Regular Dinner. Grandma Pritchard on break outside her diner in Eau Clair.
We don’t really know people.
Even those closest to us. We remember them or think of them but we don’t really know them. What we do know is what we remember – a smile, a glance, a hug, a scent, a story or a moment.
Which brings me to this week.
This week I remembered my Grandmother, Elizabeth Pritchard. She would have celebrated her 103rd birthday on April 15th and is probably one of the best inspirations for me as an artist. Truthfully, she made sure I always had the opportunity to paint.
I remember the trip to the local 5 and Dime with Grandma.
I remember the special something I was allowed to pick out and she would buy for me.
I remember always choosing the paint-by-numbers kit.
Most importantly, I remember the thrilled, happy glances I would catch as she watched me sitting on her back porch painting the whole day away. The hours slipping away before my eyes.
I remember strawberry waffles, Christmas cookies and Denver sandwiches. I remember her chasing our family car down the street as we left her house with her heartfelt pretend crying. I remember riding bikes with us when she was 60. I remember the smell of the local bakery as she bought us “Doughnut Holes.” My sister, Georgine, remembers the smell of eggs and bacon.
Today when I make my kids strawberry waffles or ride bikes with my kids through town I think of her. I remember her.
The gift of remembering is we all remember different things. Her grandchildren are little memory machines and at family gatherings someone will mention something about Grandma and we all share what we remember and what is special for each individual is unique and special.
My cousin Kathi Cashin remembers Grandma holding us close when we were sad and telling us everything would be okay. She remembers, Grandma’s hospitality and good food for anybody – family or stranger – when they stepped into her house. She remembers that Grandma saw the good in everybody and was a person of few words. Most importantly Kathi remembers Grandma’s lessons “about life and loving.”
After Elizabeth passed my Aunt Joanne donated an image to me of Grandma posed in front of a diner located on Water Street in Eau Claire, WI. It was one of those places where a hard-working farmer or factory worker would have found a good “Regular Dinner.” It would have come in a compartmentalization tray and you would have something like roast beef, mashed potatoes, jello, a vegetable and maybe a desert.
The picture was taken in 1932. We are fairly certain the diner was the “The Red Rooster.”
Sometimes we only know what we are told about the people we love. Recently, my Aunt shared a beautiful story of my grandmother from her waitressing days.
She told the story as she remembers.
One day a gentlemen came in and ordered a meal.
Elizabeth waited on him and served his meal. After he was finished eating he came to the counter to pay and said that he had no money and was so hungry just didn’t know what to do. Without wasting a moment she reached down into her pocket to grab the meager amount of change she had and kindly paid for his meal.
This is exactly how a remember her – a very kind and generous spirit. And really, at the end of the day what matters is not how well I knew her but how well I remember her in the moments.
A painting is my way to remember the moment.
I miss you Grandma.