Monday, April 07, 2014

An interview with Grandma

I often think about family history around General Conference, probably because the family newsletter I make up is due to be sent out the first weekend in April and October, which happens to be when conference occurs. I imagine this was by design rather than by accident, though the design was not mine. I merely inherited the system from my Auntie Colleen when I took over for her in October 2011 (she begged someone to take over for her in a message with the last issue she sent out saying, "I've done it for quite a few years now and am getting old and cranky! Haha.").

It's funny to think that I've been doing it for "so long" already. Because two-and-a-half years is long...compared to however long my aunt did it for. I rather enjoy it even if it is a headache.

Anyway, with every issue I include an article about an ancestor (as well as the news everyone sends in) so every six months, at least, I'm reminded of my family history.

In conference yesterday I enjoyed hearing Elder William R. Walker's talk about family history. He said, "the more connected we feel to our righteous forefathers, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices." I totally agree with that statement (it made me think of this article from The New York Times); it is so important to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers," as it says in Malachi 4:6.

Miriam "helping" Grandma with some needlepoint while watching conference
Since we have Grandma staying with us we decided to do a repeat of the FHE lesson we did with Naanii—we interviewed Grandma and played Don't Eat Pete. Having the girls ask whatever question pops into their head might not be the best format for an interview but it works for our purposes.

Did you have any pets? In fifth grade I got a cat. I had never had a pet before that. Aunt Susan had all the pets. I never gave her a name; I just called her Mama Kitty. I don't know why. She must've had kittens at some point. She was my cat and loved me best. She died my second year of college. She went into my room, climbed onto my bed, and died. She was very old.

Did you like to read? Yes. My school librarian once said to me, "If you don't stop, you'll read every book on the shelf!" I liked mystery, adventure, fairytales. I liked everything, though I didn't like space stories very much. 

Did you always live in the same house? No. One year my dad took the family to Seattle for the whole year when I was in grade four. My dad did some more school [he was a teacher and took a sabbatical to finish his master's degree] and then we moved back to Phoenix.

What was your favourite subject? English. I was the school champion in spelling [in grade eight]. I got the whole school championship—it went up to grade eight. I went on to the district-wide spelling bee and got second place. I still remember the word I spelled wrong: stereotype. I've never misspelled that word since then.

Did you go to college? I went to two! I went to Rick's College in Idaho and got a degree in secretarial work. Then I went on my mission and when I came home I went to BYU [majored in Spanish with a minor in Portuguese] where I met Grandpa and got married.

What's your favourite colour? Blue. Now I like lots of colours but I still like blue. Blue skies, blue eyes...

What's your favourite princess? I never really got into princesses. I didn't play with dolls. I had four older brothers. We'd climb trees and play Cowboys & Indians and things like that. Later when I had little sisters I'd play with dolls. I would play Barbies with Aunt Linda when I was a teenager. I also taught Linda to play puzzles. I love puzzles. I stay up way too late doing puzzles!

Do you have any pioneer ancestors? Yes, lots! One family crossed the plains. They started with eleven people and five of them died on the way to Salt Lake. Only six people of their family of eleven made it, but they knew it was the right thing to do so they did it.

Did you live on a farm or something? It was kind of a farm. We had cows and chickens and sometimes our neighbor would keep their horse at our house. We had a big garden. Dad would wake us up at 5 AM to work in the garden before it got too hot. I didn't like getting up that early but if my dad said we had to do something we had to do it. He could be grumpy sometimes. 

What flowers did you grow? We didn't grow flowers. We grew vegetables. We grew corn, tomatoes, all sorts of squash [at this point Karen stuck out her tongue]. Dad even tried planting things nobody liked like eggplant and brussel sprouts. He figured if it could grow he could grow it even if no one like it. 

Did you have fruit trees?  We had oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, fig trees, a pecan tree—pecan trees are very messy—and grapes.

We didn't have to water with a hose. We had irrigation. We had a ditch in the yard and when it was our turn to irrigate we'd turn a knob and water would flood the whole yard. We'd go sliding on the grass. Worms would come out and we'd slide with the worms—kind of gross, but we thought it was fun. In Arizona it's hot in the summer!

Did you have any brothers as noisy as Benjamin? I had four brothers, if you can imagine. They were kind of mean. They'd kind of beat me up sometimes. Aunt Dorothy was off playing with her boyfriends at that point. [Aunt Dorothy is ten years older than Karen].

Where were you born? In Phoenix in Good Samaritan Hospital. It's still there.

Did you have any nicknames? Just Karen. The kids at school had a nickname for me that wasn't very nice—Fatso. Sometimes kids just aren't very nice. But I'm just fine. I didn't let it ruin me.

When did you learn to play the piano? I started at age seven and by the time I was eleven years old I was playing piano for primary. This was in the old days when primary was in the middle of the week. All the girls [Karen's sisters] learned to play well. The boys wouldn't listen when my mom tried to teach them so they didn't learn as well. 

When did you learn to play the organ? When I was about eighteen. The organist at church gave me lessons so I learned how to play and then I went to play for the Spanish branch. I didn't understand a word they said because I hadn't learned Spanish yet. I did that for a couple of summers when I was home from Ricks and then I got my mission call and it was Spanish speaking [Karen served in the Antofagasta, Chile mission] and they were so excited for me! Now I would learn to speak Spanish!

Were you a good student?  I actually was. I got awards when I graduated eighth grade. In ninth grade they started ranking students on how well they performed and I was #9 when I graduated. That's why I said one of the prayers at graduation.

