Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Grandma’s hands

I looked down the other day and saw my grandmother’s hands.

They were mine, of course. I had to admit my once-skinny fingers weren’t anymore.

My Grandma Mosier had good, sturdy peasant bones, used to hard work and hard times. The former Maria Werner came over from Transylvania with two little boys in 1920, leaving my father, her oldest son, with an uncle in the old country.

She weathered World War I, with Russian soldiers camped in their yard, according to my father’s memories; coming to a foreign land and starting over again, ultimately in Chicago. She outlived three husbands, and died at age 92.

My mother used to tell me Grandma Mosier had been 6 feet tall when she was younger. She was stooped by the time I remember her, but still, a big-boned woman. I come by my bones honestly.

But when I was a little girl, I was ultra thin and bony. Well-meaning people used to look at my hands and say, “My, what nice long fingers you have. I’ll bet you’ll play the piano.” I never did. Flute and piccolo, yes, but not piano. All those keys at one time intimidated me.

I tried learning the banjo as a grown up. My fingers couldn’t quite spread to make the chords.

Without a teacher, I drove my young family crazy trying to learn from a book.

My fingers work perfectly fine, though, typing out news stories and rewriting information readers send in and writing columns – or blogs, as the kids all know them these days.

And, despite a little arthritis, my fingers serve me well kneading sourdough roll dough and mixing up cookie batter.

They don’t do so well on scrubbing baseboards and holding mops and brooms. I’d rather read than clean the house thoroughly.

Grandma Mosier’s hands sewed thousands of stitches in embroidered wall hangings with sayings in her Saxon-German dialect. Part of her dowry was a flax tablecloth she told me she had made the flax or linen thread and woven it, as well as embroidering in the center.

Her hands made hot German potato salad, and what Romanians call mamalika but her Saxon-German name for it was “colasha and prinz,” like our cheese grits. She could feed her three boys on practically nothing, I’m told, by making “sour lobbit” – who knows how that is spelled – a soup made from a few strips of bacon, onions fried in the bacon grease, water and vinegar. I know how to make all three of those recipes, even if I can’t spell them and a Google search turns up nothing close to the names.

One of Grandma’s belongings I asked for from Uncle Martin and Aunt Margaret, with whom Grandma Mosier lived out her last years, was her wedding ring. It was the only ring I remember her wearing, and I guess her third husband, Andy, gave it to her. I still have it, although it’s too big for everything except my middle finger.

Even though my daddy was born in Transylvania, he wasn’t Romanian. He was Transylvanian, he insisted. The Saxon-German dialect was different, too, which is the reason I’m not sure what those embroidered wall hangings say. I just know my grandmother’s hands made them. And that makes me proud I have her fingers.

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  • Meg and I share those hands. Hands that took me for walks, played pinochle, and made strudel. Hands that belonged to a strong, stern, loyal and loving grandma. Hands that we have passed on to another generation.

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