Sunday, October 5, 2008

ATribute To My Grandma Connie Mitchell West

A Tribute to Our Grandma

Artist, baker, vegetable gardener, flower gardener, cook, teacher, cake decorator, seamstress, organist, hug giver, quilter, magic maker, book reader….in one word, talented. These words all describe Grandma West, or as I like to call her, Gram.

I feel very privileged to be able to stand here today representing all fourteen West Grandchildren. Tennille, Dennis, Pat, Ben, James, Brady, Brendon, Brandt, Seth, Arielle, Nathan, Tessa, and Jackson. We felt it was important to pay tribute to the woman who was exactly what every grandmother should be. As my brother Ben said, “ She could cook, sew, read you stories, she had the best toys, and no one could pirate movies like Grandma.” (I think that is safe to say now!)

Once after I attended a funeral, someone commented to me that it bothered them that people quickly turn into saints while being spoken of at their funeral. So, with regards to that statement, I will share with you all of the non-saint memories of Grandma with you first. However, beware that there are only a few!

Grandma did not like it when we would ring the door bell and run over and over. In fact, I remember being chased down and being swatted on my bare legs with a fly swatter for doing that very thing. Grandma was also not a big fan of finding her buckets of beautiful raspberries smashed that she had spent all morning picking. I think Ben got the blame for that one, but I believe Tennille, Dennis, Pat, and myself were involved in that shenanigan. We would always know when we were in trouble or had done something wrong or silly because Gram would start using words like “Ding-dong Doolie” or “ You Little Buggers” those words weren’t so good to hear. Last but not least I thought I should share with you an addiction that she had, Days of Our Lives, the soap opera. Everyday at 1 o’clock it was naptime for the little kids and big kids could either watch with her or go outside. She loved that show. Let’s face it, there could be worse addictions. Okay, so in the eyes of her grandchildren, that pretty much sums up the non-saint like memories.

Now, onto the good stuff, all of the memories that we hold so dear! For all of us older kids, the memories took place at 160 S. Locust Grove, and it has to be said that even though Grandpa paid the mortgage, their house was always referred to as Grandma’s. In fact, I was talking to James on the phone the other day after Gram had already passed and he said something to the fact that I would be able to get a hold of him because he was just going to be at Grandma’s all day. Then he thought about it and said, “ Well, I guess it is finally Grandpa’s house.” No matter whose name home ownership applies to, Brandt says, “Grandma established and provided a place that all of her grandchildren could build lifetime memories and experiences. Each of us have been so blessed to have her in our lives—it is fun to remember the good times.

Grandma always had gorgeous gardens. The beautiful flowers were always a sight to see when you pulled up the driveway. Occasionally we would be lucky to be at her house on the right day and get to plant the pansies and petunias with her, it was always so much fun. I think Grandmas theme for the vegetable garden was “Go big or go home”. I’m sure those of you who knew her, knew her garden as well. She was always out there and always needed help. Often times grandma would watch several of us in the summer while parents were working. With that, she had some extra hands for weeding. Of course, weeding wasn’t the greatest, but snapping beans and shelling peas was a lot of fun. Tennille recalled sitting on the back deck watching the cars on Franklin, the horses in the field, and talking to Grandma as we threw the peas and beans back into the bucket. And we all remember what the reward was for helping in the garden, a fun afternoon trip to good ol’ Meridian Swimming pool on Grandma’s dime.

Summers were also fun at Grandmas because she had so many fun outside toys from her kindergarten teaching days. Teeter-totter, merry-go-round, in ground trampoline, big slides, and treehouses. We would play until we were exhausted and then make a stop at the freezer in the garage for a never ending supply of otter pops or popsicles. We would each eat our share (always more than one) and go back outside and play some more. At Grandma’s, everything was just right and imaginations were limitless.

One thing on everyone’s lists of memories about Gram was food! You could always count on Grandma for a good meal, and she was always sure to include us in preparing it, if we wanted. James and Brady remember grocery shopping with her to buy ingredients for dinner, and then she would buy them a treat to eat in the car just for riding along. Then, she would start fixing dinner and have us do anything from shucking corn, peeling potatoes, setting the table, or stirring the soup. The aromas that filled the house were always wonderful! Everyone had their favorite foods she would make. Brandt loved homemade chicken noodle soup and homemade jam. Brendon and Brandt both loved the big breakfasts that Gram and Gramp would make for us too. And who didn’t love the giant ice cream cone shaped cookie jar? It always had cookies in it for the taking, and if it didn’t, Grandma would be sure and solve that problem. Delicious applesauce cookies were always a hit. I think we all thought we had to be sneaky to grab a handful of cookies out, but I don’t think Grandma cared. In fact I remember her saying that we needed to eat more because we were too skinny and needed to be fattened up. I think it is her that I have to thank for my undying sweet tooth.

