As a tribute to my grandma, here are some of my fondest memories of her from my childhood...
- My two sisters and I went to my Grandpa & Grandma Vander Kooi's house often growing up because we lived in the same town. My grandma would always have three equal portions of assorted candy waiting in the "candy drawer" when we got there. It might be a 3-pack of Sweettarts, a single Starburst and a Tootsie Roll. The containers were the little Crystal Light drink mix cups. Grandma ALWAYS had a pitcher of lemonade in the fridge. You also knew which cupboard/drawer contained the Pringles (sour cream & onion flavor just for me), the cheese curls and the oyster crackers. Grandma also had a tiny play tea set complete with teeny, tiny silverware. My sisters & I had "tea" using lemonade and cheese curls.
- Pistachio Pudding Cake was the only kind of cake I ever remember Grandma making and always for birthdays. I loved it. Ironically enough, I have her hand-written recipe and had made one just before she went to the hospital after having a craving for rich, chocolate cake one morning.
- Grandma always asked if you wanted a hunk of watermelon, which meant cut up cubes, not a slice. The best part about eating Grandma's watermelon was that she picked out all the seeds when she cut it up, unlike Mom. Those were the days before seedless watermelon. :o)
- My grandpa & grandma had raspberries & cantaloupe in their garden. We would go out and eat the raspberries straight off the bushes until we found one with a black bug. Then we went inside to wash them first.
- My sisters and I went to my grandpa & grandma's house every Sunday afternoon from 4:00pm-6:00pm and sometimes on Saturday mornings. We were always excited to watch cable TV since we didn't have it home. Some of our favorite shows were Hey, Dude and Double Dare on Nickelodeon and reruns of Saved by the Bell and Wings on USA. When we were young my grandma babysat my sisters & I on Thursday nights while my parents ran the catechism program at church. We got to watch the new episode of The Cosby Show but she wouldn't let us stay up to watch Seinfeld. That was about the only time she ever said "no" to us grandkids. It was probably a good decision. ;o)
- My grandma always called the couch the "davenport" and the kitchen counter the "workbench".
- My grandma was quite a seamstress and sewed most of her kids' clothes. She let us mess around on her old sewing machine and hand stitch things on old scraps of fabric.
- Grandma had a huge button collection from her sewing days and it was fun to sort through them. She also had a large, old jewelry collection with lots of pins, necklaces and clip-on earrings, which were also fun to sort through and play with--especially before we got pierced ears.
- I remember playing with lots of old, colorful umbrellas in rain & sun. We also "painted" the driveway using water and sponge brushes.
- My grandma was an avid reader and crossword extraordinaire. She actually started keeping a list of the ID numbers of the books she had read from the library because she couldn't always remember which ones she had finished--and she always finished a book whether she liked it or not. The librarians also kept track for her (before the days of computerized records) and saved new books for her to read first. My grandma also bragged (and it was probably true) that along with her warmed up cup of coffee she had the entire Sioux City Journal read and the crossword puzzle finished by 7:00am every morning. I remember doing lots of crossword puzzles at her house and always asking for her help. I had to do mine in pencil because I usually had to erase something. She only ever did hers in ink.
- My grandma was smart as a whip and graduated at the top of her class. She competed in spelling bees and typing contests. She went on to Mankato Commercial College where she took secretarial and accounting courses.
- My grandma was the bookkeeper for my grandpa's trucking business and they had an old typewriter in the basement. We sure thought it was cool to play on that!
- Maybe I got my bookkeeping genes from my grandma. She also was the treasurer for the Reformed Church Women group at church for 34 years. Everything was by hand, of course, and she was always perfectly balanced to the penny. I can't stand to be off, either. :o)
- Since we were at the end of the bus route for half the year my grandpa & grandma would often pick us up from school and bring us home so we didn't have to spend 45 min. on the bus or walk the 1/2 mile home. :o)
- Grandma still had the old baby buggy from when her kids were little. She rocked every one of the grandkids in it. She tied a fabric belt to the handle and pushed it away and pulled it back over and over and over again.
- My grandma was a HUGE college basketball fan--especially of the Northwestern (Orange City, IA) Red Raiders and the Iowa Hawkeyes. She knew every player every year on those teams. Besides them she usually cheered for the underdog. Except she couldn't stand Duke, Bobby Knight or Dick Vitale. She would literally put the games on mute just so she wouldn't have to listen to Dick Vitale talk.
- My grandma was also a HUGE fan of her grandkids. She practically had an assigned seat at all our activities--top row, dead center of the bleachers at both the Boyden-Hull Elementary and High School gyms and the aisle seat 2/3 of the way back on the left side of the High School auditorium. She & my grandpa were always there early to get "their seats". The same was true for church. Grandma was in place by at least 9:10am for the 9:30am service so she could watch everybody else walk in. :o) It also meant a whole lot when she & my grandpa made the 4 hour trip to Cedar Falls to attend one of my mid-week Women's Chorus concerts at UNI. They were the only family members able to make it.
- My grandma & grandpa went on quite a few long-distance bus tours after retiring. Being a good Dutch woman, my grandma collected wrapped bars of soap from all the hotels they stayed in along the way. There was a large jar full of them on the bathroom counter. It was a big deal when my sisters & I could pick one out to bring home. I wonder if she ever actually bought bars of soap. :o)
- My grandma often ordered a chicken dinner when she & my grandpa went out to eat every Saturday night. However, she always requested wings. In fact, that's the only piece of chicken she would eat. She told me it was because once when my uncle was a kid he shot a rabbit and put it in the freezer after he skinned it. She ate it and was so grossed out when she found out it was a rabbit and not chicken that she insisted on only eating wings from that point forward because she knew that only chickens had wings. :o)
- After I moved 4 hours away for college my grandma continued to keep in touch through weekly hand-written letters. These continued even when I studied abroad in England for a semester. They ceased only when she lost most of her sight due to macular degeneration. The last letter I received was on the day of her funeral. She had hand-written a farewell note to the entire family many years earlier. We each received a copy on Tuesday. What a precious gift to remember her by.
Here are some recent pictures I have of her...
Meeting Emily for the first time (Dec. 2006)
Meeting Lincoln for the first time (July 4, 2009)...
Dedicated to Velma Beth (Koele) Vander Kooi
May 29, 1920 ~ September 13, 2009