This picture was taken in a cabin at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia. My son was three. The woman that he had “caught” in his butterfly net is my husband’s granny. Marjorie Hardman. She passed away in 2010.
She was a wonderful human being.
Granny was born and grew up in rural West Virginia in 1918. She attended Glenville State College in West Virginia. She met her husband, Clark Hardman, there (we think). They were married in 1942. They moved to Cross City, Florida in the late 1950s. Granny taught at Dixie County High School. She retired some time around 1976.
Yes, initially my approach to this piece was a very chronological and orderly one. When was she born? Where did she go to school? When did she meet grandaddy? Where did she teach? How old was she when she retired?
I was sitting in my kitchen peppering my husband with these questions. But I kept getting stuck there and couldn’t figure out why.
Then I asked him when she passed away. His eyes filled with tears and that’s when it all became a little bit clearer. It wasn’t about dates and facts. It was about granny. The sweet little woman who, as a young boy, my husband had spent his summers with. The dates and facts weren’t really important.
So I took a different approach. Tell me what you remember about her, I asked. His answers where simple and comforting.
Granny and grandaddy lived in Cross City, Florida. A couple of hours drive north of Tampa. Summers spent there were hot and humid. The big trip each day was down to PO Box 667 at the Cross City post office in town. Or, perhaps, a walk to the Mills next door or to visit Mr Joe and Miss Nell across the street. Nothing extravagant. Nothing earth shattering. Just simple pleasant days spent enjoying life. And each other.
During the rest of the year when my husband and his sister were back in Texas, they kept in touch through weekly phone calls. Every Saturday night at dinnertime granny and grandaddy would call and catch up on their activities. Even when he was in his thirties and living in Vancouver their calls would come. Maybe not ever week, but often.
My husband and I had been dating (okay, living together) for about two years when we got a Christmas card from granny. In the card she said (not in these exact words) that while she hadn’t been sure about her grandson being involved with a divorced woman with a young son, she was happy that we were happy and would accept our choices.
She was old school and this was not how she imagined her only grandson starting a family. I respected her for being honest and telling us how she felt.
On the trip that this picture was taken she took me aside on our last day and gave me a small gold band. It was a wedding band that had been in her family for years. Perhaps her (not so subtle) way of saying it was time for us to get married. Less than a year later we did just that.
Every Christmas he remembers her and the coffee cake she would bake. She sent me the recipe a few years after we met and I still make it every year. I’ve given up on finding a substitute for the lard and Bisquick it calls for.
Every time it rains he remembers her. She sent him a pair of LL Bean Duck Boots his first year at college. That was 1991. He still wears them.
Every time he says our daughter’s full name he remembers her. Unfortunately it’s usually when she is trouble.
The Best Thing in Life is simple. It’s remembering the important people in your life.