…about my grandmother.

i’ll always treasure the delicate care that my grandma Helen invested in making me peanut butter toast as a little girl. each morning, when she would care for my brother and i while my parents were working, she would perform the same ritual for me. she’d gingerly remove the bread, always white, from the colorful packaging. she’d ensure, two times over, that the toaster’s heat setting was precisely marked between not-done-enough and too-done; i never liked my toast to be too soft or too crunchy, and she knew this.

after the toaster made the bread pop up like a child’s toy, my grandmother would take the toast and walk, peanut butter jar in hand (always Skippy), to the kitchen table, the eating surface that had fed nine children. she’d confidently, yet carefully take the unsharpened serated edge of her knife with the silvery scroll detail on the handle, and she’d slide the edge of her knife across the butter dish that always resided on the table, gathering justtt enough butter onto her knife. while the toast was still warm, she’d then scrape the perimeter of the toast, edge to edge, careful not to leave globs of yellowy butter anywhere (i’d complain at the sight of any buttery chunks). then, as her final effort, she’d twist open the jar of Skippy, plunge the same knife into the blue-labeled container, and evenly sweep the smooth peanut butter across the toast, right on top of the butter, which had melted, by now, into the bread, becoming part of it. she’d slice the toast in half, place it on a paper towel, and smile at me with her kind, genuine eyes that always seemed to capture the light, just enough to leave a little glimmer in the midst of her blue irises.

i’ve tried to duplicate this delicious combination of butter and peanut butter for my own children, but i can never get it just right.

* * *

at 88 years old, my grandmother has witnessed and endured much in her lengthy life. a South Dakota farm girl through and through, her life began in the Great Depression. though her family had meager means, God was steadfast in His provision.

she met my grandfather, Vince, a John Deere farming boy, in a small, rural town in South Dakota, and they went on to raise nine children together. as a child, my cousins and i used to quiz each other on the birth order of our many aunts and uncles.

after my grandpa passed away when i was ten years old, leaving behind all nine of his children, numerous grandchildren, and his wife of nearly 45 years, my family and i moved back home from Missouri to be closer to family. while my grandmother and i shared a tender, cultivated bond when i was a little girl, she and i built upon this in my teenage years, mostly through music.

my grandmother’s piano prowess has been the soundtrack to much of my life, but most especially as a young child. when the holiday season arrived, together with the massive throng of my aunts and uncles, hearty Norwegian voices caroled in union. i’d stare across living rooms cluttered with discarded piles of red and green wrapping paper – the treasures beneath long since revealed – and clutching a crinkled, aged song booklet in my hands, i’d sing “Silent Night” alongside my cousins, not yet imagining that this old, beloved tune would, one day, be my oldest son’s most requested bedtime melody.

after we moved home from Missouri, i began playing the flute, and my participation in the school band often necessitated piano accompaniment for solo performances. my grandmother’s companionship in these performances, typically highly stressful for me, was a salve to my nerves, a testament to her overall role in my life.

* * *

my grandmother’s health is beginning to fade. at her age, she is still in quite remarkable shape, yet her health challenges has rendered her reticent to drive and reliant on continuous oxygen support. her children, my father and my aunts and my uncles, are diligent caretakers, yet i can see that slowly, her zest for life and her ability to thrive is fading as her limitations stack higher.

i attended a soup and pie supper at my grandma’s church recently, and when i returned home, i quickly wrapped myself into Jordan’s arms.

“she looks so frail,” i said, quietly. “i don’t know how to do this without her.”

“do what?” Jordan asked, his voice tender and soft.

“life,” i replied. and the tears began to fall.

* * *

i write this in an effort to soak in all that my grandmother is and will always be to me. i remain grateful for every moment that i share with her, and that she spends in the company of my children, who adore her. thank you for indulging me!

{photo credit – Creative Kindling}

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I’m Magen


Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. 

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