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Hummingbirds and Lavender


I never, ever smell lavender soap but what I am reminded of my Grandmother, Emma Susan Talbert. Hummingbirds and lavender soap always bring her to mind. You know how hummingbirds flit about from flower to flower? It seemed to me like she hovered over the stove or the washing machine or the kitchen sink and silently accomplished her jobs moving on like the hummingbird to the next chore.

She was a little, tiny, woman....some would say she was even scrawny. I thought she was totally old when she came to live with us from Turon, Kansas shortly after Grandfather died back in the early Thirties.

Looking back and crunching the numbers, she was about sixty three or four.

She ate like a bird, and probably didn't weigh eighty nine pounds soaking wet, but she was always meticulously clean and smelling of that sweet lavender soap.

When you see a humming bird flit from flower to flower, or job to job, that was the way she accomplished things. Effortlessly, it seemed to me at the time. Organized, probably. She always got her jobs done.

She felt that her daily jobs were washing dishes…I dried. (See my story Washing Dishes) Sorting laundry for the wash. Ironing…she let me do the handkerchiefs. Just generally lightening the load for my mother. Probably she believed she was earning her keep, as she had no income.

In her spare time she would patiently teach me how to embroider edgings on pillow slips. It was the style back then, and every young girl had pillow slips and little table clothes piling up in their hope chests. I didn’t have a hope chest yet, but I certainly knew how to embroider. Not well, but the maxim she taught was “Practice makes perfect!” and she had the patience of Job.

When my mother was off to meetings of Child Evangelism or Gideon Auxiliary Grandma would let me make a half a recipe of fudge. We would eat it all before mother got back home. Of course the aroma hung around forever but mother never mentioned it! I’ve wondered at that…she was never around to spoil me…she just let her mother do it, as though it was another of her jobs.

We listened to the weekly serials on her small Silvertone wooden table top radio. She always sat in her rocking chair (see my story Grandma’s Rocker) and I layed on her bed all engrossed in My Gal Sal or Ma Perkins.

I have fond memories of her, except for one. The time I lied to her. (See my story Saturday Night Lie). That one haunts me to this day.

She lived with my parents for a total of 14 years. I’m sure she gave up as much independence as her daughter did, but I never heard her grumble.

“Emmett, lets go for a joy ride this evening,” my mother would say. I guess it was to get away from her parent for private conversation with Poppy, as much as to see the countryside, but with gasoline at 10 cents a gallon there was no cheaper entertainment.

Grandma just made the best of not being invited along, and she’d entertain me as though it was the most important job in the world. I rather basked in the knowledge that she had thirteen other grandchildren in Kansas…but I got all of her attention.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a young girl. I felt that way all through my growing up years, until the time of her passing in 1948 when I was married and pregnant with Bruce. I so wanted her to see her great-grandchild, but it wasn’t to be. She had a stroke and slipped away in her sleep. I remember seeing gravestones at Loma Linda Cemetery when I was a child, where other family members were buried. Some of the stones said “Asleep with Jesus” and that’s how I pictured her at the time, but still sadness filled my heart at the loss of her.

She was a good Christian woman who made the best of an otherwise sticky situation. Living with relatives couldn’t be easy for her. She was content with one room after having run a big farm house in Kansas. She was always the babysitter for me, but never saw her other grandchildren again. This must have been tough stuff for a widow woman of her age.

She just silently flitted about doing what had to be done and thanking the Lord for every day of her life until she was 86.

Little Hummingbird…smelling sweetly of lavender, that was my Grandma.

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