You can never have too many cardinals

March 14, 2011 | My Jottings

It appears as though my grandchildren associate cardinals with me, or (eek) me with cardinals. What word comes to mind when you think of one of your grandparents?

Here’s what comes to mind when I think of my own grandparents.

Sadly, my father’s father died before I was born, but when I think of him the word preacher comes to mind. Grandpa Neddy followed in his own father’s footsteps and was a poor pastor/preacher in a couple of Missouri hamlets back in the 1920s and 30s. One of the places was called Sudheimer.

When I think of my father’s mother, the word letters comes to mind. Grandma Julia lived her whole life in Missouri and I only saw her three times, but she wrote to me in Southern California about twice a year. Each time she would send a five dollar bill with her letter. Her shaky handwriting conveyed how fragile she had become in her eighties, and even though she wrote about people and daily events I didn’t know much about, I liked getting letters from Grandma. I remember that she would occasionally make an attempt at humor in her letters, which was suggested from her use of the word “ho” at the end of the funny sentence. Sort of like we use “ha.”

When I think of my mother’s father, the word Pledge comes to mind. Not the kind of pledge that means promise or oath, but Pledge furniture polish. Yes. Grandpa Bud was so fastidious, and believed so fiercely in taking care of the things he had (and worked hard for and paid cash for, never owing a penny to anyone) that perhaps he took it just a leetle too far sometimes. He used to go out into his garage each morning and wipe down his car with Pledge furniture polish and a soft rag. His garage was neater than most houses. I remember seeing his 1960 black Cadillac, and later his 1970 brown Buick Electra in the rain, and they had been polished with Pledge so often that rain would bead up on the cars in large, nickel-sized drops.

When I think of my mother’s mother, the word cook comes to mind. Grandma Oma loved to cook, and put every Midwestern favorite on the table frequently, and invited us over. Cream gravy and biscuits (which I never liked), bubbling fruit cobblers (which I never liked), pot roasts and potatoes (which I never liked), pies, green beans cooked in bacon grease, and fried chicken, all of which as a child I would not eat.

Apparently, when I am just a memory to my grandchildren, one of the words they’ll think of when I come to their remembrance, is cardinal. And that’s okay with me, as long as they remember the cardinal story and why these gorgeous red songbirds are so meaningful to me.

We have two sets of Magformers that we keep here at the house that all the grandchildren love to play with. Invariably, one of the grands will grab the Magformer basket when they come over, plop down on the living room carpet and begin building, sometimes for hours.

Last week my daughter Carolyn came over and brought her two youngest children with her — Vivienne (age 5) and Audrey (age 3). I love watching them play because they’re creative and lively and on this day were kind to each other and shared toys cheerfully.

Before it was time for them to go, Vivie brought me to one of the living room lamps, which has a metal base that looks like a swirl of leaves on a vine. She had built a cardinal out of the strongly magnetic Magformers, and a hanging birdhouse to go with it, and stuck them on the lamp.

Vivie is on the left and Audrey is on the right, and aren’t the cardinal and birdhouse so sweet?

You might be able to see a cardinal or two elsewhere in the photo. I’m beginning to think that when my grandchildren are grown and perhaps telling their own children about their Grandma Julie, the words they remember about me might be Jesus and cardinal. (Which would be just fine with me, because Jesus and cardinal would be so much more desirable than big butt and dithering and/or controlling and crying.)

I’m hoping they might say something like this: “My grandma believed in two things with all her heart. She believed in Jesus, and she believed you could never have too many cardinals in your house.”ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

What are some words that come to mind when you remember your own grandparents?


  1. Jeremy Dick says:

    Nice. My grandfathers: Corn on the cob/ cigarettes. My grandmothers: Zweibach/Christmas. These are the first that I think of. But thoughtful association yields: Billy Graham/baritone worship and 4-part hymns/YWAM.
    I predict that you will get a lot more cardniphernalia after this post!

  2. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Jeremy….I wish I could have known all your grandparents better.

  3. Christy says:

    Maternal grandmother….cement. She was a sculptress and made her creations out of cement. My grandfather died when I was 5 but I remember a cane and peppermints.
    Paternal grandmother….strength. An independent and strong-willed farm woman who did everything herself. My grandfather was a doctor in a tiny coal mining town in Pa. His patients paid him with chickens, jams, and baked goods.
    In my opinion, grandparents are worth more than gold. Even if you did not know them well (or at all), the family stories are a rich part of a persons inheritence.

  4. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Christy. I can see many of these traits you wrote about in you….in the best of ways. Love to you…

  5. Deb says:

    Grandma Sabina (maternal): fresh baked bread, chicken soup with homemade noodles and a coffee can of bacon grease that was always on the stove.
    Grandpa Albert (maternal): all aspects of being a successful farmer; he loved the land, all animals…. especially his appaloosa horses and what a wonderful wood worker he was.
    They both were small people (Grandpa saved lots of money because he always fit into boys shoes!) but they had the strength of giants within them and they loved the Lord.
    Thank you Julie, for presenting me with the reminder to think about them today….it brought me peace and a deep gratitude.

