Monday, May 29, 2006

Back again

We're home again, albeit without any fun crafting and things to share (the photo below is one my sister Christy took). Not much crafting of any sort happened while we were away, and I didn't even have time to visit fabric or yarn stores. But not for lack of trying: I spent the week helping my mother and uncle empty out my grandmother's condo, since she's recently gone to a nursing home. Somehow I deluded myself into thinking we could do it in a few days, and then I would have time to visit other relatives (and a few shops as well) with my spare time. I should have known better.

goldfish bowls - Christy took this photo
Grandma is 90 (I think), and she grew up during the depression, when absolutely everything had value. Nothing was thrown out. I can't begin to express what that meant in her condo. Every closet packed with things that might be useful to someone, someday. My uncle and father made numerous trips to the garbage, the recycling, and the thrift shops; I found dozens of emery boards, multiple crochet hooks in the same sizes, drawers filled with spools of thread, boxes of old credit card bills, and stacks of old towels in the linen closet. You get the picture. If all felt a little like digging through piles of stuff at a thrift shop, except that I had to decide what to do with each thing, rather than just looking for the buried treasure.

And I did find a few little treasures: those aforementioned spools of thread (wooden, and some of the thread is silk), and lots of pretty linens which I hope will wash up nicely. Anyone have some tips for removing stains from tablecloths and napkins? They aren't white, so I can't simply bleach them. But the embroidery is lovely and I don't want to cut them up.

And more importantly, Grandma saved all the cards and letters we sent her, so now we each have a little record of our lives as we wrote to her. I can't think of a nicer way to remember my Grandma; I think it's better than receiving a keepsake heirloom. I only wish I had saved her letters to me in return.

Mom and I also started to sort Grandma's photos, which gave me a chance to learn more about my mother's family history. The more I learn about her childhood, the more I appreciate and understand my mother who, by the way, is an amazing woman. Yesterday the kiddo fell asleep in the car, so we spent a pleasant naptime driving through the neighborhood where she grew up. She talked about some of her experiences, and it fascinates me to learn about her life as a little girl.

Anyway, Grandma is nicely situated in her new room, with a select few pieces of furniture and favorite art on the walls. Sometimes she seems almost like herself again, and other times she just doesn't seem to be in the room at all (she sleeps most of the time now, and she's lost interest in almost everything). Bebe got to spend some time with all of her grandparents, and Todd's parents took care of her for three days while we worked. I'm glad we've finished; it's nice to be home again, and Grandma was grateful and relieved that we took care of the apartment without her.

I had to say goodbye yesterday; I don't know if I'll see Grandma again.

Now I need a good night's sleep, and the sewing machine has been calling to me. Maybe I'll write Grandma a letter tomorrow as well.


  1. oh leisl... how bittersweet this all sounds. i did something similar w/ my grandpa's stuffed [he passed almost a year ago now]. same depression mentality, though....

    i so glad you found some treasures... and got to say goodbye.... be well!

  2. i remembered a martha stewart issue/show about cleaning linens... here is the link - if that doesn't end up working i went to the site and searched for cleaning linens... i come from a non-sentimental bunch and fairly tight lipped too, so i envy you your keepsakes and stories. sometime, have your mother write them down, they will be treasured by your children's children.

  3. What a special time to share with your family. I'm sure it was hard work, but having the chance to spend time and learn so much about your family is wonderful. glad you're back. looking forward to seeing your next sewing adventures.

  4. Ooh, Stephanie, thanks! I thought I remembered Martha's article but wasn't bright enough to go looking for it online. The linens are soaking overnight, and tomorrow I'll go looking for the products they recommended.

  5. Sounds like you had an emotional time.What a lovely record letters make.One of the most natural ways to remove stains in old linens is actually sunlight!It can take a few days but most stains do disappear if you hang them outside for a while.

  6. I know it was tough to do, but you seemed to find some bits of joy in it. I had a similar expereince w/my grandmother, cleaning out her house. Thousands and thousands of plastic bags! Ancient tylenol! But I found some gems as well....vintage tupperware, lovely baking equipment (she was a serious baker!) and other cooking supplies. I have some of her fancy things, but its the everyday things I like the most. The tupperware and metal cake-carrier are real favorites.

  7. My aunt collects linens, and I know that she has good results soaking them in Biz. If I remember correctly, there are instuctions on the box for soaking for extended periods of time.

  8. This post reminds me a lot of a few years ago with my own grandparents. It is bittersweet. I found several clothing boxes of used and straightened out aluminum foil! I agree with both the sunlight and Biz comments. Soak them in Biz and lay them in the grass on a sunny afternoon. I haven't met many stains that can match that--even vintage ones!

  9. I was going to help you out ont he linen stains front, but I think that's covered. We have a product in Oz called napisan - actually developed for soaking baby nappies (diapers) - that can shift anything with a long enough hot water soak.

    I had a similar experience in cleaning out my partner's grandmother's place. She was a hoarder extraordinaire, and her daughter (Dave's mum) was uninterested in the vast majority of stuff I thought were gems - perhaps a little distance helps. It's one of those terribly big life milestones, so full of memory and thought and sadness and discovery. I hope you get the time to really digest it well.

  10. Leisl, I went through a similar situation with my grandmother a few years ago. My mom (an only child) had to move her into a care facility for Alzheimer's patients. She fought it the whole way, but now lives very happily there and just celebrated her 90th birthday. I vividly remember watching my mom uncover saved wrapping paper that she said had been on her presents as a child... it really is amazing what is kept. The experience made me both more grateful for the many lovely things I own, and also enabled me to give away things I don't need or want. I don't want my hypothetical children finding back issues of "LUCKY" and feeling perplexed!

    Do keep those lovely things you found as fond remembrances of your grandmother. And do write her a letter while you can. Sometimes, when I write to my grandmother, whom I'm not even sure can read anymore, I wonder why I bother. But then I remember something I read once... that the elderly have completed their work and now are here to experience love. Sounds good to me.

    Hope you find some crafting time soon.

  11. Betsy1:10 PM

    Welcome home, been exactly in your place before, bittersweet indeed. I don't even know if they still sell this stuff but I remember having really good luck getting stains out of old baby clothes by soaking in a product called BIZ.