Even as summer peaks in New Hampshire, a stay colored leaf might remind me of fall. I grew up in a town near the Canadian border, where my father’s description of the seasons was, “Spring, Summer, Fairtime and Wintar!”
My parents and I lived upstairs over my aged and infirm paternal grandparents. All of us helped make the grandparents’ day-to-day lives as comfortable as was possible. But Granny was gradually going blind and Gramps suffered from the effects of two strokes.
Granny’s mind was sharp. It was my job to help her with the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle. It made no difference if I had studying or a date… time at the oilcloth covered kitchen table was a must.
I so often think of the fall when Granny got the chance to “be useful again,” to say nothing of earning a few sorely-needed dollars.
Her niece had leased one of those lunch stands on the fairgrounds and she and her daughter would be staying in town during the week-long fair, catering to the hungry crowds there to see the midway, gamble a bit, tour the agricultural halls, and of course, watch the horse races and admire the award-winning farm stock out back.
The good news was that though Gran’s relatives would have little time to rest, they would need a place to stay. There was no spare room; what to do?
Granny stumbled around, marshalling all the help she could get, and before long the attached woodshed had been made into comfortable sleeping quarters for the two women. Red calico was tacked to make a curtain at the one small window. Comfortable cots, topped with old quilts, were arranged carefully… throw rugs borrowed from the house would warm feet on the early morning- chilled pine floor.
Granny would take in a few dollars for “putting up” her relatives, but the best was yet to come! Within a day or two, the two women got behind at the lunch stand… finding that simple sandwiches sold like hotcakes. Since they opened early, the fair employees themselves bought their breakfasts there, keeping the two women overly occupied.
Near sightless she may have been, but Granny could do her part.
I can see her now, standing for hours with sandwich fixings and several varieties of bread neatly arranged on the clean table before her, carefully making stacks sandwiches and then painstakingly wrapping them in waxed paper and stacking them in dishtowel-lined cartons.
After this week of hustle and bustle was over, Granny stated emphatically, “That was the best week I’ve had in years!”
The lesson that memory brings back to me is that we all long for a chance to be “useful,” appreciated, and helpful as well. No matter what our circumstances, there’s usually a way to contribute and, as a reward, strengthen our self-images!