Speaking of sweets, that brings me right into the holidays. The last several years just haven’t been the same as they used to be. As Grandmas health has steadily declined she has been less able to keep up with the traditions she has spoiled us with in earlier years. Fortunately for us, the memories are so strongly embedded—and so special that they will never be forgotten. I know each of us will carry our favorite traditions forward into our own homes.

Grandma always made the holidays a BIG spectacular production, especially Christmas. Her home was filled with beautiful decorations, a gorgeous fresh tree with ornaments both old and new, poinsettias, a three tiered candy dish filled with homemade caramels, toffee, fudge, and snowball cookies, beautifully wrapped packages for everyone, and the smell of a Christmas eve dinner being cooked. Pat specifically remembers loving the orange rolls that Grandma made each year. He would eat them until he was stuffed and he had no room left for any other food. We all loved her homemade stuffing too. Ben says, “Stovetop has nothing on Grandmas stuffing!” It wasn’t just the sights and smells though, it was the love, thought and care that she put into making everyone feel close and loved. She always took special care to make several homemade gifts such as pajamas, quilts, and dresses. I don’t know how she had the time, but I know she did it out of love, for us.

We can’t go without mentioning the other holidays too. Easter was always a fun filled day of yummy dinner and a giant outdoor Easter egg hunt. There was always an overabundance of candy. Halloween was great too! Seth always made his first Halloween stop at Grandmas. He loved the homemade popcorn balls, and big bag of treats she had made up ahead of time for her

favorite trick or treaters! It made him feel loved that she would take the time to make a special bag for the grandkids. He also remembers parading around in his costume for Grandma so she could oohh, aaahhh, and giggle with joy. She always made us feel so good! She was the best!!!

The four youngest grandchildren, Arielle, Nathan, Tessa and Jackson have only been around for a short while, so their experiences with Grandma are a little different. They each had their own unique experience to share.

Arielle’s favorite memory of Grandmas is that with a stuffed duck. Grandma had this cute stuffed duck that Arielle just loved. Ellie would play with the duck at Grandmas, but she really wanted to take it home. She would ask often to keep this little duck, but Grandma wanted to keep it at her house. Finally one day Arielle asked again to keep the duck and to Ellie’s surprise, Grandma said yes she could just baby sit it overnight. Arielle was excited and took it home. The next day she went to take it back to Grandma and Grandma finally said she could keep it forever. Arielle still has this little duck, and I think it went to a good home because it has been loved to pieces.

Nathan was given a homemade raggedy Andy as a gift from Gram. As his little mind started working he thought that if Andy was going to get married in the temple he needed a wife. Now, I’ve seen Grandma make these little dolls and they require some effort. But, being the Grandma that she is she made him and Ann to be with Andy for eternity. Nathan and Jackson said they always looked forward to getting big hugs and kisses from Grandma, talking on the phone with her, looking in her jewelry box, and being able to drink yummy juice with her. It’s the little things that count the most isn’t it?

Tessa probably spent the most time with Grandma the last few years as she went over several times a day with her mom, to take care of Gram. One of Tessa’s favorite things about Grandmas house was that often times there would be a quilt up on the quilt frame being tied. Tessa loved to go under the quilt to play with dolls or toys. When the quilt was done, Tessa was always sure to help take the tacks out of the frame—she loved that job! Tessa also loved that Grandma took the time to know exactly what she wanted for Christmas or for birthdays so she could get it for her. It was usually a stuffed animal.

Grandma loved being involved in our lives, and as you have heard, we each have a special love for her. She was a good woman with a good heart. I think we will always remember the smell of Grandmas White Shoulders perfume, the image of her sitting under her hair dryer with curlers in her hair, and playing who can eat their corn on the cob like a typewriter the fastest. To sum it up, I believe Grandma is leaving a legacy. She has taught so much, she has shared so much, she has loved so much, and she has been so much to so many people. It is our job to do the same. Grandma, we love you and miss you! Till we meet again.

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