The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, May 26, 2014

Back from the Land of 10,000 Lakes

My grandma's family home.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
We arrived back in California on Saturday afternoon, and went right into Memorial Day, with a block party in my sister's neighborhood, then laundry and re-stocking the fridge today, and I'm still not totally back on California time!  We'll see how that works when I go back to work tomorrow ...

Kitzville School, where my grandma attended.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
While I was gone we had a heat wave here in California, and we must have brought some California weather to Minnesota because, apart from a chilly rainy day the first day we were there, it was sunny and really warm the entire time.  Beautiful weather for my grandmother's funeral, which was nice.  Got to take a drive around town with my great uncle seeing a bunch of historic places, which I do remember doing the last time or two we were there when my grandma was alive, but it was different this time.  Before, we were always tagging along on her visit, we were only there to accompany her and make sure she was o.k., and although we were seeing family, we only ever saw them on these types of occasions; she was the one who had a relationship with them, and we were kind of the proverbial "third wheel" in the equation.

Ever since both my grandma's sisters passed away, the family back east (largely my grandma's nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren) saw her as the matriarch of the family, and came out to California to visit her every year or so.  The last time we had been in Minnesota was the funeral of my grandma's younger sister; her older sister had died the previous winter and it was so cold the family pleaded with my grandma not to come home because of the severity of the weather.

The back side of the old Montgomery Ward
store where my grandma worked in the
1930s.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
A lot has happened since then, not only my grandma's last sickness and death, but the tragic death of the granddaughter of one of my grandma's nephews in an accident, which actually happened on the same day as my grandma's funeral -- but 2 years ago.  We weren't sure how many relatives would be able to attend, but almost all of them did!  This trip was really different; even though we were there for my grandma, again, one last time, and even though we were still tagging along to someone else's plans and schedule (my dad planned almost everything and allowed no deviation from his plan *roll eyes*), we had an easier time talking with the family and just hanging out.  It wasn't awkward this time, and when we left, we all promised to keep connected -- as my grandma wanted us to do -- but using Facebook, e-mail and other social media instead of letters and phone calls as she did it!  We may never see each other again face to face -- my grandma's one remaining brother, especially, is likely to pass away before we see him again -- but some of my cousins are occasionally on the West Coast for business, so hopefully they can drop by once in a while.  Some family stories were clarified -- apparently my grandma told them slightly differently to different people -- and some still need to be clarified and fleshed out.  But the whole experience was a lot happier than we had expected; the whole family said they'd never attended a funeral like my grandma's, because it was more happy than sad.  I have promised to e-mail some information to my cousins back in Minnesota, and I have some questions to ask them. I've already found and "friended" a few cousins on Facebook; I only hope we can keep up our conversations and connection from this experience.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)