When my daughter, Amy Royce and her family moved to Washington and bought a house, she found herself the proud owner of a walnut tree and an apple tree. Her husband, Travis is the only one who really likes walnuts, but they all like apples. I think most people do. When the apples ripened, they picked them…lots of them. Then came the decision about what to make with them. For Amy, it was really a non-decision, because she knew she wanted to make Apple Butter…mostly because it reminded her of her great grandma, Vina Hein.
Every summer of Amy and her sister, Corrie Petersen’s childhood, Bob and I took them to visit their Grandma and Grandpa Hein. It was there that the girls first tasted Apple Butter. Since that time, Amy thought of Grandma Hein every time she ate Apple Butter. Corrie doesn’t like apples, so I guess Apple Butter is nothing special to her, but Amy…like the rest of us does, and Apple Butter is a very special. Having it remind us of Grandma Hein is icing on the cake. It’s a memory treat because she comes to mind when we eat it.
Going to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein was more than just real cream, cows milk, and Apple Butter, though. The time we spent with them was precious. They were such an important part of our lives and we loved visiting them. We played cards, and the kids played with the toys grandma had, but it was still more than that. Grandma told us about her childhood, and showed us pictures of the family. It gave us a sense of belonging. We did belong, of course, but we found out how we belonged. Our visits were so much fun and the girls got to know their grandparents, and that was the most important thing, after all. There were other family members there too, and the girls got to know them too, but there was just something special about being able to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa.
Her style of cooking was very much ranch style. They butchered their own beef, and Grandma made all kinds of beef sausage that was used for sandwiches. They canned fruit, and the fruit with real cream was the dessert. Eggs from their chickens and toast with Apple Butter, were staples for breakfast…and plenty of coffee with real cream, which has ruined regular cream from the store for me. But the biggest memory for Amy, was the Apple Butter, so to be able to make it at home now is the best memory treat there could ever be.
For many years, my Uncle Bill asked everyone he knew to write to him. With our busy lives, few of us kept at it for very long. He always wanted the letters to be hand written, not typed if at all possible, and whenever he wrote back, it was always hand written. That always seemed like such major undertaking to most people, and sadly I was just as guilty as most other people in Uncle Bill’s life. I tried to write him regularly, but I just never really met that goal. As time went on, my letters got further and further apart. In recent years, Uncle Bill’s dementia has changed things, so now he doesn’t know that we haven’t written in a while, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that we didn’t do the one thing he asked us to do.
The problem was that, none of us really understood the reason. Now that I have begun looking through the many family history documents Uncle Bill has, I am beginning to understand the value of those had written letters. Of course, Uncle Bill’s family history has a variety of letters from different people in it, but the thing that has made the biggest impression on me…Uncle Bill’s handwriting. I never would have guessed that it would be his handwriting that would stay with me so long.
I always thought that handwriting was handwriting. I never felt like it held anything so special…until now. I had asked my cousin Tracey to send me some photos from her side of our family, and she happily obliged. To my astonishment, the pictures were some that were sent to her family by none other than, my Uncle Bill. I knew it because I recognized that handwriting. I think I will always recognize that handwriting. I find that amazing, somehow. It’s like the story has gone full circle now. Uncle Bill understood how valuable handwriting is…and now so do I. I only wish I had seen it sooner, when it could have meant something to Uncle Bill to see my handwriting a little more often.
My grandfather and his brother, my Uncle Ted were born 14 years apart. There were, of course, other siblings who were born in between the two brothers. Still, these two brothers would be tied together for years to come…until my Uncle Ted passed away, in fact, because they would marry girls who were sisters. About June 5, 1917, when my Uncle Ted was about 10 years old, my grandfather was drafted into World War I. I’m sure Uncle Ted felt many things…fear and worry for his brother, and yet excitement and wonder over the big adventure his older brother would be having. I’m sure his mother was feeling some of the same things, although I doubt if she was excited at all. A boy of 10 years of age probably doesn’t totally understand the dangers, just the adventure, but a mother totally understands that her baby might not be coming back.
My grandfather did come back from the war, and for a time our world had relative peace, but before all of her sons were out of the necessary age range for the draft, World War II would break out, and another of her sons would be called to fight. Uncle Ted enlisted in the Army on January 28, 1944, and so it came about that my great grandmother would have two sons fight in two separate World Wars. I know many people have had more than one son fight in a war, and I’m sure that would be awfully hard, but equally hard would be the situation where you thought the rest of your sons had dodged a bullet, no pun intended, only to find out that it wasn’t so.
Great Grandma was very proud of her soldiers, as she was of all her children, and to remember their bravery in battle in two wars, they took a number of photos. I don’t know if these were before Uncle Ted went of to war, or later on, but I do know that my grandma was feeling either worry, or relief, because war is a very hard thing on those left at home. Still, my great grandmother sent her boys off to war, and prayed that they would come back home safely, and they both did.
It will always seem strange to me that my grandfather and his brother could have fought in two separate World Wars, but that is exactly what happened. This was something I had not realized until my mom told me. I had wondered since finding this picture, why the uniforms were so different, and now I know. They were brothers who fought in two separate wars, to separate eras almost, and yet, only 14 years apart in age. Sometimes things can change so quickly in our world. We can move from one war to another seemingly overnight. We look back a short way and think, “Wow!! Just a few short years ago, this or that was the reality, and now it’s all changed!”