By Mary Pannabecker Steiner
Nostalgia is flowing over me in waves right now. As I write, my Grandma Suter is playing her favorite hymns on the piano. True, Grandma died in 1993, but thanks to a bit of foresight on my husband's part and a lot of technical work on the part of my oldest daughter, history is replaying itself on the CD player. For Christmas, Lindsay transferred all of our cassette recordings onto CDs. I'm grateful for the hours she spent doing this.
One day when the girls were little, we took a cassette player along on one of our visits to Grandma. Our plan was to tape her playing piano (or pie-an-a, as she pronounced it in her Swissish voice), then to interview her telling some favorite stories.
The hymns ended with one of the girls joining her in playing chopsticks, Grandma taking the upper part and deviating a bit from the traditional version. In the background, an old-fashioned phone is ringing. Or wait, I think I've heard that ring tone recently on someone's cell phone.
That ended the piano playing for the day. Grandma launched into her storytelling, beginning with her memories of attending school at the Mulberry School. After they turned five years old, they walked 1 1/2 miles to school every day. She was trying to remember her schoolmates, mentioning Hiram Reichenbach and Tilly Steiner, and then sort of sadly said "Mmmm...they're all gone now."
Lunch was packed in a little tin box. A cheese sandwich, sometimes a cookie or one-egg cake, and an apple.
Apparently, Grandma was a little bit of a stinker. Every time a truck or car passed by, she stood up on her chair to look out the window, and one of her teachers - trying to tame her shenanigans - tried to set her on his desk so "she could think a little". He was unsuccessful and gave up. Recess saved her.
Grandma graduated from high school in 1913. She played piano for the march. She had a new dress, a pretty blue one - a gown. They had a baccalaureate "sermon", then graduation a week later. She admitted with a giggle that Grandpa liked it.
My grandparents began dating when she was a freshman in high school. "We just stuck together and didn't have any other dates." Grandpa was a little older and had left school after 8th grade to help with the family farm.
Until they got married, she worked for her grandpa and earned $5 a week, which she gave to her mother. When they married in 1917, her mother gave them a stove - apparently, she'd saved all the money Grandma had given her. The wedding was a simple affair at her family home with just a few guests.
Very very simple," she said, although she did have a white dress. A sister-in-law played the wedding march.
What amazes me in listening to these conversations are the details she remembered. In her 90s, she remember the name of the minister who married them.
I just hope my memory is that good when I'm 90.