My Grandma Bauer was a feisty, loving woman. She came to America from Germany as a young woman. Grandpa Joe also came from Germany. I wish I knew more about their early lives but these are stories I never heard. The first thing she taught me was to be more curious about my relatives because their stories are too important to lose.Grandma’s sister was named Anna. Aunt Anna was a frequent visitor and she and Grandma seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Aunt Anna taught me to make an apple pie. She showed me how to mix the dough without overmixing so as not to make the dough tough. She also said not to over-handle the dough because that would also make it tough. She explained to me that the apples should be sliced evenly so they would cook thoroughly. She emphasized to never skimp on the apples because as the apples cooked and shrunk down, the dough would stand away from the apples and make a hollow space.
I don’t remember a lot of the other details, just how grown up I felt to be able to make a real apple pie with the grownups. When we were done putting the pie together and the pie was in the oven, Grandma, Aunt Anna, and I would play cards and Chinese Checkers. The sisters taught me how to play Crazy Eights and Old Maid. As I grew older, they taught me to play Canasta.
We used to laugh and carry on while we played cards. Occasionally, if Grandma or Aunt Anna didn’t like how the game was going, they would swear in German. I always wanted to know what they were saying but they would remind me that in America we speak English and German was for adults only!
Grandma had a beautiful cut glass candy dish on her coffee table filled with lemon drops. I used to love to watch the sunlight shine through the cut glass making rainbows on the wall.
One day, when Grandma was in the kitchen, I helped myself to a lemon drop. She must have heard me lift the glass lid because she came into the living room wiping her hands on her apron. She asked me to put the lemon drop back and replace the lid. She kindly, but sternly explained that we don’t take something that doesn’t belong to us without asking permission first. She explained that we needed to mind our manners and not assume that we could help ourselves to something that isn’t ours. I did as Grandma asked and then asked politely if I could have a lemon drop. She smiled and said “yes, it’s OK.” I took the lemon drop and she rewarded me with a great “grandma” hug.
Grandma was short and a bit round and her hugs were the best. I’ve always remembered the lesson from that day and made sure to “mind my manners”.
Grandma was also tenacious and hard working. My Grandpa Joe died from an accidental fall when their children were quite young. Grandma was left with six children to raise. They lived down the East South Street hill from the Catholic Church that they attended. Grandma’s religion was very important to her. All her children attended parochial school and worked hard to help the family survive. Grandma worked as a dishwasher at Hotel Rogers and worked at Wayland Academy doing ironing. As soon as the children were old enough, they took jobs to help. She also rented out one of the bedrooms when times got tough.
When I was seventeen years old, my boyfriend proposed and presented me with a diamond ring. We stopped down at Grandma Bauer’s house to show her and share the good news. She reacted by saying “that is not your ring!” I frowned and asked her why she thought that. Her answer was wise and there have been many times that I’ve wished I had listened.
She said I was too young to make such an important decision. She asked me if I thought I might be rushing things? She said that marriage lasts a long time and should not be entered into without much thought.
Looking back, I know that her words came from much wisdom and experience. She had handled many hardships that she did not want to have repeated in my life. I have often wondered if things would have worked out better for us if we had heeded her warning. A valuable lesson that I missed and know that life would have been much different if I had been able to learn this lesson from my grandma.