Grandma for Supper

I dropped down in my office chair and opened my email. Every day I looked forward to hearing from my daughter Tammie. Her messages never failed to be full of interesting observations and descriptions of life at grad school in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  My daughter’s undergrad school had been a short, two-hour drive from home. When she decided to earn a master’s degree in library science, she insisted on going to the University of Michigan as one of the best in the United States.

That afternoon, her message described an international foods night at her co-operative house. She said, “I loved trying all the different foods, but one of the drinks offered was rose water. Mom, I took one sip, but couldn’t finish it. The drink made me feel as though I was drinking Grammie!”

I laughed. It was understandable that she associated my Mom with roses.

Grammie wore dresses that were rose-colored, shared bouquets of roses from her flowerbed with us and always smelled like roses. My daughters loved her. With her love of roses, it was easy for my family to buy Mom Mother’s Day gifts. Each year we gave her rose-scented body lotion, rose-scented candles and rose bushes from the greenhouse to replace the ones our Wisconsin winters killed. The mere smell of roses made everyone think of her.

When Tammie and her sister were four and eight years of age, my husband and I were living on a farm. We occasionally invited my Mom to stay overnight with us after I took her for a day of shopping. I remembered how excited my daughters were when I told them that we were going to “have Grammie for supper.” They knew what I meant. It never occurred to us that ‘having Grammie for supper’ sounded cannibalistic.

When had I realized that phrase was strange? I remembered a day when I was about ten years old.

The school bus had come to a stop in front of my home and I hopped off to slowly walk toward the house. The fall day was warm. Bees buzzed around the purple asters in Mom’s flowerbed. I glanced at Uncle Auggie’s car parked to one side in the yard. From the orchard, I heard the lawnmower droning away. Nodding to myself I thought, “Yup. It’s Thursday. He almost always comes on Thursday evenings. When he’s done mowing, he’ll probably pick our raspberries.” 

Slamming the screen door behind me as I entered the house, the smell of cooking supper drew me toward the kitchen. Looking over her shoulder, Mom greeted me with the comment, “When you set the table, be sure to set an extra place. We’re having Auggie for supper.”

Grinning, I remembered another time when the phrase, “We’re having Grandma for supper” took on a whole new meaning. While Arnie and I were living on the farm, one of our cows in the barn named Daisy was an excellent milker. She’d had several calves and through the years as she aged, everyone started to call her ‘Grandma’.

One day as Grandma was walking into the barn, her hooves slipped on the wet concrete floor and she fell. After making a few unsuccessful tries to get up, she stayed down, chewed her cud and looked around with an apparent lack of concern.

We called the veterinarian. After a quick examination he informed us that she had a broken hip. A quick decision had to be made; cows must stand to be milked, plus she would soon deteriorate. Arnie stood staring at the content cow for several minutes. In turn, I stood staring at Arnie. Finally, my husband turned and looked at me and spoke a one-word question, “Hamburger?” I nodded. Grandma didn’t seem to be in pain.

Other than the tenderloins, the entire cow we called Grandma was turned into hamburger. Her meat was very low fat but was the tastiest hamburger I’ve ever eaten. For the following year I often told my family, “We’re having Grandma for supper.” For a change Grandma really was on the menu.

The topic of having “Grandma for supper” came up again last week. Tammie and I were watching a cake baking show on television. One of the contestants told the judge she used rose water to flavor her cake. Hearing that triggered my memory of my daughter’s long-ago email about the rose water she couldn’t bear to drink in grad school.

Tammie remembered, too. She exclaimed, “Having a rose flavored cake doesn’t sound good to me!” Shivering, she added, “If she trims the cake with pink butter cream roses, it really would be like having Grandma for supper.”

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