From December 1997 to July 2000 I was the police and court reporter for The Manhattan Mercury — the daily newspaper in Manhattan, Kansas (aka the Little Apple). Besides covering crime, I also had to submit a column for the paper’s “Off the Beat” section on a regular basis.
I captured some great memories about my grandmother Loy Cornelison (my dad’s mom) in one column. Grandma passed away on July 7, 2007 — I always say my Grandpa who passed away years earlier and was a big gambler won with lucky 7s when he was reunited with his sweetheart on 7-7-07. As my aunts, uncles, cousins and parents were going through Grandma’s belongings after her death we came across this column as well as several other articles I wrote over the years. Talk about a trip down memory lane. Below is the column as published in The Manhattan Mercury in December 1999:
Lately, I’ve been spending more time with my grandmother.
She lives about an hour north of Manhattan in a little country town in Marshall County called Vermillion. She lives in the same white two-story home that I used to go to when I visited her and my Grandpa as a child during the summer.
Growing up in the Kansas City area, I was always mesmerized with the small town atmosphere. While the town doesn’t have much in the way of business – mostly a cafe – I always thought, and still do, that it has much more to offer than big cities.
There’s the local cafe where Timmy Lee always had a cold soda waiting, and on up the street banker Harold McClary would give out gum shaped like a treasure coin.
There’s the old rusted-out wagon in which my cousins and I used to take turns pushing each other along the cracked sidewalks out in front Grandma and Grandpa’s home. Of course, no grandchild could forget the junk drawer in Grandma’s kitchen filled with everything imaginable – from Yo-Yo’s and coloring books to play soldiers and bouncy balls.
I still periodically look through the junk drawer when visiting Grandma just to see if anything has changed. It’s funny to look through old coloring books and find pages that I scribbled on as a child.
There were evenings Grandpa, Grandma and I would load up into the car to play bingo in a nearby town, or Grandma would teach me how to crochet or sew.
Sometimes we’d watch a parade stroll down Main Street. And other times Grandma would dig out a play tea set and dolls, and my cousin and I would have a tea party.
When there wasn’t anything else to do, I’d pull out Grandma’s stuffed monkey George. The stuffed monkey was a favorite among the grandchildren.
While some things have changed over the years in Vermillion, it’s pretty much the same town I visited as a child – although Grandpa is no longer there. He passed away several years ago.
Nowadays on my visit to Grandma’s house, Grandma tells me stories about when she was growing up, or about the early years of her and Grandpa’s marriage. We sometimes go to lunch together at a little country diner not too far away, or stay at home and nibble on homemade goodies.
We’ve searched through the family Bible where she keeps her important records, such as birth dates, marriages and deaths.
She’s dug through the filing cabinet sharing with me copies of letters my father and uncle sent while they served in Vietnam. Also in the files are poems that she wrote that depict her feelings about the war.
Grandma recently helped me sew a couple of baby blankets that I plan on giving a friend of ours who is expecting next month. She sure has a way with a needle and thread.
And she’s always eager to show me her new craft projects. Grandma has made everything from blankets, quilts and pillows to dolls, doll clothes and pot holders. The sky is the limit on crafting.
I’m especially proud of Grandma for starting a new hobby of painting. She began taking an art class this summer as a way to pass time. While Grandma has always been artistically inclines, she’s never really received any formal training.
But the art classes gave her the tools to learn the fundamentals of painting. And she has truly uncovered a special talent with her new hobby.
Grandma mostly paints wildlife scenes – they clearly show her appreciation for life and nature. Among my favorite of her works are that of a winding country stream, an old red barn, an elk and a depiction of a Native American camp.
Needless to say, I think my Grandma is pretty special and I cherish the moments we get to spend together.
While most of us will scurry off to the mall and area stores in upcoming days in search of the best gift this holiday season for friends and family members, we should stop and remember the greatest gift this holiday season isn’t sold at a store. The gift is family.