Memoirs Of Maurice
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By Maurice Ehrlich

Feb. 2004


            Those words, spoken by my Grandmother Laubhan Shaffer to me as a young boy permeated my thoughts for years.  When she first told to "hold fast", she was admonishing me to be careful doing whatever it was I was doing.  I was confused, and argued that "fast" meant something like "speed"; surely she meant "hold tight".  In later years, I discovered the word "fastener" which describes "secure".  She was right. I suppose I was right too, except if I had held "tight" too long, my grip would surely give out.


            I begin this little story with those words, while trying to convey some of the tender moments they bring to me.  "Maurice, hold fast" she would say, as she gave me the nourishment she had prepared for the little flock of chickens she tended.  I say nourishment because it was table scraps that was turned into a "chicken banquet".  It was truly chicken salad, as she took the potato peelings, carrot tops, vegetable trimmings, etc., to which she added grain, then topped off with sour cream.  It was truly a chicken salad.  I always looked forward to feeding those chickens; they always went ballistic with eating enthusiasm.


            Such a minor event in life probably doesn't deserve this much comment, but it stays in my mind even though it was such a long time ago.  I was allowed to feed those chickens by myself, but only after she had instructed me how to do it.  Upon entering the chicken yard, she reminded me, with a phrase I shall incorrectly spell just as it sounded to me, "Bleipt Schteel".......BE QUIET....don't alarm the chickens.  As most of you know, chickens are flighty, and panic ensues when they are startled; if you have never witnessed it, it's almost like a whirlwind.  People are sort of like chickens, they do better in calm surroundings.


            I remember those days fondly, and have often wondered to myself about what she must have taught me.  She would tear up when I played the piano for her.  I have had other people do the same, but not for joy.  Whatever lessons were learned, I honestly believe they were realized and appreciated more in later years than the early ones.


            A few times I stayed with her she took me with her to Sabbath School.  The Sabbath School offering was never more than a few nickels and pennies.  She would tie them for me in a knotted handkerchief, with the same instructions, "hold fast".  Sabbath School for me was taught by my Aunt Lydia.  She would put those coins in a little brown envelope; the total offering from her six or so students would be less than a dollar.   She assured us the money would help some little colored children less fortunate than us, somewhere across the world in Africa or Asia.  We learned that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day He rested.  That was the reason we worshipped on Saturday, as it was the seventh day.  I remember hearing that story, and walking outside, and looking around, thinking God did all this in six days...Wow! He must be something. 


            Grandma’s house was truly organized for rural life.  One room was the "cool room".  That was where the eggs, vegetables, and cream were kept.  It had a cream separator that required manual labor, and I just loved to be that labor you had to turn the crank, and as you did the whole milk was converted into two products, skim-milk, and cream.  The cream reminded me of an advertisement that still runs in Texas about Blue Bell ice cream. "We eat what we can, and sell the rest".  That cream was an income source for Grandma.  The skim-milk went to the calves, another feeding chore I loved. Those little calves sure were cute as they drank all that milk.


            Her garden fence was covered with morning-glory vines, and the rows of vegetables were as straight as a string, and always seemed ready for picking.  My favorite veggies were radishes, both red and white.  That self sufficiency was a way of life for her, and grandmother was always self sufficient.


            Grandmother had married a widower twenty years older than she.  She never heard English spoken until she was at least twenty.  She learned to read and write German as a young girl, but the most available reading material was The Bible, and she read it often. She lived with my Mother her final years.  She was a good Christian.  She was a Mother to two families, in two different worlds.  I am happy I was a little piece of it.


            I guess if you were to ask me the question, "What did you learn from your Grandmother"? It would be easy for me.  BE QUIET and HOLD FAST.....


Maurice Ehrlich    



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