Jane

Jane

A Story by Suzanne Sonderleigh
"

The valuable lessons I learned from my Grandmother.

"

Jane.  Her name was Jane.  How fitting it seems when I look back at my grandmother’s life that her name would be without flourish.  She was born with no fanfare in 1922 in a sharecropper’s house.  She was so tiny, the midwife assumed she would die and told my great grandparents to put her in a dresser drawer by the fireplace for warmth. Like her siblings, Jane was undereducated and forced to labor in the fields as soon as she was deemed a viable worker.  She was ten years old.  


At fifteen, my beautiful grandmother was pregnant with the landowner’s child.  He told her how much he loved and cared for her and she was young and vulnerable.  At sixteen, she married an electrician and escaped the farm much to her delight.  


Today, many would consider her life ordinary…a moment in time as a blurred black and white picture without any real contribution to mankind other than raising two rambunctious boys, one of them my father.  But, that conclusion of Jane’s life is shortsighted.


Sitting at her 1950s kitchen table, I watched Grandma Jane make buttermilk biscuits for dinner, her hands carefully kneading the flour smacked dough.  The kitchen had two cupboards and a small cabinet for dishes, mostly Mason jars, Jelly glasses, and a Scooby Doo cup my sister and I argued over.  


The kitchen required an air conditioner and one stuck it’s face in the window through the curtains.  I always thought it looked like an alien peeking in at us.  Toward the end of its life, it began wheezing and was replaced.   The hallway in the middle of the four room house had a cantankerous kerosene heater and an attic fan that I wouldn’t walk under for fear it would suck me into the attic and no one would find me.


Jane washed clothes every other day in a machine right beside the stove.  We helped her hang the clothes on the clothesline or at least we liked to think we helped.  As the clothes danced in the wind like ghosts at a long ago party, my sister and I ran in and out of slips, overalls, dresses and granny panties.  


I loved going to Grandmama’s house because she taught me how to sew Barbie doll clothes.  I ate the buttermilk biscuit dough and she pretended not to notice.  Jane laughed uncontrollably when the hand mixer blades caught in my hair when we were making a cake and I stood there with batter in my hair, on my face and on the kitchen walls.  She let me cry when my mother cut my waist length hair very short because she was tired of trying to get the knots out and also because of the cake batter incident.  


She taught me that when making fried chicken, you need to turn it often and always cook it in a cast iron frying pan.  We snapped beans sitting on her back porch.  Ping...Ping...that’s the sound of beans hitting the side of a porcelain pot.  No matter what she planted in her garden, it grew.  I wish I'd paid more attention when she said something about planting fish heads. And Jane always wore an apron so her dress wouldn’t get soiled.  


Even her death would be considered uneventful.  In a small bedroom in her house of sixty years, she lay in bed hovering between two worlds.  Only my sister and I stood bedside and listened to the death rattle that signaled her approaching demise.  Two sisters on a warm summer evening waiting for a life to end.  Without newspapers and flashes of pictures.  No television reporters lined up to get the scoop on her death.  


When people ask me what I enjoy doing, I name a few things like dancing and writing.  Usually, this sparks an interest and their question is, “Have you written any books” and I can hear the eagerness in their voice.  If they do not know me, I sense they very much want me to be a famous published author.  Maybe I'll sign a book for them.  


“No,” I reply.  “I've never written a book.  I'm not famous nor will I ever be.  I lead a life of relative obscurity.”  I rarely leave the house though I have a car.  I don’t hang my clothes on a clothesline.  It’s forbidden by the Homeowners Association.  I don't sew except hemming and adding a button.  I don’t fry chicken or snap beans.  I don't make buttermilk biscuits at night.


I don't sit on my back porch listening to the wind scamper through the leaves in the trees.  I miss the rain’s rhythmic dancing on her tin roof in a tune that lulled me to sleep.  I truly believed my life would always be that serene and idyllic.  Now I hear the sound of rain occasionally as it hits the vinyl on the side of my house.  


Though I have more money and sparkly things than my grandmother could have imagined, I believe she had a life rich with friends, close relatives, and love.  Jane’s life of simplicity was forced upon her.  My life of isolation is imposed by me and now the government.  


She had strength of character and a work mentality that could be attributed to events in her life.  Two weeks before Christmas in 1954, she drove her fourteen-year-old son, Richard to the hospital as he lay dying beside her.  Hunting accident.  We still have his Christmas presents wrapped and in a trunk at my sister’s house. Those gifts are sixty-seven years old now.


In the end, my Grandmother is remembered by the simple things she taught me like how to hem a pair of pants.  I have no need to make Barbie doll clothes anymore. The time she spent teaching me to play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Beulah Land” on the small organ in her bedroom.  Time.  She gave me her undivided attention and her valuable time.


I have a photo of Grandma Jane, my Dad, my sister, and myself on her back porch.  It’s summer.  You can see the hot haze layering the air.  It’s humid as hell in North Carolina in July.  The sun is about to set and none of us are posing for the picture.  It’s a snapshot of our lives frozen in a time of happiness with family.


