GRANDMOTHER FILBRUN WAS A NICE GRANDMOTHER
Memory by Mildred Filbrun Heck
My first clear memory of Grandmother
Caroline Filbrun was on a warm summer day in about 1918.
Our family (the Ed Filbrun’s) and Uncle Will Filbrun’s family
were in the small village of New Carlisle, Ohio, helping Grandmother move
into another house. It was
just two blocks from where she had lived with Grandfather Peter Filbrun
until his death a few years earlier.
On this moving day her furniture was piled on to a
flat wagon and pulled by the men and pushed by the boys down the street
and around the corner to the new house.
The women carried by hand or pushed in a wheelbarrow the breakable
lamps and china. Grandmother
Filbrun had a large wicker baby buggy with high wheels and even it was
pressed into use. I was told
to push the buggy piled full of pillows and bed linen down the sidewalk to
the new house.
I was a very shy kid then, only four or five years
old, and was scared to death I would let the buggy tip over pushing it
down the cracked, buckling sidewalk - or worse, that I would get lost!
I was too short to see over the mounds of bedding on the buggy so I
had to steer by watching the pavement under my feet.
At the same time, I was trying to keep up with my older brother,
Bob, and my cousins carrying household items. What an odd-looking parade
we must have been!
When noontime came, everyone sat on the porch of
Grandmother’s new house and ate from the big baskets that my mother, Sue
Filbrun, and Aunt Ida Filbrun had brought along. I remember we had fried chicken, bread and butter sandwiches,
fresh tomatoes, crunchy radishes, milk and homemade cookies.
All of this was great fun and exciting for a farm girl – even
though I probably was too shy to say a single word the whole day.
I looked over the new place from top to carriage
house. I remember best the
middle living room of the house that had a door with a pretty frosted
glass pane that opened to the side porch.
This room had a large baseburner stove and was the only really warm
room in the house when winter came. To
the rear of the house there was an outhouse and a small carriage barn with
enough space for a buggy and a stable for a horse and milk cow, but
Grandmother only used the barn to keep a few laying hens.
It must have been hard for Grandmother Filbrun, who had lived the first 70 of her 75 years on a farm, to get used to this small yard with such limited garden space. But with time and hard work (and fresh manure provided early each spring from either my father’s farm or Uncle Will’s farm) her garden thrived and grew to the full length of the small yard. I remember horseradish, rhubarb, strawberry, potato, tomato, peas, beans, parsnips, cabbage, leaf lettuce and oyster root plants and the fragrant-smelling herbs. I can never forget her sweet pea vines growing on the fence. (She gave me seeds from them to take home to plant.) Grandmother always had a row of zinnias that she cut for table flowers. A climbing pink rose grew beautifully on a trellis by her porch.
Grandmother loved her garden and planted her seeds faithfully by
instructions given in the Farmer’s Almanac – and always in the correct
sign of the moon. I recall
one evening that she left her dining room still filled with family who
were just finishing supper. Taking
me with her out into the dark night, I was told to hold an oil lantern
close to the ground as Grandmother directed while she carefully dropped
and covered a straight row of seed peas.
At Christmas-time Grandmother always reminded me that she was expecting
my visit for four days the next summer – a visit to which each of her
granddaughters was treated separately during the summer. As
summer approached, I so looked forward to my visit “in the city”.
Grandmother Filbrun was full of fun and laughter, though her
earlier life must have been little more than long hours of work and
hardship. Being the youngest daughter, her mother had wanted her to
stay home to work rather than marry Grandfather.
But she had married, and took on raising seven children – two
others had died in childbirth – and helped run a farm.
Yet here she was, happy and at ease, giving me her full attention
on these visits when she was in her late seventies and early eighties.
Each morning, at the breakfast table, we talked about what we would have for lunch and supper. I felt so grown-up, getting to help choose. We picked something fresh from her garden. We watered the vegetables and flowers before it got too hot. We made the beds and washed the dishes. During my earliest visits I had to stand on a chair to put the dishes away in the tall, cherry corner cupboard.
If Grandmother worried that I would break her dishes, she never let
on. Of course, these were all
chores I had done at home, but somehow Grandmother Filbrun made them seem
important and fun at the same time.
Then we would take a stroll “up-town”, just two
blocks away. New Carlisle’s
shopping area was at that time just one block long with stores on both
sides of the street. We took
lots of time looking through that wonderful five-and-dime store.
We went each day to the bakeshop where I got to choose the cookies
I wanted for supper, as well as a donut for my next day’s breakfast. After that, we stopped at the best place of all – the ice
cream parlor with its small, round marble-topped tables and wire chairs
with wooden seats. Each day
we had a different ice cream treat with a topping of marshmallow,
chocolate or butterscotch. This
was pure heaven as far as this little farm girl was concerned.
For supper, we ate a sandwich of cold meat, cheese and fresh
lettuce, garden tomatoes and cookies and milk.
After supper we spent the evening on the front porch swing calling,
“Hello”, to neighbors and talking to the folks who walked by.
And, best of all, Grandmother told me stories and laughed a lot.
Grandmother Filbrun belonged to the local Old Order
Brethren Church. It was a
stricter, more conservative order than the one my family went to in West
Charlestown, Ohio. Because of
that, Grandmother wore full-length dark dresses with long sleeves.
Each had a high neckline with only a small white lace collar for
working around the house, she opened three or four of the top buttons on
her dress and rolled up her sleeves, but she never did this while outside. Grandmother complained that those clothes were too hot and
she did not like them at all, but it never would have occurred to her to
break the church’s rules, as many of her children had.
One day the church would be more modern and ease its ways, she
said, but she did not live to see that change.
Grandmother was a fine and fast quilt maker and made a quilt for every one of her granddaughters by the time each was ten years old. She encouraged me to sew and embroider pretty towels and pillowcases. Grandmother said I should get my Hope Chest started, as was the custom for girls then in preparation for marriage. When I was 14 I finally did get a real wooden Hope Chest and I proudly put Grandmother’s quilt and other things I had made into it. But the chest and all that was inside was destroyed when our farm home burned down in 1940. I was especially sorry to lose Grandmother’s hand-made quilt on which she had embroidered my name and birth date.
Grandmother Filbrun was gone long before that fire. She died in 1931 at the age of 87 and joined Grandfather Peter Filbrun in the New Carlisle Cemetery. Their last resting-places are well marked by a strikingly beautiful rose-colored granite marker. Especially appropriate is the long-stemmed rose that is carved in the stone by their names. Grandmother Caroline Filbrun loved flowers, so I think she would have approved the unchurch-like decoration and even overlooked – maybe even laughed at – the misspelled name “Filbrum” that remains to this day on the head stone.
The word “nice” has become so over-used that it is almost meaningless today. But in Grandmother Filbrun’s day “nice” still meant “pleasant, kind, good-natured, fine, sensitive” and related especially to “a job well-done.” In those meanings, Grandmother Caroline Filbrun was truly a Nice Grandmother.
story has been edited and biographical information added by Mrs. Heck’s
brother, William S. Filbrun -
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