My Grandma was my friend. She lived with us from the time I was about 10 and I was with her as much as possible. She taught me to cook, to sew, to embroider. She tried her best to teach me the multiplication tables, but that was pretty hopeless.
Irbie Elizabeth Garner Callis – Grandma extraordinaire! She came to live with us after “Pa” died and life was always better with her there. She was a teacher in an earlier life, vastly well-read, truly interested in politics and the government. She was an artist, cook, clothing and hat designer, and gardener.
Here is a photo of Grandma with her new husband on their honeymoon in the 20’s.
Of her earlier life, I have bits and pieces. Of the time I spent with her there is a wealth of stories and memorabilia. That’s what I can write about, because it is what makes me, me.
When she came to live with us, my grandfather, “Pa” had recently passed away. Grandma Irbie had reached the conclusion that she couldn’t live in their big house alone. My parents had built a large home in what was then the “country”. (Now a busy section with a shopping mall where the dairy farm used to be. Sigh!) We added on a bedroom upstairs for her, and while it was being built she stayed in my bedroom and I moved to a smaller room that had been for storage. It took the summer to build the upstairs addition, and when it was finished it was the biggest, nicest room anyone could want. I got my old room back, but to tell the truth, I spent more time in hers than I ever did in mine!
Once she was settled in, Grandma Irbie started to make herself part of the family. My dad’s mom, Grandma Bessie, live with us as well, part of the time. They worked in the yard together, each with their gardens of heirloom flowers. Bessie had roses and daffodils, Irbie, iris and peonies and more roses. Grandma Irbie had brought her yard with her when she moved. Daddy had spent lots of weekends digging up her flowers and bulbs and moving them to our house. She also had an old concrete trough that had been a watering trough for cows. He moved that to our backyard and made a goldfish pond of it.
Grandma also became our chief cook! Mom worked and so it was nice to have Grandma to fix dinner. She could cook anything! She taught me how to cook, and my specialty was Christmas cookies! (I tell people that when I got married, I could make cookies and watermelon pickle. Anything else my husband wanted I had to make a quick phone call home to ask how.) We went fruit picking in the summer, peaches and strawberries, and she canned and preserved and pickled everything that was fresh. Her fried chicken was unbeatable, and oh!, spoon bread and shortcakes and rolls, so light and fluffy. I’ve learned to make them since, but mine are never the same. Here’s a collage that I made of her cooking pickles. I call it “Comfort Food” because those are 2 of the main things I associate with my Grandma. She taught me to be a foodie and comfort is what I take from knowing her.
collage by carroll sawyer