This is another excerpt from my book, Inspirations from the Funny Farm. I spent this weekend making jelly and memories with my sweet husband. When doing so, I am always reminded of my grandmothers. Normally, we would kick off the annual county fair late this month or early next month, but because of the pandemic it has been cancelled. That hasn’t slowed the jelly making down around here though. We have used 25 lbs of sugar this weekend making yummy jellies to last through the year and to give as gifts to friends and family. I can’t preserve anything without being flooded with sweet memories of the two wonderful grandmothers that God blessed me with. I am partly who I am today because of them. My grandmother’s didn’t have financial wealth, but they gave so much. There were always sweet confections on the counter, and there are so many precious memories in my heart. I hope you enjoy my tale of a true Proverbs 31 woman.
Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around county fair time. I looked forward to it each year like a kid waiting for Christmas. The flashing lights, the sounds, the smells, the rides, and the comradery of the whole town gathering together hold a very special place in my heart. As a small child and even as a teenager, the fair was mostly about riding as many rides as I could before it was time to leave. I look at those creaky old rides now and think that I must have been crazy to have even ridden them way back then. I surely would not ride that old “Bullet” ride at my age, but no one could keep me off of that crazy ride back in the day. I took many a whirls on the Tilt-A-Whirl, and I can remember the thrill of looking down from the very top of the ferris wheel. It felt like I was sitting on top of the world.
The rides were what attracted me as a kid to the fair, but there was a whole lot of other stuff going on behind the scenes. There were animals, of course, such as show cows, sheep, pigs, and a variety of birds. To this day, the big fair week finale is the rodeo held on Friday and Saturday night. We missed very few rodeos as kids. My daddy was a police officer and doubled as an EMT when he wasn’t working for the police department. That part time EMT job allowed him to bring his six daughters to quite a few rodeos and a whole lot of football games utilizing a good old ambulance to transport us. I have always admired my daddy, and when he worked as both a policeman and an EMT, I thought he could save the world! I still think that he could.
I continue to love the fair, but as I have grown older, the aspects of the fair that I love have changed. My attention has turned from the thrill of the rides to the love of tradition. When I was a kid, our county fair had two huge exhibits halls. These halls were always chock full of a multitude of handmade goods from the local folks. There were homemade clothing items, wood crafts, samples of crops, canned goods, drawings, paintings, and so much more. My Grandma Margie was a member of the Homemakers’ Club, and she spent all year making goods that could be entered into the county fair. I know that she entered at least 100 items into the fair every year. Because she was an active member of the Homemakers’ Club and because she took her job seriously, she and Paw Paw Earl took rotations with some of the other homemakers keeping a watchful eye over the fair exhibits. Back in her days of glory, there was no air conditioning in those two huge metal exhibit halls, yet they spent countless hours in that exhausting heat. Why would they volunteer their time and suffer in that heat? First and foremost, they loved what they were doing, and secondly, it was something that was important to them. I always enjoyed looking at all of the wonderful exhibits and seeing the beautiful blue, red, and white ribbons adorning the prize-winning goods. I was awestruck.
As I grew older, I still visited the fair every year, but as time passed, the older generation became too old to keep up with the exhibit making and the exhibiting process, and there was a marked contrast in the quantity of exhibits. For a few years, it seemed that there were only a handful of items on display. That saddened me as I thought back to Grandma’s days and all the hard work that she put into making exhibits and then showing the exhibits in those once overflowing exhibit halls.
A few years ago, I decided that it was time to do something about this dying tradition before it died out completely. After all, Grandma taught me everything I knew about gardening, canning, and preserving. My husband and I already had a strong addiction to animals and quite a few animals of our own. We grew a nice garden every year, and we loved canning and preserving our crops. I decided that it was time to enter a few exhibits into the fair. I even encouraged my kids to get involved, and we ended up having a blast. The kids entered rabbits and chickens and turkeys as well as canned goods that we had canned as a family effort. We were filled with excitement as we entered the new air-conditioned exhibit hall to find out the results of the judging. The kids won a ribbon on every item they entered, and we were ecstatic. Right then and there, I realized why Grandma put so much effort into the fair every year. I also recognized that there were life lessons to be learned there. The kids worked hard to gather items for the fair, and their hard work paid off. They received ribbons on their entries, and then later, they received a check in the mail. There is a small dollar amount placed on each ribbon and receiving a check with their names on them was thrilling to the kids. It was on! I have entered items into the county fair every year since. The monetary reward is not great, but the sense of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile.
About six years ago, when my grandmother was 88 years old, I picked her up and toured her around the fair. She was in a wheelchair at the time. Her mind wasn’t what it once was, and I really don’t think that she even knew who I was that day, but she remembered the fair. She remembered her glory days of homemaking and exhibiting items in the fair and she shared those old stories with me.
I don’t know if Grandma realized what a powerful impact she had on my life and the lives of my children. I learned life skills from this woman. I wish I could tell her now what a blessing she was to me in my lifetime. She is a true Proverbs 31 woman. Grandma was a woman of noble character. Paw Paw had full confidence in her ability, and they lacked for nothing. She brought good to him all the days of his life. She got up before the sun to provide for her family, and she worked vigorously. Her arms carried the weight and burdens of the world. She opened those strong arms to the poor and the needy. She made beautiful warm, colorful quilts, and she handmade clothing for herself and her family. Her husband was respected all throughout our little town. Grandma was definitely clothed in strength and dignity, and she spoke wisdom with faithful instruction. I thought she was one of the strongest and smartest women that I ever knew. Her children and grandchildren called her blessed, and her husband loved her with all that he was. She loved her family, and above family she loved the Lord.
Oh yes, I think I’ll continue to participate in the annual county fair. In doing so, I have a renewed reminder of things of old, traditions, and the knowledge I gained from a wise godly woman. I strive in my daily walk to live a life like she lived and to be an example of a godly woman for my children, grandchildren, and to love my husband with all I’ve got. I want to instill traditions in my family so that as they grow older they will remember the good old days and the godly ways. I want to be like Grandma when I grow up.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected in the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed in strength and dignity; and she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:10-31