My little blog is growing up so fast. This is my 100th post on ‘sohewhistled.’ I am in shock I have written that many. This may be one of the few things I have committed to that has lasted longer than a year. If I had no readers I would have scrapped this sucker a while ago, pretended I never gave it a shot. But I do have readers, all you wonderful faces I can’t see that stop by and read my spew. And don’t think I haven’t taken notice the views from you, my German friends, some days you have almost beat out the USA. Danke!
Initially I wanted to make a list of 100 things I am thankful for. But then I realized how long and boring that would be for all of us, so that was thrown out prit-tee quick after I jotted down the first three:
1. Still breathing
2. Only had one spider in my apartment the past 12 mos.
3. New Girl was signed on for another season
Instead, I’m going to introduce you to my great-grandmother Jennie Georgia. She was five months away from turning 100 years old before she passed on to Heaven last Spring. She was one of my favorites, and the very best Grandma.
Grandma Jennie’s family came from Czechoslovakia. She never told us much about her parent’s emigration process. My guess is they were tired of the political turmoil and took off for something different. Perhaps the call of freedom appealed to them. They left far before the communist takeover in 1948 but I have to wonder if they saw what was on the horizon. Whatever their reason I am glad they chose to do so, and I am sure you are too, because I would not be breathing right now otherwise.
Jennie Georgia was born on September 9, 1912 in Ruby, Washington. I have never been there, because now there is nothing left but a big wooden sign erected to remember the once booming mining town. You can find Ruby on lots of ‘Real Ghost Towns’ searches.
I have no idea what my great-great grandfather did for work, whether he mined or was an employee at one of the businesses they had there. Either way they ended up moving to Kennewick, WA to farm when Jennie was three. She graduated high school in 1930 and went on to get her teaching certificate at what is now known as Eastern Washington University. She then took off to teach in some rural school districts (which I was told were one-room school houses), and met my strapping great-grandpa Carl in 1934, tying the knot not long after. You can read a more elaborated blog post on him here.
He was the school bus driver at the time. He soon got a job for the Northern Pacific Railroad (his dad and brothers worked there also) and they moved to another place in Washington I have never been to, Kahlotus. After a stint there they moved to an itty bitty town called Athena, in 1942 and that is where they stayed. Athena is still around now (no ghost town) and still itty bitty. I will always remember the little white house with the deep backyard. It would make me sad to visit it now, I think, to see it filled with another’s things, to not have it smell like Grandma Jennie’s perfume.
Jennie Georgia, was a tough woman. She had three children, two sons and a daughter, (the first son died shortly after he was born, Carl Dean; very sad), and on top of raising a family and keeping house, she kept teaching for another 34 years. I remember at her 90th birthday party there were many, many students that came to say hello and walk down memory lane. She had a way of making herself be remembered.
She gardened, sewed, quilted, taught piano, went camping and fishing, baked, cooked, canned, cleaned, went to church, but above all else she always made time for family.
When I was little she would set us on her lap and sing us a little song about horse riding, each phrase was about a different group (ladies, gentleman, then cowboys) and she would move her legs faster and faster until our little baby bottoms were bouncing up and down.
She had a candy dish on her breakfast buffet that was always filled with a few different hard candies and Hershey kisses. It was the first thing we went to when we would come over. She kept puzzles and toys for us to play with, and let us wander around the house and yard as if we owned it. I loved going through her things, her bedroom was filled with treasures, an old gold vanity set, hand mirror, hair brush, etc. Her bathroom had old perfume bottles, little bars of soap, Band Aid tins, and a small paper cup dispenser. She had a china hutch filled with collectables. Old hardback books that smelled like aged paper when you opened the bookcase. There was something about being in her home that made you feel important, like you belonged there, one of the last stitches in her quilt.
Grandma Jennie paid for my piano lessons for several years, and when we would visit her she would have me go straight to her piano and play the latest song I had learned. She was, and still is, the only one who ever asked for me to play a song. She would praise me for a job well done, and remind me how much I would appreciate being able to play when I was older.
She is still very much a part of our lives, coming up in conversation often, her recipe for Czech potato salad being passed around, the quilt she made me for my first Christmas sits next to my bed, her perfect handwritten message still in one of the squares:
She lost Grandpa Carl and lived without him for many years, carrying on with her life, taking care of their home, traveling with her daughter when she could convince Grandma to go. We would visit Grandma and she would have paper grocery bags full of canned goods, cookies, and whatever else she could find to send us home with. She was always cleaning out her closet and letting us choose from the pieces she no longer wanted or were too big for her (she was always a thin woman). One time she had a dress that she thought would be perfect for Sister Fierce or I to wear “to the country barn dances.” And that is one reason why we loved her so much, she transcended time… and she taught us never to waste anything we owned.
The other day I was needing to repair a rip in my sweater and so I went searching for blue thread and a needle, she left me her sewing box with everything still tucked inside from when she last used it. I spent a good 20 minutes rifling through the pockets, and compartments, running my fingers through her bundles of thread, looking at her thimbles, going through her packs of needles. There is something about using the same sewing scissors that she did for years and years that makes me feel like she is close.
Jennie Georgia was a “whistler” in life much like my Grandpa Oran, she is on the list of people who have influenced and inspired me to keep moving through life despite the days where I would rather hide from the world. Jennie made her own music when there was none to be found.
Thanks for reading my 100th post folks!