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(The pictures are the link for the other sections)
Revised 20 April 2011
I remember, more than anything else about Grandma Pickrel, the smell of her soap. It as a cross between some sort of fruit and the decay of old age.
The people in this photo, left to right, are Jane Pickrel (my mother); Raymond Pickrel (my stepfather), Deforest H Pickrel (my step grandfather); Esther Kellenbarger (nee Pickrel - my favorite Aunt Patty); Charlotte Lucinda Boone Pickrel (Grandma Pickrel); Ruth Pickrel (Aunt Ruth); Ellery Pickrel (Uncle Pick); Baby is Dennis Pickrel, their son; and Bob Pickrel, their eldest son. The children in the front row are my sister, Carol, my stepbrother, Don and the brat in the pigtails is me. This photo was taken at Uncle Pick's farm, just outside of Emerson, Iowa.
Grandma's favorite flower grew proficiently on a bush outside her front door. She called it a Piney bush (peony to you). Grandma was not an educated woman, but she was a good mother to her children. I remember her as being somewhat remote from us as children. She never quite forgave my father for divorcing his first wife, even though that wife was the cause of the divorce.
Grandma was born, Charlotte Lucinda Boone, the youngest of 6 children born to Edward and Jane Boone. Jane died when Charlotte was only a small child. Her father took the five sons and went west to the wilderness to seek his fortune, but he felt inadequate to the task of raising a small girl in such a wild and untamed place, so left her with relatives in Missouri. These relatives later adopted her and raised her as their own. Being left behind like this colored Charlotte's entire view of men. She commented once that her father left her behind because she was only a girl and took the boys with him, a fact she resented her entire life.
When we would visit her, as children, she would sit us down with a pair of scissors and a pile of magazines and catalogues and we would pass the time cutting out the pictures and making them into paper dolls. We always sat in the family room, the parlor being reserved for special guests and the holidays. There was always a jar of lemon sugar cookies on a shelf in the kitchen for the children. Grandma always cooked on an old fashioned cook stove and it was there that I first learned how to bake. She would fire up that stove in the morning and it would remain lit the entire day and be allowed to cool in the evenings. On summer days, it drove us out of the house.
Grandma always home canned her fruits and vegetables to get them through the winter. One of her best and most fought over dishes was her special tomato relish. It was an old family recipe and she would never share it with anyone. When she passed, it went to the only girl in the family who was of the blood line, my cousin Charlotte and her namesake. One of the highlights in her life was the day that they moved the outside pump into the kitchen sink so that she could have running water in the winter. She never did give in to allow a gas stove though as she feared it would explode, although she later allowed the old pump to be exchanged for a cold water faucet. All hot water was heated in a reservoir at the side of the kitchen stove and on Saturday nights, everybody took a bath in the old galvanized tub in the kitchen, whether they needed it or not, with Grandpa, as head of the house, having the first bath, then Grandma, and down through the children, according to age.
For all that Grandma was something of prickles and thorns, my grandfather loved her deeply. For all the years since she has been gone, I can still think of her and remember that unique smell of the soap. It was an aroma that permeated the house and embedded itself in my memory. I can smell it as clearly now, in memory, as ever it was in her lifetime, along with her Christmas popcorn balls, the aroma of ripening Concord grapes in the garden and the fragrance of sweet country air.