When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge. ~C.P. Cavafy
July 6, 1917 – May 8, 2014
God retrieved another good soul, but blessed us with her for 97 years. Mrs. Sophie (Ferry) McLaughlin was a good friend of my family’s for as long as I can remember, as long as my mom can recollect. The entire Ferry clan has been an integral part of our entire life, living on the opposite hillside.
Grandma Ferry, as we always called her, which is exactly what she was to us, a grandma, passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.
Some may ask why I would call this neighbor lady, who clearly wasn’t even related, with the honor of the grandma title? Easy, my maternal grandmother passed when my mom was a teenager, so I never met her. It’s true my paternal grandmother is alive and well (still is causing trouble), but let’s say Grandma Ferry was more of the grandmotherly type. Granted, we had my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary down over the hill who were also very close with us and like a another set of grandparents, but somehow Grandma Ferry got the title and it has remained ever since.
Grandma Ferry lived directly behind my parent’s house, most of her life, until she re-married and moved to Ohio. During my childhood, occasionally she was needed to babysit, and let me tell you it wasn’t a free for all. Nope, if our rooms were a mess (which usually they were), then she made us clean them up and organize the disaster. If the house needed cleaned, we had to get to work straight away. If any work, inside or out, needed done, there was no time to dilly dally. When it was time to feed us, she wasn’t no short order cook. O no! We helped her prepare our lunches and no television while eating. We had to sit at the table and eat together, the way it should be.
I remember once when I was hanging cloths, yes back then we had cloths lines strung up alongside the house. Part of my chores were to hang the dripping wet garments and take them down, fold them and put them away. One day, while doing so, I remember as plain as day, I spotted Grandma Ferry making a beeline for me. Her house sat up higher on the hill directly behind mom and dad’s, making our backyard and the sides of the house easily visible. As a kid, I know I rolled my eyes when I spotted her, because I didn’t want to be doing these chores, let alone listen to someone tell me how to do them. She marched right up to me and showed me the right way to hang the laundry. My comment, “That’s not how mom does it.”, which we all know my mom was never the poster child for good housekeeping. In her own polite way, without throwing my mom under the bus, she held her ground and showed me the reasoning for hanging the clothing a certain way and the correct way to do so, which I remember to this day.
Every once in a while she would have me and Ryan rake her leaves or grass clippings. She paid us in homemade soup and freshly baked bread. I remember thinking, I would rather have some cold hard cash (I would have never dared ask), but the food was so delicious it made all the work worthwhile. She also didn’t let us slack while raking. Nope! If we missed areas she would point them out and we weren’t done until the job was done, no matter how long it took us. We always had to finish what we started.
She really was a huge help to mom and dad, especially when mom went back to work when I was in the third grade.
While playing in the backyard or taking hikes up through the woods with my cousins, she would always pop her head out to see what we were up to, questioning our actions every now-and-again and sometimes not speaking a word.
Thinking about our interactions with Grandma Ferry now, from a different perspective, she was never a nag or a pain, she really cared for us.
On a side note, sometime when I was little, dad put in our small orchard, which overlooked Grandma Ferry’s front porch. She always loved it, especially when dad would mow. Dad even commented that she came down one day, while the digging had begun, and gave dad a little bit of money to put toward the project. She too had an apple tree and a huge grape harbor, which again Ryan and I would have to pick.
Did I think she was annoying and bossy? You bet! Exactly like I did my own parents, that same bittersweet love. She really was my family and truly a nice lady. However, you never crossed her for she wouldn’t take any crap, and that meant from us kids, even around our own parents. Most adults shy away from disciplining kids in front of their parents, especially ones that aren’t their own. Not Grandma Ferry. She knew where she stood and demanded respect and demanded we show respect to our parents and each other.
We always joke around wondering how I know how to fold and clean properly and am so organized, the complete opposite of mom. I think I finally found my answer, Grandma Ferry. Looking back on it now, I owe her a lot. She wasn’t just the little old neighbor lady. She was a big part of our childhood and helped reinforce what we were taught, respect and hard work. She taught me to do laundry, clean, yard work and even a little cooking. She was one of the good ones, who took an invested interest in us, not for her own sake, but for ours.
I’m sure she led a great life before I came into this world, and I know she led one while I was here, being a first hand witness. I can’t even imagine what those eyes have seen over a span of ninety-seven years.
Rest-in-Peace Grandma Ferry!
Thank you for being you! You will always be remembered!