I really like this picture, taken at Josh's first birthday party, when we lived in the "Dropps house" west of Buckman. Dad has a genuine smile (not mugging for the camera...lol), I'm so young, Josh was becoming such a sweet, bright little personality, and grandma Hesch was enjoying herself. Mom, Aunt Fronie and Uncle Leo were there, too, that Sunday night--two days before Josh's actual birthday. Typical one-year-old, he had no idea what he was supposed to do with that cake, or why there was a candle on it.
This is most likely the last picture taken of Grandma Hesch. She died two days later at home in Royalton. In less than a month, she would have been 85. I still regret not getting to know her better.
My most abiding memory of her was on the day of Grandpas' funeral, in 1964. I was 14.
We went to the farm first, before going up to the church that morning. The kitchen on the farm always seemed like a grey cave to me--a large room with not much furniture and colorless walls. Grandma was sitting in her rocker, in her Sunday clothes. Someone said she should fix her hair, it was almost time.
She was so sad. I'd never seen her put her hair up, but then, I'd never seen her cry before that day, either. She sighed, and went to the mirror over the dry sink there in the kitchen, opened the cupboard next to it, took out a comb and began. I stood at the corner of the cupboard, just inside the back door, remember?
She took a few hairpins out of her hair, and then, an odd circle of string. It was bits and pieces of stuff with lots of knots...a shoe lace, and a piece of light-switch string, some twine, something that used to be red. It was about as big around as your two hands make with index fingers and thumbs.
I'd never seen her hair down before. She sorta rubbed it out of the shape it'd been in, and then it was hanging down, all different lengths, fairly thin, not fresh-washed, the longest parts hanging almost to her shoulders. Tears on her face.
She combed it down then, without fuss, and parted it in the middle from the crown right through the widows-peak on her forehead. A few strokes of the comb to the left, then the right, one or two in back, and the string circle was replaced on top. (I remember this in slow-motion, but she was well-practiced and fluid).
Black comb in her right hand, she started on the left side of her head. From underneath, she combed it up and tucked each section over and then under the circle. With a few strokes of the comb around her head, lifting and tucking, and a few hairpins, she transformed herself back into Grandma. She put the comb back in the cupboard, and did a little tug on either side of the part, in front, to fluff it a bit. I remember realizing how beautiful she was, and how perfect that arrangement was for her--it framed her face just right, and made her look old fashioned and....elegant, a word she wouldn't have used.