Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Way Back Machine


The time: Early 1960's
The place: Rural Northern Wisconsin

The woman leaning over the table in the bright pink and white floral dress is my step-grandma Blanche. What a little firecracker she was! I'm sure this was some kind of community dinner at the Grange Hall or the high school.

Blanche was the perfect match for my grandfather and having been raised in a Norwegian/American household with lots of brothers she was always up for anything. My grandfather would say, "Let's go fishing" and Blanche would reply, "Whatever you say Louie."

She was barely five foot tall with graying light blonde hair and skin so pale it seemed translucent. In my minds eye she smiling, always! When I think about it I can't ever recall seeing her angry or even slightly annoyed. She was just happy.

There was one incident though that upset her terribly. I'd never seen her so shaken and in turn it drove me to tears. My siblings and I had nagged my grandfather all day to take us into Rice Lake to go swimming but grandpa had chores to do and it wasn't possible. Finally in late afternoon they couldn't stand the nagging any longer. Blanche suggested that the neighbor might allow us to swim in his pond.

With the neighbor's approval we drove the short distance to the nearby farm and proceeded to wade into the water. This was not the beach however, it was a watering pond for the dairy cows and the bottom was covered with a thick layer of mud. Lurking in that mud were thousands and thousands of leeches. You guessed it! Soon after entering the water we decided it wasn't very conducive for swimming and one by one we emerged........covered in leeches!!! Poor Blanche. She was screaming, but for some odd reason the leeches did not have the same effect on me. I was calm at first but soon burst into tears at the sight of my lovely, happy grandma jumping around and screaming at the top of her lungs.

Someone appeared from the farmhouse with matches and salt. The leeches were dispatched to a firey and salty end and Grandma Blanche never again suggested swimming anywhere other than Rice Lake.


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Oh my heavens! That leech story brought back a few memories. My own children watched in horror as their grandmother, my mother, flailed and groaned and carried on something fiercely over an itty bitty little leech on her ankle. I said, "Thanks a lot, Mother, that's the way to show the grands how it's done." Ha!

I think it's wonderful that you had such a connection with your grandmother even though she was not your biological grandma. I had just such a connection to my grandfather. He may not have been blood, but he certainly was part of my heart.

stefanie said...

Oh I remember leeches. Ew.

Love the picture! And Blanche, there's a name that's a blast from Way Back. My Godmother was named Blanche. I haven't thought about her in many years. I need to get out some old photos!

Mamahut said...

OH yeah, I remember leeches. They are freaky little creatures. My neices took my kids into a pond and got covered in them. I think it scared them more than anything.

bj said...

Just the very thought of a leech getting on me makes me shiver like crazy...ewwwwwww...
Your grandma looks like a loving little glad you have good memories...
love, bj

Mom Taxi Julie said...

OMG how scary!!

How nice to have such fond memories of someone always being happy and kind. That doesn't happen very often!

Cottage Rose said...

Oh Suzanne; I thought that was a great story. I am smiling and giggling at the site of everyone coming out of the pond. Your poor grandma. Love the photo, she sounded like a very wonderful person. Thanks of sharing such a great story. And how brave you were, I would have be all over the place screaming my head off. lol

KatKit13 said...

Thankfully I never encountered leeches - just tons of crayfish.

Did Great-Gramma Blanche make her dress? That was some eye-poppin' pink!

Trish said...

egad....I had forgotten the leeches we used to run into in the ponds...oh my...I shudder just thinking about it.

Louise said...

What you have described is one of my worst childhood fears/nightmares that still follows me around. I would never, EVER go into a place without moving water, and even then, I watch it like a hawk. I'd probably pass out if I had a leech on me. Someone else would have to get it off, and I might need anesthesia if I didn't pass out on my own. I'm with Grandma Blanche!