When we were little kids we spent a lot of time in Morgan, Minnesota, with our Mom’s parents. We loved visiting their home. It was (is?) a town of 500 people with the city park across the street from their home and the pool a few blocks further down. They’d give us a dollar to get an Elephant Foot at the bakery and the grocery store was so much smaller than what we were used to in the suburbs of St. Paul.
Our Grandma Evelyn made pot roast on Sundays with an apron around her waist and kept the candy jars full. Grandpa Norbert put chocolate syrup in between each scoop of ice cream he’d put inside the cones we ate every day. There was an apple tree in the backyard with apples that you couldn’t eat and their basement had exercise equipment and orange soda. Grape, too.
Norbert and Evelyn had 10 kids, and those 10 kids had 35 kids, and those 35 had more than anyone has kept track of. But cousins were everywhere, including just up the road at our cousin Mitchell’s farm where we played barn ball and Seven Steps Around the House and the stair game.
Beyond his house was Kristin’s house, AKA the farm, which is where all of our parents grew up. Hundreds of acres in the Minnesota River Valley. Electric fences that we tempted, and a car that would drive around with a headless man (surely this didn’t actually happen?).
Nostalgia is funny, the way it plays “My Girl” across your mind while you remember family reunions from the 80s. Campgrounds and bonfires and parents who were always laughing. We didn’t know then that adults always have an undercurrent thread of information that kids have no idea about. Jokes we wouldn’t understand, disagreements we don’t want to know about. It was marshmallows and orange soda in our world, and the matriarch of so many – Grandma Evelyn – was warm and hard-working and Midwestern Lutheran if ever there was one.
Our Grandma represented a feminine energy who’s home smelled like home-cooked food and who’s skin was soft and smooth. We felt love around her. We looked forward to going to their home. To being near her.
Grandma Evelyn died in her 90s with all ten of her children around her, singing hymns, with grandkids and great grandkids too. I was there. I remember it clearly. I joked that I was the favorite grandkid about 10 minutes before she passed. She was holding my hand and said she didn’t have favorites. Even at the end she was loving to everyone. At some point we knew it was the final breaths, so we took turns giving her a hug and telling her we loved her. Each of her kids. Then grandkids. By the time I kissed my Grandma goodbye I think she was already gone. My aunts sang hymns and cried and smiled and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve witnessed. To live a long, full life, and die in the arms of your children, to meet your maker among those you’ve made.
Grandma Evelyn looms large in our lives. We are wildly different than her, but I think she’d get a kick out of our lives today. We named The Evelyn Locket after her because it’s distinctive, and it’s something she would have worn. I think she’d like the locket. I could see her wearing a photo of all of her kids, or her grandkids, or the whole family; but if I made her a locket I would have made it of just my own face because she would have laughed about it and then when my cousins would visit her they would bring the photos of just themselves so we could continue competing to be her favorite never to have won the battle.
A new Evelyn Locket is coming soon, so we’re saying goodbye to the original. We love it, and you do too, we know this because of how popular it is, but we’re really excited about the next Evelyn Locket, too.
Shop and browse the locket we named after our Grandma Evelyn here.
The Woodford Sisters