Granny Magic

I have no idea how she did it; my Grandma Marie had arthritis, her hands shook a bit and she bought her glasses at the local general store, yet she could pick up a needle, a spool of thread, and stick the tip of that thread through the eye of the needle on the first try … every time … never missed. I had no idea how.

I’m a bachelor so that means when I have a button come loose or a pocket begin to tear I have three choices: buy a new shirt, swallow my pride and take my shirt to a lady friend, or try to thread the needle myself. Buying a shirt would be wasteful, taking a shirt to someone else would be embarrassing, so I’m usually left only with option number three, a task which could take most of the morning. I’d try to envision how Grandma did it with such ease and alacrity. She’d bite off exactly the correct length of thread, moisten one end in her mouth, squint a bit, then voila! The needle would be threaded. Magic. No other explanation, it had to be magic. I can sit at my kitchen table and take an unknown number of stabs at the eye of the needle, sometimes curling it up at the end and usually missing entirely. The thickness of the thread and the smallness of the eye seem to increase with each attempt. But Grandma? One pass and whoosh, she nailed it.

Grandma could do the same thing when she’d break eggs with one hand. She’d hold two eggs in one fist, tap one against a bowl then the other. In all the time I knew her we never had a family member choke on a shard of shell, and never once did a bit of yolk spill out over the edge of the bowl. When I try this, I get instant scrambled eggs and a mixture of shell and yolk that would strangle a large throated dog. Magic. Grandma had magic. No other explanation possible.

And her skill at removing a chicken’s head from its body was unmatched. Whether she’d use the ax or the wringing method, Grandma’s hen decapitation skills were legendary, at least among our family. The chopping block was quick and easy and I suppose I could have done that, but Grandma’s ability to snap off a chicken’s head with a quick revolution of her wrist was something that left us all in awe.

When my mother tried it the task took three hours and the chicken’s neck was six feet long before the creature gave up the ghost and its head. Again, the magic of Grandma.

My mother was a great collector of recipes and as a result our little family of four was treated to a constant round of new tastes, and if we’d travel to a friend’s house and were delighted by something new, Mom always came home with the recipe. I don’t recall Grandma ever using a recipe, although, there was a great deal that I missed when I was a barefoot, snotnosed boy running around her rural Perry kitchen. I do know for a fact that she seldom measured anything. Grandma went by looks, taste, and sometimes aroma. But magic … it always came out delicious. No explanation but magic.

But perhaps her most magical trick was her ability to create time. I have no idea how she accomplished what she did in a normal 18- hour waking day. A hint of the typical farmwife’s ability to get things done might be found in a diary written by Grandma’s motherin- law: “Woke this morning, gathered the eggs, did some garden work, scrubbed the upstairs floors, then woke the men for breakfast.”

Magic through the generations.

Grandma’s husband Ralph had his own bit of enchantment as he was able to flip the cap off a bottle of pop using just his thumbnail. Try that sometime and then tell me that there’s no such thing as magic, although if you’re ten years old there is such a thing as a bleeding thumbnail.

When I moved from Arenzville to Jacksonville last year, I took advantage of the event as a time to purge my household of everything I’d not use within a week’s time. Apparently among my discarded items was a little sewing kit that Mom had bought me one Christmas. Now, a year later, my pile of buttonless shirts was beginning to get out of hand so I ordered a new kit of needles and thread from Amazon. I was amazed at how the eyelets had again shrunk in a year’s time. Not only could I not hit the holes in the needles, I couldn’t even see the holes in the needles, and my need for a seamstress has grown even more drastic since I bought a cell phone one size too big and it’s put a terrible strain on my shirt pockets. So I sit here about once every two months, squinting at a needle’s eye that I can barely make out, licking my thread and wondering how Grandma did it. I have the thread,

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