Hello, Readers! Last night, I was able to attend a genealogy meeting on organizing your genealogy media, data, and files. I learned a lot, and was able to talk with some wonderful people at the conference. It brought to mind that I have written very little about my grandmother, Anna Mae Kuiper Griffioen Santee, aka “Grannie Annie.”
Last week was the four year anniversary of my Grannie Annie’s death. I miss her terribly. She had such a way of brightening the whole room when she was happy. She played the organ and piano for not only my childhood church, the former Faith Reformed on Milham Rd. in Portage; she played for campgrounds, lay missions, her retirement home, and anywhere else that needed her services. She played with her whole body, moving up and down on the bench, working the pedals as if she were a race car driver, skillfully getting the most out of each instrument, and filling the air with the songs of faith and hope from our hymnals. I LOVED to sit in the pew and listen to her play, and I felt so connected to her and proud of her ability to soothe and quiet the mood before service. She always played in her stocking feet, to better feel the pedals and to avoid making clacking sounds with her shoes. My mother, Sandy, can play ‘by ear,’ and also plays, ‘barefoot.’
When it was time to rejoice in the Lord, there was no better accompaniment than Ann Griffioen! She was able to get everyone up and out of their pews, ready to sing along and praise the Lord! I miss hearing her play, and I am so glad I was able to record a few songs on video. When she sang Gaither songs like, “He Touched Me,” while playing the piano, those songs were the most moving for me. Something about her melodies, the way she would emphasize certain chords, watching her fingers run up and down the keyboard like it was a part of her body, would always stir something in my soul that connected me to her in a very loving way. My grandma would also play the organ for church and at home; and, especially during Easter sunrise service, would get everyone rejoicing in the risen Lord! Heads would tilt, hands would rise, and feet would tap, all in unison to the music that flowed from the organ.
I remember watching her move her feet and hands across the huge organ, flipping this switch, moving this lever, never missing a note, always in sync with the organ. It was an amazing sight to see, watching her play. The organ and piano were second nature to her, as familiar as her kitchen sink. Anyone could tell how much she was a part of her instrument, and how she loved to use her skills for worship and praise. When I sat down at the bench and tried to use them myself, I would get so intimidated by the overwhelming options of levers, pedals, and choices for sound. Somehow, she would coax the most out of whatever instrument she played, and would almost look like one of the organ pipes, moving up, down, and all around; sending the music out to every corner of the room, thrilling all who could enjoy the sounds.
She was a character, my grandma. Some have said she was the ‘Grandma of the church,’ which makes me proud. I do remember many embarrassing ‘Mary Moments” that were caused by her; especially one in the middle of church service. I was a very self conscious preteen, sitting in the pew while the pastor gave the sermon. All of a sudden, I felt a couple of fingers on my neck and shoulder, moving my clothing. I turned around and looked over my shoulder, and a woman I didn’t know was tucking my bra strap under my collar! I was mortified to realize that my grandmother was three rows behind me, waving at me! She had tapped the shoulder of the person in front of her, who tapped the shoulder of the MAN in front of her, who tapped the shoulder of the stranger who fixed my bra strap, all because it was showing about an inch! Yup. That’s my Grannie.
If anything ever topped her skills as a pianist and organist, it would be her knitting and crocheting skills. She would always have some kind of needles and yarn flying from her fingertips. Many babies and toddlers were blessed by her gift. She would make booties, hats, and sweaters for children in hospitals. She made the softest mittens for her grandchildren; always with a string attached to each one, to be strung through our winter coats, so as not to lose one and to wear during our many snowball fights and igloo forts built in the front yard. I never did lose a mitten that she had made, but the booties. Oh, the booties. They were so warm and comfy, wrapping around our ankles and toes! The booties were always so much fun to wear, until we hit the waxed linoleum floor! I slid into cupboards and knocked over more coffeepots and cookie jars than I can count; but, what fun! We would wiggle and twist and dance, having fun just wearing the knitted footwear! One year, she made camouflage hats for all the ‘hunters’ in our family, and we have video of them, all lined up in their hats. I wish I still had a pair of the booties; but I do have a prayer shawl that she started; and my mom, Sandra Ann, finished for me.
At her funeral, the pastor said, “I bet she has made an afghan for each of her grandchildren!’ We all looked around, because none of us had ever received one from her; and my mom surprised all of us by opening a Lane cedar chest of heirloom afghans for each of us that she had stored in our garage!
I had the privilege to know all of my grandparents until adulthood; and I knew and loved them as much as my own parents. I would have slumber parties, sleepovers, many meals, and activities like hunting for Easter eggs, or sharing a Sunday meal. I posted an earlier blog about that, and I wish I could have that back, for even one day. There was something special about going to “Grandpa and Grandma Griffioen’s house” for any reason. My grandfather, “Papa John, ” built their house, and added a back porch with a wood burning stove. The whole family, all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, would all gather and just sit and talk with one another. My uncle Ron built a table for them, and there was always a deer head mounted on a wall. My Papa John, Uncle Steve, Uncle Ken, my mom, and my brother, Matt, all hunt, as well as my cousin’s husband, David, and my cousins Tom and John. John is more of a fisherman now, as he is studying to be a veterinarian. I have an entire album of hunting and fishing pictures. I love to fish, as well as my sister, Chrissy. My dad, Mike, would also love to fish, and we all enjoyed a good meal of whatever they brought home. Grannie Annie knew Papa John well, and accepted and enjoyed whatever catch he brought home.
