Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Red Roses" on the piano

I haven’t been anywhere interesting this week and have very little to relate but I’m in the mood to write so I’m off today on a stroll down memory lane. Feel free to walk along.

I take a lot of good-natured chiding about the choices of music I have on my iPod. Admittedly it’s an odd mix of music that spans most genres and generations. Most of it is music I know, some of it is music I’m learning about. Some of it makes me happy, some has me looking like a fool singing along as I drive down the road, and some makes me sad.

One thing I do love about music in general, and in particular about my collection, is that it brings back memories. In that way, for me at least, music is a lot like food. Food easily triggers memories of people and places. Roast beef reminds me of my Aunt Eunice – she made the best ever pot roast. Zucchini recalls memories of making my first chocolate zucchini cake with my BFF Dorothy back in high school. Archway Lemon Cookies remind me of Aunt Fanny who always had a stash of these in her refrigerator. Countless foods remind me of being a kid in the kitchen with Mom or her Mom, Grandma Mealey.

But I digress (the mention of food does that to me often). Anyway, it wasn’t particularly surprising this morning when my iPod shuffled to a song and I was whisked away to my childhood sitting in my Grandma Krannich’s front room. And quite the front room it was. Grandma had lipstick red carpeting and a white leather sofa along with a little Victorian chair done up in red velvet. I wish to heck I had color photos of that room.

Garnet Bush c1930's
And Grandma was a piano player - a really good one. She could rock the house with a little boogy woogy and she had sheet music to all the popular songs of the 60’s which she could play for hours on end on her little white piano sitting on that red carpet. Although I never heard music come from a radio or phonograph in her house, we did watch Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights and Andy Williams on Sundays (or vice verse, I don’t really recall) which is likely where she heard all the current popular songs. Every few weeks we would get in the car and go to a music store where she would look through all the sheet music and bring home one or two pieces for her collection.

One song I particularly loved for her to play was “Red Roses for a Blue Lady”. Originally written in 1949, it was eventually re-recorded by Vic Damon when it hit #2 on the Easy Listening chart in in 1965. It's also the recording on my iPod that popped up this morning and prompted this little memory trek.

Every time she’d sit at the piano I’d request that song. Sometimes twice during one session – and she always happily acquiesced. I’m not sure I understood the meaning behind the words when I was 9 or 10, but I memorized them all and would sing along while Grandma played. Something about a man hoping that red roses will chase his loved one's blues away seemed charming at the time.  Still does, I suppose.

Invariably, when memories of Grandma Krannich come to mind a couple of stories come along for the ride. Keep in mind that not only was she a terrific piano player, but she was a tailor and seamstress extraordinaire and she crocheted by the hour turning out lovely afghans (some of which I still own). (And by the way, NONE of that talent made its way to me. I cannot play the piano. I sew, but not particularly well, and crocheting is way out of my league. )

The sheet music passed down to me when
Grandma died.  Can you believe they still
make Milk Maid and those little
pink candies?
One thing Grandma was NOT known for was her cooking. She hated to cook – didn’t really even like to eat. She ate only because she had to. The only constants in her pantry were bags of potato chips (I got THAT gene from her honestly), pink candy mints, Brach’s Milk Maid candies and Sarah Lee cheesecakes in the freezer. I’m pretty sure she must have fed me when I stayed with her during my summer vacations, but I don’t recall a single meal. I’m betting we ate sandwiches and I do remember going out to eat over to the “sisters” (Dad’s surviving sisters who were scattered around Akron) or at a local IHOP. This is not to say she was a BAD cook, she did OK when she fed the family from time to time, but she certainly didn’t like it.

Bill and Garnet Krannich c1960
 In any instance I digress again (surprise!). The story that comes to mind about her cooking was one day Grandma had made Bean Soup for dinner for her family (must have been many years earlier because Dad was still living at home). At this point I’m assuming that Grandpa Bill wasn’t much of a food gourmet either because it’s well known among family that he would put ketchup on everything he ate. This particular day Grandma must have been in a bad mood.  No doubt unhappy that she had to cook, but then to see her hard work slopped up with ketchup must have been the last straw.  So...when she put the bowl of bean soup in front of Grandpa and he proceeded to smother it with ketchup, Grandma picked up the bowl and upturned it over his head.

Nuf said.

There’s no recollection to any more of the story such as what Grandpa’s reaction was or how quickly the five kids must have scattered, I can only imagine. And laugh.

Grandpa Bill was a good natured kind of guy. Although he died when I was only 5 years old, I remember him always laughing and joking around. It’s hard to imagine keeping a smile on your face with soup on your head, but I’d like to think that’s what he did.

Bless you both Garnet and Bill. I miss you still. But I have my music and memories to keep dear.  And everytime I serve up my own Bean Soup I get a chuckle.  No ketchup for me please!

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