  6. Just Julie says:

    Your grandparents sound like they were wonderful people, Deb. I had to smile at your grandpa Albert’s shoe savings. My grandson Cullen is 8 years old and is wearing men’s shoes already. No such luck for his parents. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Carey says:

    Paternal grandparents: My strongest memory is the smell of their apartment building – a yucky food smell – like boiled cabbage and corned beef. Strange, huh?
    I remember being very frightened when we went to Chicago to visit them. Grandma was left partially paralyzed after a severe stroke and it was unsettling for a young child. My paternal grandpa – I have no memory of him.

    Grandpa Frank (maternal): wiener dogs! He always came visiting with his old, grumpy Dachshund named Binker. Grandpa acted gruff too, but he always brought a treat when he came and would steal a hug and kiss from each of us before we squirmed away!

    Grandma Rose (maternal): I can hardly type her name without crying. In many ways, she was more of a mother to me than the one I’d been born to. She epitomized love and contentment, hospitality and generosity, hope, peace, acceptance, hard work and long-suffering.
    She was my only grandparent that had a saving relationship with Christ and we spoke often of Jesus and heaven and eternity. I miss her more than words can say and can hardly wait to see her again! I’m currently writing a blog post about her entitled – A Rose like no Other.

  8. Just Julie says:

    Your Grandma Rose made up for all the rest, I think, Carey. She was an amazing woman. Even though I didn’t know her as well as you (obviously), when I think of her I think of the word “conducting” – how even unable to speak in her last hours, she heard worship music being sung around her and fully participated by conducting with her fingers. That says so much. Thank you for what you’ve shared here, Carey.

  9. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Maternal grandmother, small with her white hair which was very long curled into a bun. She was the picture of what a grandmother looks like and she lived a quarter of a mile from us in the country and we spent a lot of time at her big two story house playing dress up with the clothes that were sent from ‘out west’. Out west to us in Illinois was Kansas City. My Grandpa died from a heart attack when I was about 8 and Grandma missed him very much. My grandma lived on 180 acres and for whatever reason, she could not pay all the bills so her brother in Kansas City who was considered ‘really rich’ bought her farm and she was to live on it rent free until she died. At 68 she started a rest home and had three ladies living with her which gave her an income. Two of her sisters lived with her – neither had ever married. One was a Doctor and one of the first women Doctor’s and I loved her very much. The other was a very proper lady with purple hair that had worked in a hotel all of her life. My grandmother also adopted a baby girl and raised her. We found out later in life she was really our niece. We were too young to realize at the time that she could have never adopted a child at her age. My paternal grandmother died when I was really young but know from my dad that she loved the Lord. One Easter morning she saw in the sky a stairway to Heaven. That story always gave me happy thoughts and wish I would have known her. My paternal Grandpa was quiet and kind and lived into his 90’s. Julie, you really brought a flood of memories and they make me feel really good. This may be too long for your blog but once I got started just couldn’t stop.

  10. Just Julie says:

    Never too long or too many details, Dorothy. I loved what you wrote, and I know others will too. Thank you for what you’ve written….

  11. Steve Dick says:

    Thank you for sharing these memories, Julie. It is sweet to know your grandparents a little. They help explain you.

    My paternal grandmother, Katie, is Heavy, not because she was fat, but because she was very close to the earth, as always bent low in the garden, always bent over ready to pray for the people that she cared about, and she was too heavy for me to lift, even though she was smaller than me as a teenager. I thought she was nailed down to the floor. She was heavy like a Cadillac and heavy like solid gold.

    My maternal grandmother, Loretta, brings Fragrant to my mind. She always wore Estee Lauder Youthdew, but her real fragrance arose from her love for life, for people, and for the Lord. She reveled in beauty and goodness by memorizing whole epic poems, famous speeches, and chapters of scripture. She meditated for hours on nature as it was designed to express the Glory of God. She invested life and love in many people beyond our family without missing any of her own. She truly manifested the Fragrance of Christ. She died last September at 96 and I miss her, but I rejoice for her now, reveling in the presence of Jesus.

  12. Just Julie says:

    I loved what you wrote about Katie and Loretta, Steve. Such thoughtful, insightful answers. My mom wore Youth Dew as well. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting!

  13. Savannah Sooter says:

    Here is mine!!

    And I think the cardinal and birdhouse is absolutely wonderfully creative!!!! How sweet are they!?!

  14. Just Julie says:

    I loved reading about your grandparents on your blog, Savannah. Especially since one of them is my father…and the whole seagull thing made me laugh. ๐Ÿ™‚ Bless you dear one…

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