Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Passing Of The Torch - A Tribute to My Grandmother

Vivian Brown Roberts  June 8, 1914- August 25, 2012

Last Saturday my paternal grandmother passed away at the age of 98.
We all went to New Jersey on  Wednesday for her funeral service and to say our final farewells.
She was the eldest of 4 children and the last one to pass away.
She suffered a debilitating stroke in Nov of 2002 but really didn't start to decline until 5-6 years later.
In these photos,  our last visit together, she had just had surgery for a skin cancer on her nose.
Pictured are 5 generations
Vivian Brown Roberts
Edgar Roberts
Laura Roberts Twiford
Lindsay Twiford Fuller
Savannah Fuller

This was 5 years ago and she had started to become confused about knowing who everyone was and not as engaged, and everyone commented how lucid she was that day, responding to our granddaughter Savannah and making the connection between me, my daughter and granddaughter.
It was a happy memory and one I will cherish.

My grandmother had a large influence on me in many ways.
While I can only ever remember her teaching me a few things, it was more what I always saw her doing that made me who I am today.
First of all, her and my grandfather lived in the same house most of their life. It is where my father and aunts were raised and where we stayed as children when being cared for by her.
She was a good homemaker and always cooked.
There were many family celebrations in that house, lots of wedding and baby showers, my Aunt's wedding reception, birthday's and holidays.
At Christmas, they always had a huge real tree going to the 12 foot ceiling, filled with handmade, antique and vintage family ornaments and real leaded tinsel that got hung and then carefully put away again for the next year. My grandfather would setup the train around the tree complete with village and figures which would keep us young children entertained while the grownups visited.
There was a walkin pantry in the kitchen that always seemed to me to be a magical place but not one we were allowed to go into very often.
The attic was too, but it was a rare occurrence to get up there.
It is where he died in 1995 and where she was cared for my Aunt for the past 10 years until her death last week.
Their house is filled with family heirlooms, antiques, collections, family history and many handmade items by both.
They saved everything.
Except, my father will tell you quickly, some of his things, such as a comic book collection of untold value. He also tells me there are baby food jars in the basement from when I was a baby.

My grandfather was a woodworker, creating pieces on a lathe ( as my father does now), restoring furniture and making wooden toys for some of the grandkids. He kept accurate records of the family tree and always shared stories of all the connections.
I have a candle stand and blanket rack both of which he made from a cherry tree out back that we used to pick cherries from and a quilt frame he built for me when I was embarking on my quilting career.

My grandmother was a needlearts woman.
She knitted, crocheted, did crewel, needlepoint, embroidery, hand hooked punch needle rugs and made exquisite quilts.
I used to love to go over when the big quilting frame was setup with a new quilt she would be finishing. I loved to see how the different fabrics were put together to create such beauty.
One such quilt she was working on right before I got married. It was the pattern North Carolina Lily, in pinks and greens with feather plumes for the quilting stitches, all of my favorites, my husband is from N.C and I just KNEW this was going to be for us. But sadly it wasn't, as a matter of fact i do not have a quilt from my grandmother and no one seems to know what became of that quilt once finished.

She sewed most of her clothes and even made my junior cotillion gown.
She liked crafts of all varieties, from making orange and clove pomanders at the holidays to painting plaster houses, handrolling paper strips into beads, making bread dough flowers, fancy Easter eggs and christmas ornaments.
For years it seemed to me she was always learning to do something new and fun.
Whenever she came to babysit, she always had a project with her to keep busy.
She never went to a class, on a retreat or sold her work.
She just enjoyed what she did and made gifts for everyone.
I have a beautiful afghan, some flannel blankets and clothes from when my children were born.

She was an avid gardener and took great pride in her yard, bushes and flowers.
She enjoyed nature and watching the birds at her feeders.
And she loved jewelry, especially heirloom pieces and fine handmade pieces and old southwest.

She tried when I was younger, to teach me to knit, I wanted to make myself a scarf, I quit when it was large enough for a barbie blanket. Still have it.
She also taught me to do macrame when it was cool the first time around, in the early 70's, that i took to, making a belt complete with wooden beads, bracelets and a few other things, wish I still had those.
She gave me my first piece of real jewelry, a gold birthstone ring with a pink tourmaline stone in it when I was about 7, still have that, and she gave me my first silver charm bracelet and would add charms when they went away, mostly of sealife, still have that.

They provided me with my nursing education and even helped Ray and I with a loan to help cover the down payment when we purchased the restaurant 27 years ago.
Education, hard work, saving and stability were very important to them.

In looking back , it is very apparent to me how much they influenced who I became.
Now I guess it's my turn, to carry on the traditions and hopefully influence my grandchildren in positive ways, sharing my skills and knowledge, fueling their creativity.

I have saved everything, continue on a path of lifelong learning, am living in our house 29 years this year,
I hopefully provided my children with a good education and stable home, sharing family history and the importance of all these values.

I have a huge walkin pantry that all the kids, from my own children to nephews and granchildren are very much allowed to go into and treat themselves, I pull old toys out of the attic for them to play with and I have encouraged them to dabble and try everything I have ever learned to do.
I made everyone in my family at one time or another a quilt as a gift, now it's on to the grandchildren.
As we speak, i have patterns for making some clothes with my granddaughter.

While it wasn't their way to openly demonstrate a lot of affection or to tell you how they felt, I'd like to think they saw and knew these things were important to me,
and hopefully I made them proud.


  1. She sounded like an amazing woman, truly how lucky you were to have her influence and participation in your life. She was so creative and it is no doubt in my mind that it has carried through the generations to you. What wonderful memories to share with your own family. So sorry to hear of this loss in your life.

  2. Laura I am so sorry for your loss - what an incredible woman!

  3. Thanks for sharing a piece of your life. Sorry for your loss.

  4. I'm so very sad, but so very happy she lived 98 years! What a wonderful amount of life she's seen!

  5. Laura, I'm sending you my deepest condolences for the loss of your dear Grandmother. I was really sorry to hear your news. Just reading your post though I can see what an incredibly rich life she lived, and how she left her mark on her family in so many ways. What a treasure these photos are - so many generations. This is so rare to see, and is such a gift. Reading about your Grandmother really reminded me of my own - they were born the same year and had so much in common! It was amazing reading your account - from the home-cooked food to her love of handicrafts. There is no doubt she passed on many talents to you and to your children and Grandchildren. And I had to smile reading about your life now - you totally do strike me as a Grandma with an open pantry! :-) You really welcome everyone in to your life with open arms and you have a way of making people feel so special. I know your Grandmother was so proud of you! You truly do carry the torch in many ways.

  6. Laura, I am sorry for your loss, but what a beautifully written tribute to your Grandmother, thanks for sharing! See you soon. Hugs Sandi

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