Grannie Annie loved being the center of attention! When she was happy, she reminded me of Shirley Temple or the happy hippo with the tutu in “Fantasia;” not for her size, but for the coquettish way she would act, shy and flirtatious. I have said for a long time that she was like “Marie,” on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” except that she was Dutch and didn’t cook! lol She was a lot like “Miss Kay,” on “Duck Dynasty,” when she was happy. When she wasn’t happy, we all felt the wrath! She would get frustrated when she would go to yell at one of us, and couldn’t remember which name to use! Lol I remember once, she fell asleep on our living room couch, and I went to turn off the TV. I was about 10 years old, and tiptoed to the set, not wanting to wake her, and ‘wake The Beast! ” Just as I touched the knob, she yelled in her sleep, “KEN! DON’T TOUCH THAT TV!” I nearly jumped a foot! lol There have been many times that she would yell the name of every member of her family before getting the right name, even if it was not the same gender! When she woke up, Papa John put on a curly brown wig to make us laugh, which we all did. Then, not to be upstaged, she put it on and started laughing. Now, when Grannie Annie laughed, her whole body seemed to have trapped air which had to escape, from whatever opening it could find! Lol She started laughing so hard, no sound came out, which made us all laugh harder! Then came the wheezing, the rocking on her heels, the red face, and the gas! I still remember how my ribs and side hurt from laughing so hard!
She was so desperate to have attention that she would call everyone, unbeknownst to the others, to come at once, for some ‘urgent need,’ and fifteen people would race to her side, for something that one person could easily have done. She was the definition of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” but it was hard not to feel for her and to judge her neediness. I didn’t truly understand why she was so desperate for attention until once, when I was a child and we were alone, I asked her what it was like for her as a child. A shadow fell over her face, and she seemed to go into a shell. Her voice tightened, and she whispered that she never felt loved or accepted, never felt her parents’ approval, never told “I love you,” hugged, etc. I have seen pictures of that little girl, and it makes me so sad, and explains so much about her personality. If she felt like she was given a place of honor, felt important, she was fine. She always had the first spot at the campground, her residence, anywhere she was; even if it was a community piano, she would say it was ‘hers,’ and say that anyone that played it wasn’t as good a pianist as she. I hurt for that little wounded girl.
She loved nature and music so much, loved the holidays, decorating for every occasion. A grand tradition, passed on through my mom, and continuing with myself and her whole family. I have her doilies, some cut glass dishes, and her handkerchief, which I carry with me always. My mom gave me her watch and a brooch. I just found a slide of Grannie Annie holding baby Sandy, my mom, and she is wearing the brooch! I am also glad to have a gorgeous round etched mirror that was given to her at her bridal shower, for which I also have found a photograph. I have so few items from my family, and I cherish each and every one. Grannie Annie had a love of things that I also love, like doilies and old furniture, etc. Her ornaments were the blown glass painted large ones, and she always had tinsel on the tree, and garlands. Poinsettias were also a theme, and she always had them on her organ or piano. I also loved this white ceramic cat that always sat by her chair in the front room. She was also a “Tupperware Lady,” and I have pictures and memories of the many items she had around the house. I also love the dishes and jewelry she treasured. When she and her sweetheart of a jolly man, second husband, Papa Howard, moved to Florida, I missed them very much, but they would come home for Christmas, and I was able to entertain them while the rest of the family would be rushing around the house with last minute details, and we would have great talks. I miss Papa Howard, especially his smile, his friendly demeanor, and his bear hugs!
I am named for my grandmothers, Mary Helen and Anna Mae. All my life, she told me I was ‘Mary ANN!’ She was always jealous that Grandma Mennie and I were so close, and did not like having “Second Billing” of my name, so she would say, “Mary ‘ANN!” and write it on every card! Even though she thought I was closer to Grandma Mennie; to me, I was just as close to Grannie Annie, in other ways. She taught me so much about faith, family, and music. I feel like she passed those down to me. I owe my faith to my grandparents for paving the way and setting the example; not just for my mother, her brothers, and all of their family; but for the many lives they changed with their witness.
Someone told me to “Look for Grannie Annie in butterflies,” after she passed. A few months ago, Grandma Mennie passed, as I wrote in an earlier blog. I saw a huge swallowtail butterfly about 12 feet from me, and it did not move, even when a strong wind blew, bending the branch of the tree on which it was resting. I thought, “Grannie Annie is here, or is it Grandma Mennie? ” Almost immediately, I got a distinct image of both of my grandmothers in Heaven, siting side by side. Grannie Annie leaned over and smacked Grandma Mennie, and said, ‘Back off, b*#ch, that is MY symbol for Mary “ANN!” I have been dead longer, go find a feather or something, butterflies are MINE!” And both of them just cracking up together! Grannie Annie would be serious about that, but both have the best laugh together over it! lol The very thought of it still makes me laugh; and if you knew her, it would be easy to imagine! I have been so blessed to have such a special Grannie Annie in my life, and I love and miss her so much!