Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mary Elizabeth Kaydo Hillsman


Timing really is everything. Within the past few weeks I have reconnected with the majority of my Hillsman cousins via facebook. Our Grandmother, age 94, is dying and that simple fact pushed all of us to link together. I spent a bit of time last night writing back and forth between two of my cousins and 'chatting' about her.

Even though I was up way past my bedtime last night, I couldn't sleep in this morning and I'm actually up quite a bit earlier than normal. I woke up thinking of her and couldn't 'calm' my thoughts enough to doze back off to sleep.

One of the cousins had remarked on Grandma's cooking, her jello cheesecake to be specific. That though popped in my head at 4:15 this morning and wouldn't let go. Then other thoughts and memories came tumbling down. I needed to set them out and look at them, like pretty dishes that have been stored in a china cabinet and not used very often.

Grandma was a baker. When she'd bake at Christmas the old picnic table in the basement would be covered with kolach, cookies, kieflies etc. She wrapped those huge nut rolls in garbage bags.

The basement at Grandma's was always a scary place for me, except at Christmas. I remember she used to have a wringer washing machine. That was one frightening piece of machinery to a little girl.

I was an early riser even as a child. When we would visit in the summers, I'd be up early and she'd be in the kitchen rolling my grandpa's cigarettes. He might be asleep on the couch they kept in the dining room or he might have still been at the coal mine. I do remember a few times when I'd creep downstairs and they'd be sitting together in that tiny kitchen.

Grandma liked a bright kitchen. At one point she had painted the metal cabinets orange and put up a shiny orange flowered vinyl wallpaper on the walls. It was loud! You can't even imagine those colors unless you've stood in that room.

When I was little she bought orange juice in a can and although I didn't like the taste of canned juice, I would drink every drop.

She could make donuts and boy were they good.

One time when she came to see us in South Bend, we had quite an exciting weekend as a drunken young man tried to get into our house. That is a long story...but the part that really comes to mind is how she got out of bed and showed me how he was walking down the street. She was so funny.

She was also a story teller. She'd tell stories about when she worked as a nanny in New York for a very wealthy family. I have a picture of her in the coat they gave her one year as a gift. They owned a coat factory. Later in life she got back in touch with the little boy she took care of...he was an old man now himself.

She'd also tell stories about playing softball and how she'd hike her pant legs up to show off to the boys.

She would talk about her mother in law and how she made dresses for her, always the same pattern...I have a picture of my great-grandparents and I wonder if the dress worn in that picture is one my grandma made.

She'd tell stories of her mother and how she made moonshine and outfoxed the 'law' by sitting on top of the cask and spreading her skirts around it...they wouldn't dare ask a lady to lift her skirts, even if they suspected she was sitting on a barrel of booze.

She'd tell of pranks she and her sisters would pull. The tied a string to a wallet and set it in the road and as people would walk by and bend down to pick it up, they'd pull the string and retrieve the wallet.

She gave my husband a clock of my grandfather's when I first took him to Nemacolin to see her after our wedding. He said she made him feel like a grandson through that one simple gift.

Speaking of weddings...she'd proudly proclaim that the Hillsman's were always the best dressed and best looking family at any wedding. She looked amazing at my wedding and I'm so glad so many of my Hillsman relatives came for my special day, almost 18 years ago now.

Gosh, she liked to shop too. And she liked to eat out....I remember her treating us to Ponderosa one time. She liked a good salad bar/buffet.

She never learned how to drive, but bought a car after my grandfather died...just so she could have one in case she wanted to go somewhere and the driver could take her in her own car.

She loved the Pirates....and was quite a sports fan. My dad would tell me how she would 'box' him and his younger brother...she'd learned boxing from her brothers and was quite good!

She also liked plants and flowers and always had a house full of them.

She taught me to put a dime under my statues of the Infant Jesus of Prague....that way I'd never be broke. She gave me rosaries and religious medals and a china plate painted with the Last Supper on it....it hangs in my kitchen as it hung in hers.

I could keep going.....but I have to stop at some point. Grandma will pass away in the next few days from what we are hearing from family who are with her. I'm so proud to be her granddaughter. I will be going to Pennsylvania for her funeral when the time comes. I've already told one of my cousins that we need to celebrate her and her life....she lived a full one and while we are sad, she deserves a party as a farewell.

3 comments:

Anne's BLOG said...

What a beautiful story about your grandmother! Thank you for sharing your memories.
Everyone has grandparents - whether they're privileged to know them or not. I have so many special and precious memories of my own grandmothers..."Mama" lived to be almost 100 years old, while Grandmother Dean passed away when she was in her late 70s. My mother always said she married young so her children could have grandparents - something she did not have growing up. Mother's parents had married in their 30s and both sets of those grandparents passed on many years before Mother was born.
I can only hope that Our grandchildren will have 'good memories' too.

Liz said...

Your grandchildren will have wonderful memories of you and Alan. How could they not?

Kim Smith said...

I remember a lot of these same sort of stories from my parents. The one about the wallet is esp. familiar. I am sorry to hear your Grandmother has passed away, Liz. I know how grief is a tricky trail and you will be sad for a while. I am always here.