I asked my mom what kind of mother Grandma Evans was. Here are some of her thoughts...
Irene was a devoted wife and mother. She was devoted to making a good home. Irene had 2 children - a girl (my mom, Barbara), and a boy (Chuck). In those days (1940s-1950s), most women stayed home and didn't work outside of the home. Irene was a southern lady and she taught her children to have immaculate manners. They were taught to respect their elders. They were not allowed to use an adult's first name. They were also not allowed to answer the phone - that was an adult's job.
Irene excelled at several things - sewing, quilting, and cooking. She sewed all of my mother's clothes until she got married. She always made her kids pajamas. I remember that my grandmother ironed EVERYTHING! She ironed not only clothes, but sheets, pillowcases, etc. My mother was taught to iron pillowcases and her daddy's hankies before she learned to iron clothes. My grandmother taught my mom to quilt. In order to work on one of her quilts, you had to be able to quilt 8-10 stitches in an inch. If you didn't, she'd make you pick the stitching out, or just not let you help. She taught my grandfather to quilt as well. In fact, my mother told me that he could quilt left-handed or right-handed! And he could do 8-10 stitches an inch. I remember quite well how big my grandpa's hand were, so the idea of him quilting never ceases to amaze me!
Another thing that my mother remembers from her childhood is that Irene canned everything - fruits, vegetables, pickles, pickled beets, jam. She would always want the first pickings of the season. My grandmother made the most amazing fresh fruit cocktail, which she then froze.
Irene was an exceptional cook - she follow a few recipes, but mostly just threw stuff together (something that my mother learned to do, and in turn I've learned to do too.) My grandmother grew up during the depression and learned to never waste anything. She always used leftovers. She never threw anything away. My mom said that she never let anything go bad in the fridge! That is an amazing thing! I asked my mom what recipes of her mother's she loved and she gave me the following list: Cinnamon Rolls, homemade Mac-n-cheese ("Mac-n-cheese never came from a box"), Southern Fried Chicken, Dumplings. She made ALL of her desserts from scratch. "Her homemade bread, toasted, with homemade jam was out of this world". My mom was taught to eat what was put on her plate. She said that her father would tell her, "Your mother never fixes anything that isn't good for you, so you'll eat it and sit there until you do." Haha!
One more thing I remember about my grandmother - it stands out vividly in my mind, and when I mentioned it to my mother, she said she experienced the same thing. My handwriting used to be awful. It slanted left - entirely the wrong way. One day, my grandmother sat me down at her kitchen table and made me write cursive over and over until my handwriting slanted the right way. My grandma had the most lovely writing, and thanks to her, so do I (and so does my mom!). My mom told me that at the end of her life, my grandmother became upset as her handwriting got more and more shaky. It was just one of the things that was important to her.
As my mom told me about the kind of mother my grandma was, I could feel the love and longing in my mom's voice. I believe that my mom had a wonderful childhood, thanks to my grandma and grandpa.
Just a few of the lessons I learned about this time in my grandmother's life: children should be taught to respect their elders, we should never waste anything, learning to do things with our hands - using our talents - can help our families immensely.
Tomorrow I'd like to share the latter part of my grandmother's life - her retirement with my grandpa, and how she took care of him during his final years.