I can still hear Grandma’s voice as we swung slowly on the porch listening to the crickets and frogs and the melody of the chains creaking.   Sometimes, we didn’t talk at all.  That’s life too.  Listening.  Thinking.  Wondering.  Imagining.


Now, when I look at this photo, I want to tell the thirteen-year-old me to remember what Grandma said.  Life won’t always be running through Granny Panties on the clothesline and playing “Old Rugged Cross”on the organ.  As we continue to grow and mature, we make mistakes.  But, we always come back to our family…our traditions.  Thanks Grandma for everything you taught me and all the love you gave us.  

© 2022 Suzanne Sonderleigh


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Featured Review

What makes a Grandmother so special!!! We, siblings and I, had two. One had led an intellectual hippie life who went all over the place then returned to the UK to tell us quite wicked stories. Most of which we learned at a later date were actually true! Documents show that she married three times but our family never caught sight of them! Our lives were made magic via her explorative views and ability to tell all.. or, at least, most!

Our other granny was the typical round lady, not a glasses on the end of nose' type BUT a cuddly, giving woman who did, like your dear lady, show us how to make a feast out of.. anything. or, how to turn a collar (tho i never could) She shared her history and a love of stories and events that she said never cost much but meant a lot. An important fact to keep in mind and heart for life. Grandmothers are brilliant reasons and excuses for being who we are.

Your dear lady is an example of waling history, personal and precious. She wore a cloak of love wrapped practicality and vigour.. a clue to your own character.. yes? Seems you've inherited so many of her skills and kindnesses.. telling of comfort time in her company, learning from scratch, sharing smiles and magical moments.. Plus, the way in which you've written is rather like a long chitter chat over a pot of tea or perfect coffee. Loved every sentence, every paragraph. You come from a true line of share and share alike.

Love this post: the tale and the telling, thank you so much.

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

Oh Emmajoy! Your reply brought tears to my eyes! You’re lucky you had grandmothers who loved you.. read more
Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

Oh, and my other Granny lived on a large farm and tended her gargantuan garden, slopped the hogs, fe.. read more
emmajoy

6 Months Ago

Suzanne, in spite of your Granny having had such a hard early life, the extra details you've added a.. read more



Reviews

dearest Suzanne... now that I am eighty-one years old... I do not Cry as easily as
I once let Tears flow freely. I suppose we are in Shock with the Pandemic and worrying about
all the Innocent children and people crossing our Border with no testing and firm plans...
just "move along". Of course, there are "Bad people" also mixed in with the Good.
After reading your Story, my Tears once again flow freely. My life was much the same in
West Virginia, and later in Maryland and Delaware on the Country Farm of Forty Acres that
my Grandfather Dave saved money for-- after working in the Coal Mines in WVa while my Grandmother Minnie raised three girls and three boys with no running water or electricity, but had a Creek down below for Water and a Wood Stove for Heat and Cooking. She had a Garden and Grandpa and the Boys shot Deer for Venison and Grandma had Chickens and a Cow to milk. Those were hard times... until they moved to the Farm with an old farmhouse and a Out House. Grandpa got paid for Renting some Land to plant Corn...
while He and two Sons worked on the Rail Road. Three of the children and young families "built" their own homes by helping each other do so... while working full time elsewhere. Grandpa died of "Black Lung".
All this has occurred in my Lifetime and now we have a Huge Challenge once again to Survive. Amen, Pat

Posted 3 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

3 Months Ago

Hi Patricia. I’m glad my story brought back those memories for you. My other grandmother had a fa.. read more
Well done Suzanne for this lovely affectionate portrait of your Grandma. When we turn the clock back we start to realise how different life was in those far off days. Your grandma was a real survivor with some tough times. Your account brings back many fond memories Of time spent with my own grandma. Thanks for sharing your memories and this fine piece of writing.
All the best,
Alan

Posted 4 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

4 Months Ago

Hi Alan. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. We are fortunate to have been born during.. read more
I appreciate and understand the love of a grandmother as you wrote about yours. I also admired my grandmother and dreamed of being exactly like her. Your emotion comes through your words and in between the lines. A simple grandmother who probably did not know the affect she had on her grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt words on Grandma.


Posted 5 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

5 Months Ago

Thank you for reading my story! Grandparents can have such an influence over our lives. She was a .. read more
What makes a Grandmother so special!!! We, siblings and I, had two. One had led an intellectual hippie life who went all over the place then returned to the UK to tell us quite wicked stories. Most of which we learned at a later date were actually true! Documents show that she married three times but our family never caught sight of them! Our lives were made magic via her explorative views and ability to tell all.. or, at least, most!

Our other granny was the typical round lady, not a glasses on the end of nose' type BUT a cuddly, giving woman who did, like your dear lady, show us how to make a feast out of.. anything. or, how to turn a collar (tho i never could) She shared her history and a love of stories and events that she said never cost much but meant a lot. An important fact to keep in mind and heart for life. Grandmothers are brilliant reasons and excuses for being who we are.

