Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Aunt Lil, By Joyce Henderson:

I came up with a few thoughts about Grandma Lil and her upcoming 117th birthday.

There are so many memories of her, I hardly know where to begin. I look back and I realize that I myself am a wiser and stronger woman for having known her and that my older children Ron and Kate were very lucky to have known and lived in the same household with her--a unique experience indeed. My late husband, Wendell was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and Grandma Lil played a very big part in his life and I know in my heart that she helped shape him into the great man he became.

Wendell always told Grandma she was a" good cooker"and that she was. When Wendell and I were dating she would have a lovely Sunday dinner for us. I usually came over right after church and she would have everything ready.Grandma always wanted to make sure you had enough to eat encouraging you to have seconds.Wendell was used to having her make goodies when I married him. He always had a sweet tooth and he delighted in all the different goodies she made. She was noted for her wine drop cookies, brown sugar tarts, lemon sponge pudding and her yummy apple pie to name a few.

The whole family loved her chili sauce and her higdom -both delicious favorites that were on our breakfast table.Wendell loved both items on his eggs and he had all of us eating our eggs that way.The sweet pickles were like no others- simply delicious. I wonder if all the pickle making she did over the years had anything to do with her pet name LilyPickle?

The one thing that Grandma Lil taught me and this one tops the list -stretching that almighty dollar.She always made me laugh when she referred to her pocketbook as Fort Knox.She gave me tips on grocery shopping like clipping coupons and always looking for the weekly specials. She taught me how to peel potatoes so you didn't cut off too much skin- making a meal out of not much and having meals planned ahead-she always peeled the potatoes in the afternoon before the evening meal. Meat and potatoes were almost always a must. Leftovers were always utilized and one of my favorites was warmed up potatoes sliced and fried and if you were short a potato or two add a slice of bread soaked in milk- sometimes we would add an onion for flavor.

I think Grandma was a little disappointed to find out that I already knew how to cook and bake, being the oldest girl out of nine children I learned to cook at an early age. Grandma Lil always canned everything and that was something I learned from her. I had helped my mother pack canning jars etc., but had never actually done canning from start to finish. I remember she and Wendell loved the canned pork and she loved sweet corn, canned or fresh. I know she encouraged me to try and make watermelon pickles and crab apple jelly which I did and they really turned out good.

As far as her celebrating her birthday with Merle I do not know- she may have before I came into the family. I do know she went up and stayed with Merle and Viola on occasion when Wendell and I were first married. I knew that Grandma's birthday and his were the same day for she once told me a story about when she was a little girl- she had asked her Aunt Nell if she was making something for a baby- apparently Aunt Nell did not want to tell her what she was making because she told Grandma in a firm voice NO- but Grandma being a smart girl remembered the incident and realized later when Merle was born that she indeed had been making something for a baby but she did not want Grandma the little girl to know. Grandma Lil was seven years old when Merle was born.

Grandma often made the comment that her sister Ethel had grandchildren born on her birthday that being David Lochner and Chris Kinsella and that Gladys her daughter had Chic on Ethel's birthday the 30th of July. She thought that was kind of comical.

Grandma Lil on her 79th birthday picked a cucumber from the garden. The year was 1971. It was a beautiful fall and Wendell had added on to the barn and was able to finish the project before the cold weather set in. Ronnie was a year and a half and the picture I have of him is one of him sitting in a bed of marigolds by the milk house. It was taken the first of November just before Grandma's birthday.I remember her picking that cucumber out of the garden and stating she had never ever picked a cucumber on her birthday before. Of course we usually have a killing frost by then -I just remember how astonished she was.

On her 80th birthday Aunt Sylva and her family came down and brought her a decorated cake which I have a picture of. As she got older she would often comment that she was so old and all her friends were gone and she wished sometimes that some of them could be around for her to visit with.

On some birthdays she would spend it at the Oddfellows Lodge Hall. Grandma was doing her civic duty by serving on the election board and if the day wasn't on her birthday it was near the date. She looked forward to Election Day because she got to see everyone who voted. She would get up really early and make her delicious scalloped potatoes in her green casserole dish -scalloped potatoes- Wendell could make them really yummy too. I remember Grandma was so very fond of her green casserole dish- it was just the perfect size for her scalloped potatoes.She would so enjoy the luncheon with the other election board ladies and Gladys who lived just around the corner would come down and join them. Gladys at some point later on also worked on the election board.

I also understand that Grandma was one of the first women from the Town of Lisle to exercise her right as a woman to vote.Women of course were not allowed to vote until the amendment was passed and added to our Constitution.

My last memory that I will share with you is about My kids and her. Ronnie would often climb up into her bed and lay beside her- He loved doing this. He was a very busy boy -he was always climbing and getting into things.Grandma would love it when he would climb into bed with her, sometimes it was difficult because it was usually covered with books as everyone knows- she loved to read. Often when Ronnie would get into her things or mess with her plants Grandma would say "you little pill"and I would quickly retrieve him before he did any damage -she would say"he just likes to get into things,but we love him just the same."

