We went up to Lake Arrowhead over the holiday weekend to go to the big Luman and Lou Jean Green family reunion. On the Fourth of July we all met at the church—all 8 of Grandma and Grandpa’s children, and almost all 33 of their grandchildren and their families were able to attend. Uncle Bruce pointed out that we now have 144 descendants, with 3 more babies on the way, totaling 147. And it is still expanding and growing (hey, I’ve got at least another 3 or 4 kids to go, right???) It was particularly meaningful to meet in the place where Grandma and Grandpa raised their family, built a home, and made memories. We also met on Sunday for church in the building that Grandpa had built for the Lake Arrowhead ward, so it was extra special for all of us and made us feel so close to him.
It is always an inspiring thing for me to think of my relatives that came before me and paved the way. I think of Grandma and Grandpa Green often, particularly now that I have started my own family. I have happy memories of going to family dinners at Grandma’s house, with children running all over and playing games, Grandma cooking up a delicious meal with the help of my mom and aunts (Grandma made the best roast and potatoes and homemade rolls—domestic goddess of the kitchen). Grandpa would sit at the head of the table and say a prayer over the meal, thanking God for our blessings, our country, our freedom, our family, and for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nobody prays like Grandpa. When our bellies were full, we’d all gather in the living room and sing. Grandpa would play the mandolin or the fiddle and Uncle Marty would play the piano, and others would join in on the guitar, and the rest of us would sing. It was such a joyous thing. If it was Christmas time, we’d sing carols and hymns. Other times we’d sing old standards and some of the songs from Grandma and Grandpa’s era, and sometimes Grandpa would sing “The Cow Kicked Nelly in the Belly in the Barn”, which was a favorite with the kids. There was always a lot of laughter and joking around and inside jokes. These are shining memories from my childhood. They had a deep impact on me, and on many of my cousins as well. It made me love music all the more and I became determined to one day have a large family of my own that would have happy get-togethers and that would be full of music. I wanted to recreate those experiences with my future husband and children. I think all of us in the Green family know that those kinds of family experiences are the resulting joy that God promises us when we raise good, righteous children and keep our covenants like Grandma and Grandpa.
When people see that I have two children, one boy and one girl, they often exclaim, “You’re so lucky—one of each! So you’re all done!” And I always laugh inside because that is so not the point. And I think to myself, ”You have no idea!” The fact is, I’ve always wanted a large family. When I was little, I thought I would have 10 or 12 children—I just love children and babies. That number has gone down a little bit, but I still want to have a lot of kids if I can, and I think a lot of it has to do with my grandparents’ example. I know having many children is extremely challenging at times (even when there are only 2.) On those days when the children are crying and the house is a disaster and parenthood is difficult, I very often have the thought that Grandma had EIGHT children, and if she could make it, then I can too. And similarly, if she and Grandpa could be married for over 50 years, I guess I can make it in my marriage too. Uncle Bruce also shared this weekend that he once asked Grandma how she stayed married for so long, and her answer was, “You just keep going.” I think every married person in the room appreciated the strength and wisdom in that little bit of advice. And we can see the blessings and joys that marriage and family can bring, even if there is hardship along the way.
Baby Monica and Baby Reed
I lived with Grandma and Grandpa for the first three years of my life, and saw them very often through the rest of my childhood, so I have very visceral memories and images in my mind of what they looked like doing ordinary things.
I can remember what Grandpa looked like standing in the kitchen in the morning in his button-up plaid pajamas squeezing oranges. I remember sitting in the breakfast room at the table with him, goose wallpaper and jell-o molds on the wall, and a big cardboard box of genealogy stuff between us, as he shared stories of his family members and ancestors. He was passionate about preserving their history, and I hope that one day I will know those stories better and add to them my own memories of my grandparents and parents. I know that Grandpa liked the filet-o-fish at McDonalds and I know that Grandma liked to eat meatloaf sandwiches. I know that on Saturday mornings Grandma is listening to the opera radio broadcast. I know the smell of Paloma Picasso. I know what Grandma looked like sitting on the chair next to the kitchen phone. When Grandma talked on the phone, she’d call her girlfriends “doll”. Once she called me doll and I felt pretty special. I remember the way Grandpa spoke, the unique sound and slight quiver in his voice as he got older. He kept the Idahoan “dees” of the week as opposed to “days”… you know… Sundee, Mondee, Tuesdee, etc. I love the expressions that he used often. “Well for heaven’s sake” was one of them. He also had great nicknames for us grandkids like “McGillicuddy, George, Peanut” and they were all interchangeable with all the grandkids. We loved it. He always had a stash of peanuts or other nuts by his chair in the family room, and I would always sneak some. Grandma had lemon drops, which I also snuck. Grandma has her own way of speaking too. I can hear her voice when I think of the words in Tootles the Locomotive, because she had that book at her house and read it to me many times. I love that voice. She also read all of The Wizard of Oz to me, and its sequel, along with many other books. Grandma took the time to teach me a little bit about sewing. She was always so good at it, as she was at most domestic things. My first sewing basket was one of hers, and even though it is too small to hold everything, I still keep it just for the memory. Grandpa did a project with me when I had to build a model of a handcart for school. I’m sure that he did all of it! He loved doing woodwork and was really talented at building and creating and fixing things. I also became interested in gems and rocks for a while, and he was excited about that because that was one of his hobbies. He gave me some beautiful polished rocks and showed me a lot of the things in his collection. I started playing the piano when I was 9 years old, and took lessons till I was 16.
