I remember my grandmother teaching me about the six simple machines.
“If something is too heavy you create a lever. See? This spot here is the fulcrum. Put all your weight into it!”
My grandfather had passed away the same year I was born and my grandmother, for the next 27 years of her life, never even considered another man’s company. “True love usually never happens. I don’t want to accept less now that I’ve had the good stuff.”
So she did everything at the farmhouse herself. We had a large family to tend the fields and animals but the house, and the acres surrounding, were her problem and she wouldn’t accept help from others. “They have their own problems, babe. This is ours. Don’t want to owe anyone anything.”
Grams had worked in a factory before having kids. She was the one “marrying up”, even though in her small high school she was considered a catch. My grandfather had been sheepish to ask her to marry him. He wanted a good job and enough money to buy her a nice ring. So she worked extra hours in the factory, went to the town jeweler, bought an engagement set and gave it to him. “What’s your excuse now?” she had asked him. “If I want it, I’ll but it myself.”
They were married in a family members living room. She told me that the house was cramped with the large group that gathered. Some of them were outside watching through the windows.
“Okay, babe. Now all you got to do is get the wood under it a little more and roll it onto the cart. Then we just let the wheels do all the work. Go ahead.”
My grandmother and grandfather struggled. They had three kids and moved a lot before he finally got a “good honest job”. He became the union head for a large automotive company.
My grams would take me to visit her high school back home and was so proud of the plaque hanging in the hallway. He had made it out of town. Successfully purchased 200+acres. He drove a brand new car. His wife had three beautiful, well educated, children. The plaque was to remind the current students that they could get out too. My grandmother loved going back though. Nostalgia can be addictive, especially after you lose someone.
“Now, just roll it over there by the barn door. Work smarter not harder.” She had picked that line up while working in the factory.
Even though my grandfather had a good job, my grams sometimes had to help pay the bills. She did upholstery on the side and was a pretty decent seamstress. All of the neighbor girls had their prom dresses made by her. She loved doing bridesmaids dresses too. She never charged for those though. “No one should have to pay to celebrate being in love. The wedding business is bull.”
When my grandfather passed, the union “took care” of my grandmother. She never worried about money again. “It isn’t worth it,” she used to say. We visited his grave once a week with other women from the VFW hall. They were all visiting their husbands too. The women always outlived the men in that town. We’d all share a picnic together next to the cannons. It was the only cemetery I’ve ever seen with a playground. The ladies had it put in for the grandkids.
My mother had mental health issues. When I was young I spent my summers at my grandmother’s. She needed the help and my mother couldn’t keep up with me. Dad worked sixty hours a week just to keep up with medical bills. It was easier with me on the farm. A win for everyone.
My grams lived with her mother due to her age. Bed ridden and stubborn as a mule, my great grandmother gave her daughter a run for her money. I hope to be that way when I’m her age. She could crush anyone at checkers.
With all of her obligations, my grams was always busy but she always made time for me to have fun after the work was done. She’d chase me through the orchard and help me climb trees. We’d eat dinner on the porch swing as the sun set. She always had energy. She was ageless.
The factory she had worked for was a glass factory and her gardens were littered with giant hunks of runoff glass. They were beautiful and shiny. Most of them blue, her favorite color. “Those are for the fairies to have their tea parties on,” she always said.
When my cousins were born, they would visit the farm too. They lived right next door to my parents and we were raised like siblings. They didn’t stay at the farm as long as I would though. My grams would joke that their hands were soft. They needed me to make sure they grew up with sense. “Everyone should know how to cook, clean and fix the engine on a tractor, you better teach those boys.”
I took it seriously.
When their parents got divorced, their mom had to get two jobs to keep the house. Their dad had a new family to take care of. I remember my aunt telling us that we all had to take care of each other. “Everyone needs to do the lifting in this family.”
I got the boys on the bus and off. We made dinner together and took care of the property. If they were good and got their chores done, we could play Sonic on our Genesis. They always got their chores done.
When my grams would come out to visit us she would make dinner. She’d bring the old cookbook with her. We’d get so excited. Pierogis were our favorite.
My cousins grew up thinking that women did all of the heavy lifting too. Physically and emotionally. They never considered that a woman would sit when furniture needed moving. When we all started dating people, my grams reminded us, “it takes two people to carry a couch. If you settle on someone who can’t do their share of the lifting, you’re going to get tired pretty damn quick.”
Which brings me to this past weekend.
Friends of my husband asked for our help moving. I needed a good workout so I was happy to help. His friend’s girlfriend had mentioned that “the boys could do the hard stuff”, which irked me. They aren’t athletic, to put it simply. I may be out of shape but I still have it in me. My husband thought I was being too sensitive. So I brushed it off.
But when I got there, they said that I could help carry the small stuff down. “Let the men do the lifting.” And I remembered something else my grandmother had taught me. “If a man thinks that you can’t do something, he obviously doesn’t know who the hell you are. Let him sweat.”
I waited until they wore themselves out. I asked if they needed a hand and they said, “sure, but it’s REALLY heavy.” So, I took out my work gloves, lifted the desk and asked where it was going.
The friend’s girlfriend asked my husband what it was like having a wife that was more of a man than he is. “She’s definitely a lady. A really strong lady. And it feels great to be her husband.”
And honestly, I’m pretty proud of my weird farming childhood and that my husband knows what’s up. Thanks grams.