

Grandma and Grandpa Lewis shared their lives with us. Even though we only saw them once a year, I know more about them than most all my other relatives put together.


Story-tellers

Grandma was a story-teller. (Now this does not mean she made up things to tell, but that she told stories about the family and the events that made her who she was: that made us all who we are.) She liked to talk about her growing up years, how she met and married my Grandpa, about my dad and Aunt C when they were children, about their lives, the Depression, etc. My dad has filled in a lot of the details that I had missed or didn't remember, because, you see, he is also a story-teller. And, just in case you hadn't noticed. . .I like to pass along stories about our family, too.

Poetry, Songs, & Welsh

In addition to the verbal history, my Grandma, and Grandpa too for that matter, memorized and recited a lot of poetry. They were really big on Robert W. Service and memorized some of his epic poems: "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," the "Cremation of Sam McGee." (I particularly remember the latter.) Grandma also knew some of the poems by Lewis Carroll and taught me "Jabberwocky" (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872) when I was a young teen. It wasn't until years later that I found a copy and read it.

Grandma & Grandpa knew all kinds of songs and ditties, from years gone by, and would burst into song on occasion to accentuate a story or to convey an idea. My dad and I do the same, but it wasn't until recently that I realized it was a family trait. (I just know that songs pop into my head at the strangest times. And a few years back, when I was teaching in a private school, one of my students dubbed me "The Master of Extrapolation" - which I had to look up - because I was always relating the subject matter to this song or that. But back to the elder Lewis').

Grandma used to say some rhymes and phrases that had originated in Wales. I only remember one, but in the telling, after several generations, it wouldn't likely translate back into recognizable Welsh.

Handcarts, Polygamy & Sugar bowls

Grandma's Great-Grandparents had migrated from Wales to join the Mormon Church. Her Great-grandfather took 2 additional wives (my Ggggrandmother being his first wife, as my grandmother was quick to point out), and the four of them, and any children at that time, came across the US in the hand-cart migrations. There are two sugar bowls in the family, that made the trip in hand-carts, and my sister and I each have one. (I let her have the one that is complete, and mine is either missing a handle or cracked in some way. It has been awhile since I have mine stored.) I don't know which Ggggrandmother either sugar bowl belonged to, but they are still precious to me.

Other handmade gifts:

When my sister and I were in grade school, Grandma & Grandpa Lewis made us a couple of chairs. They measured our lower legs to custom fit the height of the seats. The chair frames were made from thick branches, that Grandpa whittled smooth, and the seats were made of jute or some kind of thick string woven across the frame. The backs were entirely made from wood, and I think they were whittled flat to make the backs more comfortable.The cross bars between the legs were nailed on. I remember this because on the trip home, one of the crossbars got loose and scratched my leg from about my ankle to my knee.

Shopping

Every year when the entire family stayed at the Lewis Grandparents, Grandma & Grandpa would take my sister and I shopping in downtown Lehi. The downtown was only a few blocks long, and they would take us to Pennys (not J.C. Penny's) but a small "five & dime" where my sister and I were allowed to pick out a toy or game. We may have been given a set amount of money - or a limit, but we could get anything we wanted. One time I bought a stick-on paper-doll set. Where the clothes were made out of a plastic that stuck to the dolls. Another time, either my sister or I bought some "sewing cards" with the holes around the edges that you could "sew" yarn through in a running stitch or cross-stitch. When I was older, I bought a bottle of Blue Waltz perfume. I can still "smell" it. It was a really sweet perfume & I'd love to have some now.

6 comments:

InlandEmpireGirl said...

What a lovely memoir piece. I have a teacher friend that recites Robert Service poems each year to her class. I guess I better pick a long, epic poem and memorize it before I retire from teaching! I think I learned all of Hiawatha once.(:

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

I learned part of Hiawatha, but it left such a great impression, that I forgot about it until you mentioned it just now. :)

I was enthralled by their recitations. My Grandpa only went to school through the 8th grade, but he was so well read, and used an extensive vocabulary that people often thought he had gone to college. Grandma did graduate from High School, and was probably the first of my ancestors who did. (Grandma Smith may have, but I really don't know. I know she was a nurse, but I don't know what kind of education or training was involved years ago.)

myrtle beached whale said...

InlandEmpire:

Holy crap! You learned all of Hiawatha? What was that 20 pages or so. I am impressed. Longfellow was long-winded. I learned a few lines about the shores of Gitchee Goomi but that was about it.

raymond pert said...

I memorized Carl Sandburg's "Fog".

Jackie said...

Your memories are wonderful, I'm so glad you share them.
And, OMG, I hadn't thought of Blue Waltz perfume in years and years - and I can still "smell" it, too - and would love to have some! I think they used to buy it at Woolworths.

Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

RP - so funny. (Six lines - six short lines)!

Jackie - I found that picture online. There are some people who have hung onto it, and are selling off their ancient bottles. (I've been tempted to buy some.)