Who was your best friend? I had two best friends—Terry and Ingrid. Terri was a member of the church and Ingrid was not, but we didn't care. We did everything together and just had fun. We had sleepovers sometimes. We'd take Ingrid to church with us and sometimes we'd go to Ingrid's church. We just had fun.

Did you ever learn to ride a bike? Of course! How else do you think I'd get to Terry and Ingrid's houses? We lived in the same neighbourhood and went to the same school, until high school when Ingrid went to private school.

What movies did you like to watch? The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, The Ten Commandments. Those were the movies that were on television once a year. We had to watch them every year. We actually went without a television for a while. No TV, no internet. Nothing. You wouldn't like that very much, would you?

When did you lose your first tooth? Oh, when I was about six, probably. I don't remember.

Oh, but once time Mama Kitty... Aunt Susan was getting a new hamster for Christmas and my parents hid it in the garage but Mama Kitty got in the garage and ate it!

Another time they got a new kitten for Susan. They put it in the closet and put a board against the closet so it couldn't get out, but somehow it did and it crawled in bed with Susan and she rolled on top of it in the night and killed it!

Aunt Susan didn't have much luck with pets. I miss Aunt Susan. She died a year ago tomorrow. 

Did you ever get mice in your house? No. We did get snakes though—just little garden snakes, especially when it was time to irrigate. I stepped on one once by accident. We'd also get icky spiders—black widows and things—and we'd find scorpions because we lived in the desert. We'd just kill them like any other kind of bug. I never got stung by one, though I did get stung by bees.

My dad used to raise bees in the backyard. 

One time Dad brought a black widow inside—in a jar—and poked holes in the lid but she had an egg sac with her and that night the egg sac hatched and when we got up in the morning there were baby spiders—black widows!—everywhere. Mom was not happy but Dad just liked to teach us things.

He used to have us help when it was time to kill a cow for meat. He'd put the lungs on a cookie sheet and blow air into them with a hose to make them inflate. He'd put the four stomachs into a hole in the ground and then throw a knife at them to pop them—it would stink! But he wanted us to know how cows worked inside.

Dad was a teacher. He liked to teach us things.

Did you ever go on a family trip? We had a big car and a trailer. We'd go camping with the trailer but it couldn't fit all the kids inside so the kids had to sleep outside—sometimes we'd sleep in tents and sometimes we didn't.

We went all over the place. We went to California, Oregon, all the way up to Washington. We camped in the mountains and we camped at the beach. We went camping on the beach in California and the trailer got stuck. We had to have someone help pull us out of the sand. At Pismo Beach.

I have lots of fun memories of trips with my mom and dad.

Did you ever go to dances? Sure, there were some Daddy/Daughter dances my dad took me to.

No, I mean with Grandpa. With Grandpa? The man I'm married to? Haha. No. No, we don't do any dancing.

Were you a tease? Yes, I was. I'm sorry to say, but I teased Susan all the time. I could say just about anything to Susan and she'd cry. She was very sensitive, but she found a way to get back at me.

I would bite my fingernails. I just liked them short. I had a bad habit. I don't bite my fingernails anymore but I still keep them short. I just don't like them long, but Aunt Susan knew how to grow her fingernails long and she did! So if I'd say, "Haha! It's mine now!" [and hold an object out of Susan's reach] she'd scratch my arms—sometimes I'd even bleed—but did that stop me from teasing her? No.

And sometimes we'd sit on her and tickle her until she peed her pants!

I didn't tease Linda. Aunt Linda would play with me. Susan was kind of a grumpy girl. It was easier to get along with Linda, so I wouldn't tease her. Aunt Linda liked to play puzzles and games with me. Aunt Susan didn't.

And on that cheerful note, we ended the interview. My hand was aching from scrawling notes. One day I may learn to use a recording device (I actually still have an interview with my grandma that I need to transcribe).

I feel like I should point out that Karen and Susan eventually learned to get along. They both turned into fine adults and even put their childhood differences behind them and became friends.

We miss Aunt Susan a lot.


So, then we played Don't Eat Pete. The minute I announced it was time to play Don't Eat Pete, Benjamin squealed and quickly started throwing the toys he'd been occupying himself with during the interview into the toy box.

When I asked who wanted to go first, his hand shot up into the air with Rachel's and Miriam's (he's learning how to raise his hand in nursery, though I don't think he ever makes intelligible comments I'm sure he's quick to raise his hand when they ask things like, "Who wants more crackers?").

"Me! Me! Me!" all three chorused.

We decided to take turns in age—so Benjamin got to go first, then Miriam, Rachel, me, and Daddy.

The girls were worried that Grandma would be as bad at it as Naanii and Grandma was a little nervous to take her turn, too, but she ended up clearing the board on her very first try! Everyone was quite impressed. (Sorry, Naanii, luck just wasn't on your side).

Benjamin also excitedly yelled, "Pete!" when it was time to say, "Don't eat Pete!" (the way he says Pete reminds me of how Miriam thought the game was called Don't Eat Peed).

It was a fun evening.

Grandma reading a story to Benjamin and Miriam
(Karen, feel free to comment with any corrections to what I wrote about your childhood).


  1. Oh this is wonderful! Fun to read all this stuff about you!

  2. I enjoyed learning more about Karen. Your girls asked good questions!

  3. Those really were terrific questions. My questions were much more boring. I guess that says more about the interviewee than the interviewers...

    1. More of an introvert vs. more of an extrovert?

      Grandma helped provide some of the questions, really. I thought your interview was good—besides, we have your blog to read. :)