Whenever I sat down to play the piano at Grandpa’s house, he would stop whatever he was doing or turn off the tv, and come sit in the chair behind me in the living room to listen. EVERY TIME. This had a tremendous impact on me and demonstrated his great love for music and taught me to value it that way too. (Plus it made me feel like a million bucks!) I love the piano in that house. I have a lot of wonderful memories of it. I remember plugging in the rolls and singing along as it played “Tea for Two” and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and I specifically remember singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” with my cousin Ashley when we were about 11.
As the player started wearing down, Grandpa had to rig up some of the buttons with rubber bands so it would work right. That piano was also home to the photos of the few married cousins. I saw the collection recently and there are SO many wedding photos of grandchildren in front of the temple–the piano is jam-packed. I remember a special trip I got to take all by myself with Grandma and Grandpa in their motorhome. I don’t even know where we went. But I got to sleep on the table bed, and we went to a beautiful purpley beach with a lot of rocks, and we stopped and visited Alan and Laurie. I was having so much fun with my cousins that I slept over one night with them (we were jumping from the dresser to the bed pretending that we were flying like Peter Pan and Wendy). I distinctly remember feeling a little sorry afterward that I had had one less night with Grandma and Grandpa and that maybe they felt bad that I chose my cousins’ house. Now that I think about it, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered that much to them! Grandma and Grandpa came to a lot of my performances and recitals. I remember Grandma always freshened up when we went somewhere. She put on lipstick when we left the house. So lovely! And she’d bring a sweater. Her sweaters always smelled like perfume. Grandma was really good at making beds. Is this important? Maybe not. But it seemed important. The sheets were always tight and everything was just-so. I remember Grandpa’s one-and-a-half-thumbs-up after he injured his thumb on the table saw. I remember their 50th wedding anniversary party, and singing all those wonderful songs, listening to my uncles sing together, and all of us singing “Look What We’ve Become.” I thought of that song this weekend actually. I remember dancing with Grandpa at my cousin Stephanie’s wedding. I can still picture Grandpa with his long legs and the way he hiked up his pants when he stood up. I can picture Grandpa floating in the pool on his back, floating so well and so high that his feet stuck out of the water. He’d stretch his arms up and behind him and glide backwards across the length of the pool. I know that Grandma doesn’t fold her arms, but crosses them and cups her elbows with her hands. Always. I remember in the kitchen how Grandma’s body would wiggle a little side to side when she was stirring something quickly. I remember the heavenly dinner smells in Grandma’s kitchen. I remember Grandma’s handwriting in the cards she gave me at graduations and birthdays, usually with a nice Green bill inside. I remember how Grandpa would light up when I pulled out the book called Deep Sea Fishing at his house. He loved it. I was always a little freaked out by the huge marlin hanging in the sunroom.
I remember the night my mom called me and told me that Grandpa had died. I was walking on BYU campus and it was night. I sat down on a cold cement bench next to the Wilkinson Center and just cried. Some guy even stopped to ask if I was okay. Grandpa was the first man in my life and had been such a big part of my life.
(Ironically this photo was taken on or around my parents’ wedding day… I was not in a very good mood. Thanks Grandpa) I had just seen him a month or so before I went back for fall semester. He and Grandma were leaving our house, and as I hugged them and watched them drive away I had the brief thought that I wouldn’t see them again, which I quickly dismissed. I am still crying even as I recall that night. It was really really hard for me, and I still miss him a lot. I cry every time I sing How Great Thou Art because it was his favorite song, and I like to think that he is nearby to listen in. And why not, since he listened to everything I played from Hot Cross Buns to Chopin… he must be there for How Great Thou Art. I feel his presence from time to time. I feel like he is still strengthening his family from the other side. I pull out his letters once in a while. Toward the end of his life, he started writing his advice and thoughts and testimony, and sent them out to all the grandchildren. How we cherish those letters! We are so lucky to still have Grandma with us, and I think we all feel like we need to draw out everything we can while she’s still here. Of course, she always says things like, “Why would anyone want to hear anything from me?” She is pretty oblivious to how much her family still loves and needs her… we all love our matriarch so much and honor her and want to celebrate what she has done in the world. Even though I know it is exhausting for her to make it to big events, I am so grateful that I had Grandma at my wedding 7 years ago.
I’m also grateful she’s been able to meet my two children
And now for some pics of the reunion:
Finn trying to get Papa to blow bubbles with his gum
Fireworks on the dock
The church Grandpa built while he was Bishop in Lake Arrowhead
The home that Grandpa built, as it looks today.
I love them and am proud of my heritage.