Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Remembering Anna

Long, long ago we lived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country around Lancaster. We rented a house in farm country, surrounded by gentle rolling knolls and an endless sky. I never tired of watching the wide skies, knolls and tree lines - so far a stretch from the close ridges of my West Virginia home. It was a very happy time for our young family.

We moved to Pennsylvania when our first son was but three months old, and the other three were born there. Four children in five years make for busy days - and we loved it all. We soon formed ties with our church family and they were so good at caring for us and filling the gaps for relatives far away. There were two families in particular whose ties remain, and today I'm remembering Anna especially.

Anna and Clyde served very well as surrogate family for so many. When we first met, Anna was about my age, I guess. (Funny how "over 65" seemed older then). She and her dear daughter Olive planned a housewarming/welcome party for us not long after we came from Florida. An adorable donkey cookie jar given to us at that gathering remains a Teelside fixture. The beginning of many kindnesses showered upon us over the years.

Anna taught me a lot about a lot of things. Hospitality, benevolence, nurturing. Clyde would drive me to doctor's appointments while Anna watched the kiddos. They were likely to knock on the door any day some need was perceived. They knew how to visit the sick and were not afraid to do so. Once, when hubby was down with mono and missed a couple weeks' pay, they came bearing canned goods --"just things that had set on the shelves long enough and needed to be used." Canned gravy ... I would never have thought to buy that, but it was tasty. It takes special knack to treat the needy without making them feel pitiful, and they were good at caring, tending with grace.

Anna would tell funny stories about blowing sulfur back into her mama's face when she was trying to shake it from a paper funnel into the back of Anna's throat. [(Early antibiotic therapy?) I was in stitches with that one - and new surgical stitches had me begging for no more funny tales until I was home from the hospital.] Or the time she was sick and Clyde made a big pot of vegetable soup - he figured anything and everything from the pantry should go into it and tossed in a couple cans of beets. It looked funny, but was all eaten. Oh, I can just see her eyes sparkling and her shoulders shaking. She could giggle like any little girl. Clyde's eyes sparkled too; and though a thin man, he had plump rosy cheeks that gave him the look of a sweet little elf.

So many fond memories. In their home, I knew the meaning of warmth, ease and comfort. There was a front closet with toys - the children made a bee line for that as soon as they arrived and played contentedly for the duration of the visit. The coffee pot was always on. Lunch was simple and delicious - Lebanon bologna and white cheese (from a local butcher shop) for sandwiches spread with butter (instead of mayo) and garnished with radishes. Yummy!

Before we moved from Pennsylvania, Clyde taught me how to drive. And again, Anna was babysitter. I said nothing to my dear hubby about the scheme (he started to teach me but it was too taxing on both our nerves, if you know what I mean). So off Clyde and I go to the police headquarters to take the driver's test. There I was, a 29 year-old mama of four, driving a Volkswagen Campmobile with a 72-year old instructor at my side. The officer likely passed me either for spunk or out of pity (for Clyde). Just imagine hubby's surprise when I picked up the car keys and headed for the grocery store leaving him as babysitter later that week.

And one more thing I must consider - a continuing and immeasurable treasure. Anna took the time and effort to teach me how to knit and crochet. I recently renewed my acquaintance with yarn and hook, using the hook she gave me starting out. What joy to think of Anna with every stitch and row. She was an excellent teacher. I will never knit socks on the porch in the dark of evening, needles clicking and flying as Anna said her mother once did; but oh, the practical, creative pleasure this gift of learning brought me. Dear hubby says every skill you learn you can keep for future benefit. Some skills come more dearly and last a lifetime.

What a blessing it becomes, remembering Anna -  for the sweet person she was, for all the difference she made in a young woman's life and all the ways her example and influence has continued to enrich my life since first we met.