At Grandma Ruby’s home on the farm, you never used the front door. Everyone was drawn to the back door, even salesmen.
The back of the white frame house was cozy and inviting. Plants, large and small, a porch swing painted white, a brick patio that she herself had laid. I can imagine her–stooping over in her homemade print dress, tan lisle stockings, and sensible black shoes–arranging the bricks on a bed of sand. In spite of her ample girth, she always bent straight over rather than stooping.
When you knocked at the back door, Grandma’s falsetto echoed from the kitchen, “Come in!” She’d greet you, wiping her hands on her cross-stitched apron. Mornings you’d catch her kneading bread dough or baking a pie or thickening a batch of apple butter. Afternoons, as likely as not, she’d be stitching on a quilt–Double Wedding Ring, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, and Dahlia Star Flower being favorites–using scraps from sewing dresses and aprons and curtains and work shirts.
Once a salesman came to the back door. He noticed a large cactus in a clay pot on the patio. Taller than it was round, it had a flock of little prickly bumps clinging to it, especially around its base. It reminded you of a mother hen with its chicks.
“That’s a mighty nice plant there,” he opened the conversation. “What is it?”
“Oh, mercy. It’s just a cactus.” Ruby chuckled, adjusting her wire rimmed glasses.
“You wouldn’t sell it, would you?”
“Oh, my.” She absently pushed a wavy brown hairpin into the gray strands that were wound around her head.
“How much would you take for it?”
She had other cacti started–plucked from the mother plant, growing in their own pots. “Oh, a dollar.”
The salesman was pleased with his bargain. And Grandma was pleased with hers.
I ended up with one of these heirlooms, which traveled with us from state to state. For years it spent summers on our patio made (not by me) from Redfield Pavers. It spent winters in the basement, just like Grandma’s used to. I’d start cactus chicks in their own pots, just like she did. I wish I still had one, descended from Grandma Ruby’s from the farm.
Ruby Blohm was my only grandparent to earn a high school diploma. Dexter High School 1916. She was also my first ancestor to play basketball in high school!