Thursday, February 16, 2012
Celebrating the Life of Mabel Longhorn: 1921 - 2012
Early this morning, my grandma, Mabel Longhorn, passed away. She was 90 years old and, until this past November, she lived on the farm where she had spent the majority of her married life, even after my grandfather died several years ago. One of my uncles lived there with her, and while others farmed the land she was able to watch the passing seasons in the fields around the house and keep track of the cardinals (her favorite bird), robins, blue jays, bluebirds, hummingbirds, orioles, and more from the big bay window in her living room.
She loved her family, her dogs and cats, her garden, the Chicago Cubs, and the Minnesota Twins, and she made the best cinnamon rolls in the world. In the summers when my sisters and I would visit the farm, we all took a break after lunch to watch her "stories" and take a nap. Grandma often kidded me that I ate one meal a day when I was visiting her; it started at breakfast and ended with a snack before bed. She was worried that I might develop "kitchen elbow" from opening and closing the door on the refrigerator. What can I say? There was always a cookie jar full of candy on the counter and good eats in the fridge.
While the farm was mostly about row crops, when I was young, Grandma and Grandpa often raised two or three cows to butcher for the family. I learned early about the cycle of life and where my food came from. Grandma named the cows and we would help feed them when we visited. Then, later in the year, when we ate, Grandma would joke about our "Sweetie burgers," with Sweetie having been one of the cows we'd petted that had been sent to slaughter. This may sound harsh to those not used to farming, but it was natural to us, and I'm thankful for having learned those lessons.
My grandpa, Bud, worked the farm and a job, second shift as an electrician at the Sara Lee plant in town. Because of the plant, their small town had a Sara Lee discount store, and I remember countless holidays, birthdays, and vacations spent eating slices of Sara Lee cake or pumpkin pie, sprawled out on the floors with my countless cousins. One Christmas, among that brood and with the advent of the VCR, I watched It's a Wonderful Life for the first time; already known as a "cry baby," I wept openly when the town rallied around George and the money to save the Savings & Loan came pouring in.
Times weren't always easy for my grandparents, but there was love and laughter, and in the summer we had fresh sweet corn and whatever strawberries we could wrestle away from the red-winged blackbirds in the garden.
Rest in peace, Grandma.