Your dear lady is an example of waling history, personal and precious. She wore a cloak of love wrapped practicality and vigour.. a clue to your own character.. yes? Seems you've inherited so many of her skills and kindnesses.. telling of comfort time in her company, learning from scratch, sharing smiles and magical moments.. Plus, the way in which you've written is rather like a long chitter chat over a pot of tea or perfect coffee. Loved every sentence, every paragraph. You come from a true line of share and share alike.

Love this post: the tale and the telling, thank you so much.

Posted 6 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

Oh Emmajoy! Your reply brought tears to my eyes! You’re lucky you had grandmothers who loved you.. read more
Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

Oh, and my other Granny lived on a large farm and tended her gargantuan garden, slopped the hogs, fe.. read more
emmajoy

6 Months Ago

Suzanne, in spite of your Granny having had such a hard early life, the extra details you've added a.. read more
I love this story. To say I can relate is saying it mildly. My grandmother was my best friend growing up. I write short stories about her often. I too miss my first mentor. I keep her memory close to my heart at all times. I love the flow of the story and the relaxed thread that is woven throughout the whole tapestry. I love this story and can feel the love you had for your grandmother. That takes talent. Making the reader feel what you feel. Good job.

Posted 6 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading this story. My grandmother used to tell me that livin.. read more
People have different tastes. Some may read this and think it's boring and without merit. "How dull and lazy," they may say. "No doctors, lawyers, or other great achievers?" Pshaw. I am not one of those. I think this is marvelous, for it all rings familiar to me. My mother and your grandmother were from the same generation, growing up without much, making the best of what they had, and working hard. Always, they worked hard. Mother learned to sew from her mother. She learned canning and frying chicken in a cast iron skillet. I love this tale. It speaks to me in brilliant, clear words.

There appears to be a wrong word here--"...I lead of life of relative..."

Posted 6 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! It was fun to remember the little things about my life with gr.. read more
texasjane

6 Months Ago

Samuel is the one who asked about the use of the word. I questioned the point he made. I did not u.. read more
Suzanne Sonderleigh

6 Months Ago

I went in and changed the word. The computer changed a word to “of” when it was supposed to be .. read more
you weave a beautiful
story of your dear
grandmother ..i too
had a 2 lovely grandmas
they are special people
in our lives for sure

the memories they leave
behind how they lived
and shared those special
moments with us are
priceless to remember

I for one cherish the
essence of their lasting
love which they gave so
freely.

.i love the way you write
with such. real feeling..

nice work Suzanne

Posted 7 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

7 Months Ago

Your review reads like a poem. I love it. When we are fortunate to have loving grandparents in our.. read more
  Fran Marie

7 Months Ago

Ditto..
you're so welcome
She sounds simply wonderful. This is a very real story. No one could make this up I don't think. It's too genuine. The sad moments nearly brought me to tears.

Posted 7 Months Ago


Frankie

7 Months Ago

It's an awesome song. It always gets my heart pumping. LoL

Most music from the 7.. read more
Suzanne Sonderleigh

7 Months Ago

My mother thinks music from the 50s was the best. My grandmother loved music from the late 30s and .. read more
Frankie

7 Months Ago

I still think that ! Ha! Kidding.

I knew someone I worked with named Jane .. read more
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wtp
Thank you for the reminder that those small things add up to a life well lived.

My mother is rapidly approaching 94, and dementia is creeping in. She has always been pretty stoic, but she has started sharing some regrets about the things she did not do. In particular, she never really had the career opportunities she would have liked (and excelled at). She conformed to society's norms and retired from nursing when she married. After my siblings and I left the house, they fostered then adopted a young girl at risk. As a result, her parenting days weren't finished until she was past the usual retirement age.

When I visit tomorrow, I will be reminding her of all the little things she accomplished, and how much they meant to all of us.


Posted 7 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

7 Months Ago

Your mother sounds amazing. I’m happy to hear you will be reminding her of all she accomplished. .. read more
this is a lovely story that speaks of legacy and tradition handed down from one heart to another. I see much of my own grandmother in your words. She was a small Guatemalan woman who loved to cook, tell stories, clean, sew, and tend her garden. She was of all these things and so much more. She had about an 8th grade education, was put to work in the fields the moment she could walk as a child. In her life she would be with 3 men and have over 20 children, and yet reminisce she had never ever truly known love. Her life was difficult but her children never went without love and a home. She would often sing Spanish love song while tending her garden or cooking authentic central American food. She was more mother to me than her actual daughter. And not a day goes by that I do not think of her. She is why I write. Thank you for your wonderful story and the memories it has sparked in me.

Posted 7 Months Ago


Suzanne Sonderleigh

7 Months Ago

Your grandmother sounds wonderful! We are lucky to have had such strong and caring women in our liv.. read more

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Added on June 21, 2021
Last Updated on January 8, 2022

Author

Suzanne Sonderleigh
Suzanne Sonderleigh

NC



About
When I was fifty, my daughter died in a car accident. I began writing as a way to let my emotions run around and speak when I couldn’t. My writing is extremely dark to light-hearted and funny.. more..

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