Kathleen, when she was little, would run errands for her and both of the kids would help her with her stockings because it was hard for her to put them on. She was always so appreciative and loving toward them. Once in a while she would get upset with them and she would say "See here now-now what makes you do that."

With that thought -Rest in Peace Dear Grandma Lil on your 117th birthday. We love you still on your 25th year gone from earth and we know that you are with all your loved ones watching over us.

Picture One: Aunt Lil in the kitchen, 1970
Picture Two: Aunt Lil and Ron
Picture Three: Ron in the marigolds early November, 1971, when the cucumber was found…!
Picture Four: Aunt Lil in 1972 on her 80th Birthday
Picture Five: : Aunt Lil and Ron


Pat said...


Thank you so much--great memories of Aunt Lil!!

I can only imagine her amazement at finding a cucumber in November--a rare birthday gift.

And, also, Happy Birthday to Merle, David Lochner, and my brother, Christopher!!


Kathryn said...

Joyce- YOU DID GOOD!!!
I absolutely love this story! You got to know my Grandma in ways most of us did not. I cannot tell you how much I love that- not enough words to tell. Your oldest 2 children were enriched by the expierence of having Grandma with them every day. She raised Wendell to be a loving, caring family man, who loved his family more than anything. Starting with you. Joyce, you were the best thing that ever happened to him. I love you dearly, forever. You are the best.

I had a fantastic Grandmother. I always knew that she loved me. She took me shopping when I was a teenager. We went to Marathon to the Victory Market and to the IGA. We each had our lists and we had seporate carts. The trips were memorable. She drove fast and like she owned the roads. It was hair raising. I also went down to the Odd Fellows Hall on election day to see her when she sat on the board. I was too young to vote, but I loved seeing Grandma. Everyone who sat on the board made a day of it. I think of her everytime I vote.

Happy birthday, Grandma!!! I love you and miss you!!!

CB said...

What a wonderful love letter you wrote Joyce! And it described Aunt Lil to a "T"! She was one of a kind as Jack found out when we were married![ I'll let him tell that!]
Whenever we went down to visit or when Ethel and Lil got together, they always headed for the nearest bed after a meal, laid down together and visited! This was composed of talking over everyone thay had ever known as well as their kids , grandkids, etc, all really important stuff. We all tried to phrase fit on the bed with them!
And how the phrase, "now see here " took me back! I could hear her say it as she then went on with some tale or two, or maybe even told me once again how much Chris reminded her of Ronnie. This would be when she was in Canada with us at the cottage and she missed him! She loved those kids so much! I think she was really happy to have the chance to raise Wendell, a sort of 2nd chance at being a mother when she was aware that her first time was a hurried one and she had had too many things on her plate at once to enjoy! She enjoyed him and did a suburb job. He returned her love completely!!
I have always loved Gladys' comment about her Mom. She contended that she might have had a stepfather but for the fact that there was NO room on the bed for him!!
And I can not forget the time when she was with us, again in Canada and I took her to visit our friend, Cliff Miller, who has a HUGE antique business. As we roamed from room to room she would exclaim " would you look at that !! Why I paid 5 cents for one of those pots at an auction and what does he have it marked? Told it was $20 she nearly died and so it went from one item to another. Finally I was so embarrassed that I left her a minute and found him in another room. I apoligized for her loud exclaimations and he just laughed!! Shes having a good time reliving her early days and I don't mind a bit !!
No, there was only one Lil with her Fort Knox purse [ huge it was!!] We who knew her are the better for it ! Thank you Joyce for a wander down Memorey Lane!!

gail [wood] kinney said...

oh grandma's fried potatoes were the best, tried to make them and fell oh so short of the mark. all kids were skunks, lambies or pills depending on what we were doing. And grandmas lap was the very best place in the whole world to be. Wrapped in her shawl, the soft warm sent of roses,the warmth of her unconditional love and the steady beat of her heart. she always keep the shawl pulled up for me so i could suck my thumb and not get caught and get in trouble. She was a wonderful role model , im tring to pay it forward to my lambies madison and our newest lambie is alexis born oct 2 this year. luv to all gail

Wendy (Wood) Osterhout said...


That was a perfect depiction! No one could have done it better. Thanks you.
I can remember peeling potatoes with grandma and having her tell me that “I was the best little potato peeler around” … and now how I peel potatoes and apologize under my breath to grandma for taking off too much with the peel. Oh how she loved her potatoes.
I also remember going down to the Oddfellows lodge hall, I would get off the bus and drop my books and run down so I could just sit there and watch mom and grandma work, I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to vote.
I too remember the “see here’s” and the “be still’s” and I always got a kick out of the loving way she raised her cane, never threatening of course it was just her way. She was quite a woman.
Love to all

Oh and Joyce I don’t recall ever having her lemon sponge pudding and I would very much like the recipe if you have it :)

Susan Kinsella said...

Hear, hear to the recipe for lemon sponge pudding, if it's not already in the family recipe book. Pat and Joyce, whether or not it's there, could you please put the recipe up on the blog? Thanks!

Tom K. said...

Lovely to think of Aunt Lil on her 117th. Thanks Joyce.