NORMAN — I’ve heard my entire life that as we age we turn into either our mothers if we are women or our fathers if we are male. I think I might have skipped something along the way because I’m pretty sure I’m turning into my grandmother.
I’ve written several times about Alta Fern. She was a strong willed, crusty on the edges woman who could turn any unruly child into a saint with just one look. She never said it, but when she got in the kitchen and made her famous chicken and noodles or one of her pies, I knew it was her way of saying she loved her family.
I’ve tried to make chicken and noodles and pies and have failed miserably each time. I can’t quilt or crochet to save my life either. That seems to have skipped a couple of generations. I know too that Grandma rolls over in her grave every time I attempt to “sew” something. I’ll be sitting at the sewing machine and I can feel her eyes bearing down on me. I can almost feel her frustration knowing that the poor excuse of a seam I just made wouldn’t live up to her standards.
But, as I get older, I realize I might not be a Juila Child in the kitchen or a Gloria Vanderbilt when it comes to clothing design, but I’m an Alta Fern with it comes to three principles of my life.
Principle 1: Never leave the house without your looking your best. Grandmother didn’t wear make-up that I recall. She didn’t make a lot of fuss about her hair. There was the occasional perm and maybe a trip to the salon on occasion. But she never left the house, not even to get the mail, without looking her best. Her clothes were pressed. Her hair was perfect and her stockings never saggy.
I’ve bent this rule a little bit here and there and have ventured outside for a couple of minutes with my hair a mess and no make-up. But I’ll tell you this, I don’t waste time out there when I do. It’s in. It’s out. And I always cross my fingers the neighbor doesn’t want to stop and chat.
I wish more people in this world had an Alta Fern in their lives. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to go to the grocery store and see individuals in their house shoes or their pajamas.
Principle 2: It goes along with Principle 1 actually, but I never leave the house without proper undergarments.
I think up until her dying day, my grandmother wore a girdle and a slip. She always wore her support hose, too. As she aged, she switched to knee-highs as they were easier to maneuver. It didn’t matter if it was 100 degrees in the shade, grandmother had to have her silhouette in tip-top shape.
Of course the first rule to wearing all of these garments was to not let the entire world know you were wearing them. I guess I should say I knew grandmother wore a girdle and a slip, but I never was witness to the fact. I can’t imagine what she’d say today about the Britney Spears’ and the Paris Hiltons’ of the world who are known for getting out of their limos showing the world their bloomers, or lack there of. I think she, like me, she would find it just disgraceful and down right uncalled for.
Principle 3 is my favorite. I never leave my house without my wedding ring. I’ve been half way to the office before and turned the car around to get my wedding ring when I notice I was absentminded. And, just so you know, it’s not because I’m worried without it I’ll be beating off potential suitors.
The truth of it is when my husband and I got married, just like my grandparents, we had no money. We didn’t have a huge wedding but we splurged a bit on my ring. It’s my first official piece of real jewelry and I remember for months after the wedding I would just sit and stare at it like it was the most expensive thing in the world. Even today, I glance down and I’m still taken back by the fact I have, although modest to some, a glittery bobble on my left hand.
I plan to wear my wedding ring until the day I die. Just like Grandmother. There had to be a good 10 or 11 years between the time Grandpa Raymond died before Grandma Alta joined him. But she never took off her wedding ring and she never stopped missing her groom.
She was a simple woman, but Alta Fern always had class. And when I grow up, I hope to be just like her. And maybe even make a pie some day that is edible.