Heritage Sketch: Grandpa Lowell

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You grew up as the third oldest of twelve. Needless to say your house was crowded and at times chaotic, with twelve rambunctious kids vying for attention, space, and food. When you got married at eighteen you had a massive growth spurt because you suddenly had more than enough to eat.

Your family is enormously artistic. At our family reunions everyone contributes things they’ve created to an auction in order to finance the reunion. Your main mediums are photography and wood turning. You make the most gorgeous wooden bowls and decorative trees to sell at galleries and give as gifts.

Sometimes you stay quiet and in the background of conversations, but if the subject changes to something you’re passionate about the floodgates open, and you talk and talk and talk. Your favorite topics are probably art and food, which are also interests of mine. You love to tell me insider details about your wood turning, especially when the pieces are made from trees on our property.

For eighteen years you dug graves at a cemetery for a living. It was backbreaking work, but you enjoyed spending such a large portion of your days outside. You love the great outdoors and some of your favorite activities include feeding the birds, taking nature photography, and gardening.

You have the highest tolerance for spicy food of anyone I’ve ever met. We’ve all learned to not believe you when you tell us, “just try it, it’s not too spicy.” You love canning hot pickles that only increase in temperature as they sit in the jar, and experimenting with ingredient ratios to create the perfect fiery salsa.

For the holidays you often smoke a turkey, and it’s quite the process. You carefully select ingredients, some common such as sage and cumin, and others less common such as sliced lemons and molasses. You even choose specific types of wood (maple, apple, and cherry) to build the fire in the smoker. No wonder our turkeys always have such incredible flavor!

I love your smoked turkey, but even more importantly, I love you and can’t wait to see you in 3 short days!

Heritage Sketch: Grandma Mina

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When you were nine, your family moved from Idaho to Florida. You loved playing in the swamp near your home until one day, your Dad found out, and took you to the swamp at dusk. He shined a flashlight into the wetland to reveal gleaming alligator eyes. Needless to say you never played in the swamp again.

Between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights Movement the climate in Florida was tense to say the least. One day you and your Mom were sitting on your front porch when you heard a rumbling sound the next block over. You went to investigate and discovered flatbed trucks casually carrying missiles through the town. Shortly thereafter you moved back to Idaho.

You always wanted to be an archeologist, but the school counselor told you that your family was too poor to afford college so you should just take office classes in high school and become a secretary. I have always wondered how your life would’ve been different if you had pursued archeology. You did have a lot of interesting jobs, from monitoring the border between Canada and Idaho, to working with troubled boys at a boarding school, to writing commercials for a radio station, but I still wish you would’ve had the chance to live out your dream. In your willingness to put a positive spin on any situation, however, you always say you wouldn’t have been able to handle the heat of archeological digs anyway.

Within a month of graduating high school you married your high school sweetheart. You had my dad at eighteen, and he had me at twenty-two, and the scant forty years between us has allowed us to become very close. You and I have discussed at great length how similar we are. I can’t think of someone I would rather look and be like.

You are one of the most selfless people I know. Out of the overflow of your heart you continually take stray animals and wayward boys into your home. You even took in Abby, the meanest of mean cats. Oh Abby, cornering us in the bedrooms and swatting at our legs as we walked by. But you and Grandpa loved her, and that was what mattered.

Your craft room has always been one of my happy places with it’s golden walls and overflowing jars of buttons and drawers of stamps. Some of my best memories with you involve sun-speckled afternoons sitting at the big table, making cards and talking about our deepest fears and longings. I’ll miss that craft room, but I’m you glad you finally get to move back out into a cabin in the woods.

As we always tell each other, I love you to the moon and back! I can’t wait to see you in 10 short days!

Heritage Sketch: Grandpa Ron

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You and I grew up in very different times and very different homes. You have two older sisters, and often commiserate with my little brother on just how bossy big sisters can be. Your home was not the most loving of environments, and as such you spent much of your childhood outside, freely roaming your hometown. On hot summer days, you and your cousin Don loved to ride your bikes off the end of the dock into Lake Coeur d’ Alene. In your teen years, you spent most of your time at the hoops on the lakefront, playing basketball with your buddies in your black hightop converse.

Our different upbringings have shaped us to see the world through vastly different lenses, and as such, we sometimes butt heads. However, I’m realizing that despite our clashes, deep down we share some remarkable similarities.

You thrive when your life is orderly and structured, and I also function dramatically better when I get to follow a routine. For you, every morning at 10AM sharp is cookie time. If you’re not going to be at home at 10AM, you always plan ahead and bring cookies with you. And then, every afternoon, shortly before dinner, it’s chips and salsa time. Chips and salsa time is especially fun if we’re camping because you like to buy funky chips for us to try. One of your staple favorites is pork rinds, and, because of your influence, I am also a fan of pork rinds. (Yes, I know what pork rinds are made of, but I choose not to think about it.)

From you I inherited my insatiable desire to explore. You spent quite a few years of your life working for the US Forest Service, and as such, explored the woods of North Idaho for a living.You and grandma often take off in your travel trailer to see new parts of the country, and you’re also better than anyone I know at being a tourist in your own city.

I have many memories of riding in the back of your big grey truck to go on adventures. The cousins and dogs would pile into the back, fighting over who got to sit on the box and singing at the top of our lungs as we drove up the mountain to pick huckleberries on Deer Ridge. You would always back us right up to the edge of the gravel switchback when parking, making us shriek with fear. There was that time you got pulled over for having us in the back and talked your way out of a ticket. You’re good at that. One of the mantras you live by is “some rules are meant to be bent while others are meant to be broken.” But you never put us in danger.

The cab of your truck always contains three things: old gatorade bottles filled with water, road atlases of the Pacific Northwest, and a blue plastic box with a broken lid full of hard candy. The first is because you, like me, always like to be prepared. The second is also indicative of something we share – a love of maps. And the third is something you are never without – sweets. You always bring candy on hikes and bike rides to distribute at the halfway point. You have a special affinity for Mexican candy because it reminds you of the many missions trips you led to Chihuahua City, Mexico. But your all-time favorite hard candy is Atomic Fireballs. When I was younger, I was always too scared to try them, but one day I finally took the plunge, and they quickly became my favorite as well. When I left for college my freshman year, you gave me a ziplock bag of Atomic Fireballs to remind me of home. I purposefully rationed them so I could eat them on particularly hard days and think of you.

And now I get to see you so soon! Only 18 more days until I get to come home and have more adventures with you!