My grandma turns 85 (I think) next month. I get to go to Utah for the party, hurray! My uncle is making a book for her containing memories and tributes from all her children and grandchildren. Here's my contribution to the memory book, with the introductory paragraph added for the benefit of an audience not lucky enough to know my grandma:
Grandma Irvine was a working mom in the time of June Cleaver vacuuming in her pearls and heels. Before her marriage, she served a mission in the Central States and earned her degree from the University of Utah. She taught high school home economics and eventually earned her Master's degree and became an instructor at BYU. She reared four wonderful biological kids and a Navajo foster son. She is a grandmother of 17 and great-grandmother of eight. She is truly a role model for me.
I have a lot of memories of Grandma Irvine from when I was very small. I remember waking up to hear her singing when I stayed overnight at her house in Draper. I could then walk into the kitchen to find hot mush, which she served with cream--what a treat! If we were lucky enough to spend the day there, we could count on making peanut butter cookies, feeding the goats, reading stories, and all kinds of fun.
Another thing that still reminds me of Grandma's house: the flowers I remember growing in her garden. A beautiful bed of fragrant iris or a full snowball bush can take me back in time. I remember picking strawberries out in the field and eating more berries than I brought back, and the smell of the dust and the sprinklers blowing in on the breeze and mixing with the ripe-berry flavor in my mouth. We could roll down the grassy hill, which seemed so big to us at the time, but now looking back, I realize it was probably not that huge. We played in Grandpa's sailboat and listened to the birds in the rafters and heard Grandma's rendition of their song: "Draper is a pretty little place!"
When we went to Grandma's for dinner, I remember always checking the white candy dish to see if there was anything inside for us, and how beautiful I thought that light-blue carpet was! I remember at Christmas the tree decorated with little, feathered birds and shiny apples, and the fascinating clock on the living-room mantel. I remember the wonderful playroom at her house with books and toys, and what great games we older cousins had down there while we waited for dinner to be ready, while the adults were upstairs talking. I remember playing "Pollyanna" in the basement family room and of course Grandpa's play houses. When it was time to eat, we all trooped into the bathroom to wash up, and we thought it was so neat because Grandma had little paper Dixie cups in the upstairs bathroom, and we could never resist getting a little drink of water while we were in there.
At dinner, whatever delicious food was being served, there was always a plate of bread and butter to go along with it, and milk to drink in those beautiful goblets, of course. After dinner it seems like we often did some singing or performing of some kind. I remember one elaborate show I dreamed up at age six or seven with costumes and ballet and everything. (Only the precursor, of course, for the famous "Murder at Drum Castle!") For dessert it was homemade ice cream or banana cream pie or strawberry cake or some wonderful thing. We never left Grandma's house hungry, that's for sure. I remember getting half a bottle of pop to drink before we got home (not a whole bottle; our moms didn't want to be changing the sheets in the middle of the night.)
One dinner I really remember is the night before our family left to move to Oklahoma. We had spaghetti, and Grandpa taught Mary Jane how to pull her earlobes and suck the spaghetti into her mouth. I don't think Grandma was too keen on it but we laughed together and had a night to remember.
Grandma was the epitome of good manners for us. Our mom would often ask us whether we would behave a certain way "if Grandma Irvine were watching." She and Grandpa also exemplified high moral standards. We also knew that a movie was truly "lovely, praiseworthy and of good report" if it was a movie we'd feel comfortable watching with Grandma and Grandpa.
Of course for many years I've treasured Grandma's weekly letters, just like everyone else in the family. Through those letters we have learned about her efforts to make a wonderful home, her service in the Church, including her mission to Mexico with Grandpa, her friends and neighbors, her interests and pleasures, and her trials and challenges, especially in Grandpa's last few years. There are probably not many 31-year-olds who can say they really know their grandmothers like I do, and I know what a blessing it is to be able to say that. There have been times when I have been a good correspondent in return, and times when I have not. I hope that Grandma knows that even when our correspondence has been one-sided, it's always been valued.
As an adult, I remember visiting Grandma in Lewiston (that hot room for the family reunion photo!) and in Sun City (driving to Anza-Borrego to see the spring bloom and burning the brakes on the way down the canyon), and especially the day she came to my little pink home in Salt Lake to make jam when Samuel was a baby, a snowy day in 2001. I hope, selfishly, that there are many more happy memories to be made with Grandma here on earth. But when there is no more time for that, I think Grandma will leave a legacy she can be very proud of -- a legacy of family time, of valuing people more than things, of education, of faith and service.