Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Openly Weeping Appreciation for Helpers

The other day I took my little brother Ed out to lunch for his birthday. He was born when I was in the 7th grade.

My mom was 42, I believe, when she had Ed, her final child. She was also teaching at the same junior high I attended. I found out that my mom gave birth to a baby along with all my fellow junior high classmates and faculty. The announcement came over the intercom system:

"Attention: Mrs. Christenson had a baby boy this morning. Congratulations to Mr. Lynch."


A few seconds later, "I mean, Mr. Lynch won the faculty pool guessing when Mrs. Christenson would have her baby."

I loved the faculty at West Minico! They were a bunch of crack-ups!

During lunch, I told Ed that we'd hired a babysitter to watch the girls for a few hours a day. Kulani found a job outside the home, so we needed extra help.

Paula, my babysitter, is AMAZING! The first time I came home and saw how much she'd helped, I fell on my bed and weeped with joy. Literally weeped.

Everyday I come home she's done something more. She does my laundry. She cleans my room. The other day she cleaned out my fridge! Occassionally she'll have a lunch waiting for me.

And she's great with the kids, too. Once I quit my job, I have to figure out some way to keep her on to show me how she does it all.

I know, I know: More than anything else I've ever written on this blog (not my one-eyed dog Jesse or the cat who gets shut up in rooms, so he paws through the carpet all night), you are jealous of my sweet Paula. I'm jealous for you. I tell her everyday, "What can I do for you, Paula, because you do SO much for me?" I want to pay her $50/hour. I don't pay her that, but I'd like to.

So I was telling all this to Ed, and this story, of course, conjured up our memories of Grandma Pete.

Who was Grandma Pete?

Grandma Pete was the Christenson version of Alice from The Brady Bunch. (I don't have to explain Alice to my readers.) In fact, Grandma Pete's real name was Alice (Peterson), but she insisted that we call her Grandma Pete.

She was at least 70 years old when she started working for our family. She'd say that Mom giving her the job was a great blessing straight from Heavenly Father. But really, she was the huge blessing in our lives.

I'm embarrassed to think of some of the things I thought about her, so I won't write about those. She was a bit feisty and a touch cranky, but now that I'm older, I've realized that about 75 percent of people get that way in their older years.

How does that old saying go, "I'm now old enough to not be afraid of expressing my opinion, but now I'm too old for anyone to take me seriously." Grandma Pete wasn't afraid to share her opinion.

For example, she didn't want me wearing makeup until I was 18. My mom let me start wearing makeup whenever I felt like I wanted to start, which was about 9th grade. So every morning when I'd put on makeup, Grandma Pete would give me a frown and a head shake.

But these aren't the memories I want to share about Grandma Pete. Let me back up a moment and tell you a little bit about Grandma Pete's life.

Grandma Pete was married to Grandpa Pete, Al Peterson. He must have been 10 years her senior, but you wouldn't know it to look at them. They'd both lived rather difficult lives. He was much more cantankerous than even Grandma Pete.

They never had children of their own, but they raised five children. My memory is hazy on this one, but a close relative, maybe a sister or brother, died in a car accident, and Alice and Al took the children in as their own.

Al was a farmer, I believe, out near Emerson, a small farming community outside of Paul, which was outside Burley, which is about one hour from the Utah border. Utah? It's in the western United States. Oh, now you know where it is.

Grandma Pete took care of all five of those young children. Later, she took care of some of the grandchildren. She also watched another lady's adult child who was severely mentally and physically handicapped.

Grandma Pete was born to take care of children. And she seemed to love doing it.

When Grandma Pete started working for us, I was in the 5th grade. The youngest child was Wayne. He was just a baby. Grandma Pete also watched Mary for half a day (because she was in kindergarten) and Hetty, who must have been about 3 or 4.

And then my parents had Ed, and Grandma Pete watched him until Ed was in 1st grade. So all total, Grandma Pete was with us for nine years.

Ed told me during our lunch that he thought Grandma Pete was his grandma. Us older kids were always bugged that she insisted we call her Grandma Pete.

"She's not our grandma," I thought. I feel really bad about that now.

When Ed found out she wasn't our real grandma, he was deeply saddened. It was like he found out he'd been adopted.

"But I love Grandma Pete. She must be my grandma!"

And Grandma Pete loved Ed. I think she loved Ed more than any of the rest of the kids she watched.

She would hide things from Ed to see if he would find them throughout the day. Once my dad found a couple of Pepsis in his shoes because Ed hadn't found his treat that day.

As soon as Grandma Pete walked through our doors at 1911 Q Street in Heyburn, she would get to work. She'd help my dad make breakfast. She would start cleaning up dishes. She would start a load of laundry.

Do you know she did our laundry every weekday (excluding summers when my mom was home from teaching)? Can you imagine doing laundry for a household of about 10-11? (A little Christenson fact: We never had all 10 children living under one roof at one time. Either Doug was away on his mission when Ed was born, or when he came back, Amy was gone to college.)

Every day there was more laundry, and lots of it. And she'd do it all. Even fold it and put it into piles for each chld.

Our only job was to take our pile down to our rooms and put it in our drawers. We rarely even got that right. (But between you and me, doesn't every mother know that actually putting the clothes away IS the hardest part about doing laundry? That and the folding, I mean.)

And she'd vaccuum, clean the kitchen, and on very rare occassions, she'd make a lemon meringue pie that was really tasty.

I know my mom appreciated Grandma Pete immensely. Now that I'm a mother, I understand that appreciation on a whole new level. Appreciate is something you put on a thank you card: what my mom felt (and what I feel for Paula) is deep gratitude and indebtedness.

After Ed started first grade, Grandma Pete went downhill pretty quickly. She passed away a year later.

Perhaps she needed to be needed. If so, she picked working for a family who truly needed her.


Emily said...

Really good post, Cindy. I liked it a lot. I laughed out loud about you finding out about your brother's birth over the PA. :)

Christensen's Craziness said...

Having good help is the best friend to the working mom. I do not know what I would do without Brian, who helps with Mason

VaLene Hulme said...

What a sweet post. I wish I had had a Paula or a Grandma Pete when my kids were young. You can tell from the name alone that Grandma Pete was quite a character. Amazing that your mom worked outside the home with so many kids. What a trooper.

Darby said...

Cindy - I'm hoping you see this message fairly soon. I married Rachelle Olaveson - Wayne and Utahana's youngest daughter. We are trying to find your Mom and Dads mailing address to send them a Christmas card. If you get this, could I have you email that to me?

kds @ ida . net (no spaces)

Thank you - Darby

Morkthefied said...

Sure thing, Darby. I'll send it in an e-mail today.

Angela said...

Where's the like button?