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Found: a Forgotten Keepsake

“Hey, look what I found, Marian.” My sister Janice ceremoniously lifted a booklet from a plastic bin in Aunt Ruthie’s attic and pushed it toward me so I could have a closer look. I recognized the cover, handmade of Valentine cutouts and colored strips of paper. My memory of making it though was as faded as the strips of red construction paper.

Yes, indeed, Grandma Fannie Longenecker got a keepsake from me for her 77th birthday on August 22, 1968. Married one year and far away from the home place in Pennsylvania, I honored my Grandma with pages gleaned from journals I kept from 1962 – 1967, a college girl turned teacher.

I had forgotten I gave it to her until it was unearthed when we cleared out Ruthie’s house this spring preparing for sale. Lo, and behold, there it was, a cover aged forty-nine years with my style of calligraphy, decorated with a heart cutout.The booklet was intact but the pages were barely readable, each page scripted by the keys of my Royal typewriter.

The Dedication:

Then followed quotes from a wise Grandma Fannie Longenecker, sage observations about people she knew and thoughts on day-to-day living. As Sarah Ban Breathnach has noted, the booklet has become “a passport to the past.”

 

The pages open here now, un-retouched, the truth intact, complete with typos and wonky spacing.

 

On Music:

One Saturday on her way to help at a sale in Newville she spontaneously burst into “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’!”

On warm afternoons at the organ, she plays “Peace, Perfect Peace,” or maybe “Sanctuary.”

 

On Little Ones:

“Worse things can come into a home than babies.”

 

On Death:

Comment on Miller Hernley – “Such a young, boyish-looking man. He was ‘most too pretty to put under the ground.”

 

On Decision: 

“Should I?”

“If you want my honest opinion. . . yes. But it’s your decision.”

 

On Friends: After getting home from taking [my sister] Janice to the Harrisburg bus terminal: “I’ll have to write a letter to a cousin I’ve never seen and her teacher-daughter. She works for welfare in Philadelphia.  We’ll have something in common.  I’m inviting them to come the week-end Milo Kauffman is at Bosslers. She’ll enjoy that!”

 

On Youth:

“I met a lady at the sale who hadn’t seen me for 40 years.  She said I didn’t look any older than when I saw her last.”

 

On Experience:

It’s just like the tea out there in the garden. You don’t smell it until you tramp through it. And that’s just how it is in life.”

 

On Being Simple, Uncomplicated:

No rubber mat on the sink drain “because it’s just another thing to bother with.”

“I don’t put my kettles in the lower stove[r] drawer sometimes;   I can use my energy better somewhere else.”

 

On Flowers:

“Flowers have a language all their own but they don’t say a word.  I enjoy them all.”

 

On Rainy Sundays:

“I spent the afternoon remembering some of the poems about rain I memorized in school.”

 

On Acceptance:  We [my sisters and I] were provoked about going to Harrisburg in the old gray car – Grandma said afterwards, “We had a very pleasant trip.”

 

On Benevolence: 

After I hinted about paying board for the summer: “Why I tell the wren-ies in the morning sometimes, ‘No rent; the place (bird-bath) is all yours.'”

 

On Beauty:

“God surely went to extremes when me made that tree.  Only man is vile.”  (mimosa tree)

 

On Pettiness:

     “Yesterday so-and-so was telling me now nosy and fussy Molly-Doodle is.  I mean to tell you—I told her where to get off at;  she’s selfish. Why there isn’t a person ole Molly wouldn’t talk to;  she’s everybody’s friend.”

 

On Finery:

Grandma is the only one I know who can look regal with an unmatched (polka-dotted) extension to her cape dress belt.

 

On Evening:

   “Do you notice how quietly night comes on? The stars don’t make a bit of noise when they come out.”

 

My Postscript

Obviously, I was proud to be a missus, having married in August of the previous year.

 

The Typewriter I Used

 

What Grandma looked like four years later in 1972 at age 81. 

Grandma Fannie Martin Longenecker, age 81 years
Charcoal pencil sketch, Cliff Beaman 1972

 

What I Think Now

I have a pile of spiral-bound journals from my single days unearthed during our move last summer 2016. I know I’ll have other surprise “finds” inside them when I carve out time to peruse the pages. At the moment, I feel pulled in two directions: Pushing forward with my memoir manuscript and/or pausing to reminisce in just this way. Maybe both are possible.


 

Have you found some creation – handiwork, notebook or something else – that you found in a surprising place? We wonder what it was, where you found it, what it means to you now.

Or, has someone thanked you for a gift you had forgotten you gave?

Give us all the juice please!

 

Coming next –  Anything But Simple: Lucinda Miller’s Mennonite Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

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