Hey Gram, how do you make sun tea?

Let me run you through a recent weekday evening, which will allow me to set up a wonderful conversation I had with my dear Gramma Carol.

Kelli: "Hey John, wanna run to Aldi's with me to get some milk, cereal and tea bags?"


John: "Tea bags? I got your..."


Kelli: "Shut it. Yes or no?"


John: "Let's ride."

So on to Aldi's we ventured, coming out with waaaaayyyyy more than tea bags. I also finished the night with way more than cereal and ice cold milk. I learned a little more about my paternal grandma, and how much I am like her, or wish to be like her.


Lets rewind for a moment.
(And I know this post is all over the place, stay with me.)

My brother, sister and I virtually grew up at my Grandma Carol and Grandpa Steve's farm, located about 3 miles southeast of our home. We were also very lucky to have two cousins who lived about 5 miles north of us. All of us share nostalgic memories of growing up with Granny and Gramps; one of mine being the big glass jar of sun tea Gramma had steeping on her picnic table.

Needless to say, today was a nice sunny day and I had a hankerin' for some sun tea. Gramma Carol's sun tea, to be specific.

So I bought a small box of tea bags and phoned Gramma for some tips on how to make my sun tea as delicious as hers. After she gave me some instructions, she mentioned, "And there was one lady who I worked for that said to fill a pitcher half full of ice, put your tea bags inside, and dumb very, very hot water inside."

Kelli: "Oh, that's cool. Wait. You worked for someone?"
(I've never really known my grandma to work off of the farm.)

Gramma: "Oh yes. I worked as a nanny or housekeeper for a family in town the summer of my junior and senior year of high school. Their family ran the concession stands at the swimming pool, and they had six kids."

Then, Gramma launched into a story about how she cooked, cleaned, and cared for a family during the summers of her youth. Apparently, her parents thought it was important for their daughters to work off the farm in the summer to help their transition to adulthood. What a wonderful idea! As a teacher, I wish more parents shared this ideal.

Gramma: "I graduated on a Friday night, and had a job lined up for Monday. Which was rare for ladies my age at that time. I worked as a phone operator."


Kelli: "What?! You mean you were a legit phone operator?"


Gramma: "Yep! With the the switchboards and cords and everything."

She recounted how she transferred calls and the process of keeping the financial records, which calculated how much a person paid per minute. While she worked as a phone operator, she rented a room in a house (located a few houses down from my maternal great grandmother!) with her brother, and her best friend, Nellie (ok, who wouldn't want a best friend named Nellie?!).

While workin' the lines, Gramma claimed she was terribly homesick, even with her brother renting a room in the same house. She said there was no kitchen to use in the house, so she would eat at a local restaurant before or after work. Shortly thereafter, she and Gramps were engaged and she began to collect things she would need for her life with Gramps.

Gramma: "I remember buying a set of stainless steel pans with copper bottoms, and a set of silverware for 12 people from a saleswoman. I didn't really have a lot of money, so I paid on credit."


Kelli: "Oh?"


Gramma: "And I am sick even thinking about it, but I ended up paying about $200 for that set of silverware! I still have that set, too!"


Kelli: "WHAT?! $200?"


Gramma: "I know! I was only making $65 a week as a phone operator, and my sister had two years of college and was teaching, and I made just as much as her."


Kelli: "Well, teaching economics haven't changed much..."

What's more interesting, is that after she and Gramps were married, they lived the exact life in which I aspire. They raised chickens - lots of them. They milked cows. She had a huge garden - lots of tomatoes, green beans, beets and sweet corn.

Gramma: "We had about 200 tomato plants. I canned everything, since we didn't really have any other way to preserve food. We ate a lot of canned goods."

And not only did she provide for her family of 7, but she said she gave her excess produce to hospitals, nursing homes, and to the needy in the community.

@ their 50th wedding anniversary.
Someone said, "Gramps, look at Gramma and think about your 50 years together."
This was his expression. 

The whole family @ their 50th wedding anniversary party about 3 years ago. 

A 20 minute conversation with Gramma was eye opening and inspiring. I told her many times during that short conversation that she lived the life I want today, and that I was clearly born in the wrong decade. She just chuckled a little bit. Perhaps she agrees. Or perhaps she thinks I've lost my mind.

I spoke with my dad tonight, too. And he reminded me that I don't get my love of urban farming and self-sustainability only from Gramma Carol - my paternal great grandmother skinned skunks to pay for books so she could go to school.

And my maternal great grandmother, Thursa Josephine, rode the bus to 'the big city' with turkeys to sell. She also went to college and started a business in an era when women were not financially independent from their husbands.

Now those are three women that I need to learn more about.

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