Michelle Martin

Threads to the past

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I’m wearing my grandmother’s socks. They are black, a little thick, cotton and some kind of stretch fiber. The kind that probably came six pairs to a pack.

She had a lot of black socks. A lot of white socks, too, but I mostly wear the black ones. They go with the flat black shoes I usually wear to work in the summer, and the black ankle-high boots I usually wear in the winter.

So when my mother and her sisters were trying to clear out their mother’s assisted living apartment after she died last summer, and my mother asked if I wanted the socks, I took them. Her feet were about the same size as mine.

The other grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) and I all ended up with various things from her apartment, from furniture to holiday decorations to kitchen supplies. I took her bed, a twin bed that is now in our spare bedroom, where Frank sleeps when it is too hot outside because that room is air-conditioned and his isn’t. I took a lamp, too, and some little things from the kitchen — sandwich bags, packets of sweetener — and Teresa took her great-grandmother’s Tickle Me Elmo doll. For some reason, once she was in her 90s, my grandmother found Tickle Me Elmo hilarious.

My grandmother, Kathryn A. Diamond, was 95 when she died July 17, 2013. She was born in an Iowa farm family — we were still having reunions on the farm when Caroline was small — attended Iowa State University, married my grandfather and raised three daughters. She was a life member of the Girl Scouts of America and was at one time the president of the Girl Scouts DuPage County Council. Most of her adult life was spent in the suburbs of Chicago, although my grandfather’s work took them to the Washington, D.C., area for a time.

I remember watching the 1976 summer Olympics sitting on the living room floor of their apartment there, and I remember my grandmother volunteering to stay with me while the rest of the family climbed to the top of the Washington Monument, something I was quite vocal about not wanting to do. Maybe she didn’t want to climb the stairs either; maybe she was just being kind.

Years ago, she wrote a short autobiography called “For My Children’s Children,” talking mostly about her early life on the farm. It was photocopied and spiral bound and distributed to members of the family.

Family connections are important. The Bible tells us that every time there is a list of “begats” as long as your arm. It’s telling you where these people came from and how they are all tied together.

I was fortunate to know all four of my grandparents into my own adulthood, to get to know them a bit and see them as more than faces from old photographs. My Grandma Diamond was the last one living, and I miss that thread to the past.

But when I put on my socks, I think of her.


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