I have always acknowledged that I was raised as much by Grandma Marie as by my mother. Not that they weren’t both important and significant influences, but it was Grammy who rocked me in front of the stove when I had an earache. Grammy who was there when I came home from school for lunch. Grammy who gave me my passion for gardening.
Marie with her grandchildren: Maryanne, me, Marlene and Margie
Sweet Marie, she was known, and undeniably sweet she was, with her soft, perfectly modulated soprano, alternately intoning the words back and forth between English and Swedish. “Yeoful, Yeoful, vill the meeting be. Ven from sin, our hearts are pure and free.”
I never remember my grandmother being mad or disdainful about anyone or anything, with the exception of the displeasure she regularly espoused for the ignorant neighbors who just barely sprinkled the tops of their plants and called it good. “Look!” she would protest, as if their ignorance in failing to soak the plants down to their roots, give them a proper drink, was literally harming her to the core as well.
She knew better. And that is most likely why our little cottage garden was a showstopper with giant blue hydrangeas and vibrant “dancing-girl” fuchsias, climbing arbor roses and a wall of daffodils. I have a piece of her peonies now beside my own rose arbor.
It makes a difference. That is why I was so moved this past Saturday at our Fergus Falls Farmer’s Market and felt compelled to sit and chat with Judith Dumke-Emery, the owner of Gentle Manor Designs and Tea. I was first intrigued by the rash of kids, toddler to teenage, who were alternately gamboling about, helping her at her booth, or popping into and out of Judy’s lap. Or shaking the maracas and beating the tambourine while Jo Mahler played the African marimba in the music booth, or gathering up door prizes from other vendors and eagerly digging each half hour into the fishbowl to pick the winning ticket for the door prize.
Each child wore a t-shirt that said – “GENTLE MANOR KIDS, Learning to Earn.” I looked at Judy’s brochure which offered an explanation. It stated – “When I develop a new tea I call on my daughters and their children to join me in a Tea Tasting Time. They taste and rate the tea and explain why they feel as they do about the tea.”
Twice a month, Judy explained, some of the 13 grandchildren (ages two to fifteen) come for a Gentle Manor Kids meeting where they help in the herb and vegetable garden, pick wildflowers, and create art and garden ornaments out of scrap wood. “What do you see?” Judy asks them when she holds up a piece of lumber or forest branch. And their imaginations take over from there. Once a year they hold an Art Show for family and friends and they now help in the market booth each Saturday in Fergus Falls. At the end of the year they will each receive an envelope with their “share.”
I’m certain they will be tempted by video games and text-ting and all manner of life’s media blitz as they age and grow, but Judy’s progeny have been blessed by art and tea and treats at Gentle Manor.
We’re so much more than our genes. I am the Diane today who has sweet tunes in my head and the remembrance of cocoa with marshmallows on top in my blood and an eternal passion for the flowers in my heart.
Thank you Grammy.