Walking in Grandma’s footsteps

Today, without meaning to, I made history repeat itself.

I spent the morning weeding some of my gardens, then took care of lunch, walked the dog, did some ironing and finally–FINALLY!–headed to my sewing room. All through the chores, I was thinking of the “pillowcase dress” I was working on, one of many that I make for our church to take to Nicaragua. I had to tend to business before I could have my reward.

Since it’s a beautiful day, and since my yard swing is now in the shade, I took my embroidery materials and the little dress outside with me. Ignoring the ants that insisted on free-falling from the tree into my lap, I swung gently, inhaling the breezes and taking note of the surrounding birdsong.


Photo by George Sawyn

Now and then, a biker whizzed by, heading for nearby Potawatomi State Park. I chatted with my neighbor who had just brought his own bike out of the shed for a spin along the bay. I brushed an ant off now and then, laughed at the loud-mouthed cardinal shouting at me because I was too close to “his” feeder, and continued stitching a daisy to the front of the little dress.

And then it struck me. I had just become my grandmother.

By the time I would have been old enough to remember, my grandmother had already had her strokes and become the sedentary lady I knew until her death when I was 15. But my mother told me stories of Grandma in her younger years. Like many women of her day, she had a routine that included gardening and household chores in the morning, lunch, then a change into her “afternoon dress” after which she either visited with her neighbors, or sat on the porch swing with sewing. Handwork, she called it. Eventually, she went in to fix the dinner that would be ready when my grandfather got home from work.

She had it all. She tended her garden that fed the family in the summer and on into the winter with the items she canned. It was a necessary job, but also a job she loved, a love that I’ve inherited from her. She cared for her home so that it was a clean, orderly, cozy place for her family to return to from work and school each day. And then she had some leisure time to spend with others or with the sewing she loved. Or both.

Women who work full time nowadays miss out on that. They can give all kinds of reasons why their careers or jobs are important, but it still makes for a hectic day. I know. I stayed home until my youngest was in school, then I too went back to my newspaper job. There wasn’t much leisure time.

As I sat on that swing today, a retired woman who can order my day however I like, I realized I had just done what my grandmother did. I balanced my day with work and relaxation, lucky enough to know that both are important. Maybe it’s in the genes. Grandma died 54 years ago, but I’ve never felt closer to her.


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
This entry was posted in healthy living; chiropractic; health care, Lifestyle, lost arts, Memories, sewing, Social commentary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Walking in Grandma’s footsteps

  1. Helene says:

    Keep writing, Monica! I ENJOY every word……… (and those WERE the good ole days at grandma’s house)….

  2. Nell says:

    Another great post! Although my own grandmother worked as a teacher until her retirement, I remember her in this way when I was a child. I was blessed with a great-grandmother and great-aunts who spent their days this way. Although I am sort of “retired” (my husband is still working and this work tends to involve me), I am hoping to spend my days just as you are in the future!

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      I hope you do! Retirement gives you the opportunity to pace yourself and to sprinkle your days with a little bit of everything: work, play, pray. You’re blessed to have had your grandmother for so long. Mine died when she was 63. And there weren’t many aunts around, either. Our family is small.

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