It’s funny, choosing my own grandmother to be a saint.
She was my nemesis as a child. The person who stood between me and myself. Who did her best to block any affirmation and acknowledgement coming my way.
It is funny because just the writing of the above sentence caused an image to flash through me. It was of my grandmother as a child herself.
Second to the youngest. Three older sisters, one older brother. I know from my association with the family that at least one older sister was an astounding kind of person. Successful in all ways.
When their mother was damaged by a stroke, the Astounding Older Sister took charge, and nary a criticism of her carekeeping was ever heard.
So perhaps Ida, way back then, something of a tomboy, the girl who helped her father slaughter the animals (making her a life-long vegetarian) had a sour heart about girls who do things greatly, leaving all her efforts in the shadow.
Perhaps that is why Ida is my saint.
Because when I knew her, she was doing things greatly herself.
She had managed a munitions factory during World War II, making rifles and lots and lots of bullets for the soldiers. And during this same time she managed a soup kitchen for all the hungry people in her neighborhood.
It was this experience that taught her how to make batches of food for 50 or 100 or even more people at one time.
And she eventually brought all this organizational skill to our tiny hamlet of Sheepscot.
Where she spread feast after feast after feast before the people of our town and church. Well, churches, if truth be told. The two in the village. The one “real” one in “town.”
Hunter’s breakfasts at dawn. Grange Hall Saturday night bean suppers. Lobster roll and strawberry shortcakes bursts to accompany the auction on the lawn by the river to raise money for the church.
She also hosted our entire family throughout the summer months. Taking people down to the wharf so they could thrill at the choosing of their own lobster. Bringing them back home again and, mere minutes after the last biteful of the clams, corn, and coffee, offer to make them another meal to their exact specifications.
Grilled lobster sandwiches. Corn, potato, and new pea chowder. Grilled ham with a side of potato salad.
Everything had potato in it. Almost everything.
There was a nice boiled potato served in its own little dish alongside the spaghetti and meatballs.
And then there was the matter of her pies.
I tried several times when I was older to make pie crust. But never finding her flavor—not even close—I gave up at an early age and instead found ways to cover up the fact that my pie crusts were store-bought.
But that isn’t what makes her a saint in my eyes. It’s part of it—watching and helping her her mound tables with food at dawn for hungry hunters . Insisting on the “right” kind of roll to hold her lobster.
But it was something else.
It was her meticulousness.
The way when she was in charge of elections, not a smidgen on a ballot went unseen and effort made to have it rectified.
It was the way when she was in charge of the town office that she made sure no one in our town went without heat during those fierce Maine winters.
And it was the way she got mounds of wrapped Christmas presents delivered to children who, for some reason, were being threatened with waking up on Christmas morning to no presents, and possibly no Christmas tree.
In our town, both small (Sheepscot) and a bit larger (Newcastle), Ida meticulously fussed over the people. Without really getting in anyone’s way or even making her presence known.
She was the very real cause of most of my tears growing up, but even then, even bleary-eyed, I saw The Astounding Grandmother who cared.
Perhaps not all that much for me, but for those around me.
Which makes her a most human saint, the best kind of all.