First, Grandma B. is Virginia Ruth Burgstahler. When I was growing up in Devils Lake, ND, she and Grandpa, Walt Burgstahler, lived in a tiny town called Oberon, about 30 miles or so from DL. I still vividly remember their house. It was a white two-story house with black trim, surrounded by lots of pretty flowers, including peonies and holly hocks just to name a few. We visited my grandparents often. For many years we went there every Sunday for dinner (aka lunch In ND, dinner is referred to as supper!). Grandma was a fabulous cook, and every meal was always so very tasty! Before my younger brothers came along, my sis Julie and I stayed with my grandparents every summer for about a week. My grandparents had a TV, but I don’t remember ever even turning it on during those visits. Of course back then there were no computers or cell phones. Yet I remember our time there as being so much fun and looking forward to it each summer! We picked chokecherries and made jelly and helped Grandma bake cookies. We went horseback riding with a neighbor. We loved dressing up in my mom and aunt’s old prom dresses. We read stacks of old comic books and played the piano. So many fond memories!
So how did Grandma become known as Grandma B? When all the great-grandkids came along, someone started calling her Grandma B. to differentiate her from the grandmas – hence Grandma B. Sometimes we even just call her B.
Friday Night BDay Fish Fry
Fri., July 15: B.’s 100th birthday will be a two-day affair! Her actual birthday is today, with the party set for Sat. the 16th at 2:00 pm at Heartland Care Center in DL, where she lives. My two brothers decide to gather the family, including, of course, Grandma B., and my two visiting aunts and cousin, for a Friday night BDay fish fry at my brother’s house. My youngest brother is an avid fisherman, and has been fishing in Devils Lake all week. My brothers also make camper potatoes, a meal mainstay during our camping trips as kids. It’s simply potatoes, onions (optional), butter, and salt and pepper wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked on the grill. Cheese also is optional, but recommended! I, along with help from one of my nieces, make pickle dip, which was a hit at the recent Girls of ’79 reunion in SD last month. The unpredictable ND weather cooperates, and it’s a beautiful evening for al fresco dining! As we sit down to this fabulous feast, I am reminded of a small dinner bell Grandma let us ring when it was time for a meal at her house. My sister and I loved ringing that little bell, and my diplomatic Grandma made us take turns. Tonight, we all enjoy the food and company immensely. The Burgstahlers/Jagers don’t get a chance for such family dinners very often. And what better celebratory reason to gather than Grandma’s 100 BDay! Grandma even enjoys a bit of beer! For dessert – Special K Bars, a decadent sweet treat consisting of Special K cereal, peanut butter and corn syrup in the bottom layer, and a mix of chocolate and butter scotch chips on top – yum!
Later Grandma asks me if I am still selling honey (referring to my past job at the National Honey Board). Even though I am have been out of work for a long time, I have never told my Grandma, as I didn’t want her worry. When I tell her the situation she says “That’s tough, that’s too bad.” You got that right Grandma!
Party Day: A Rock Star Crowd for a Rock Star Grandma
Sat., July 16: The grandkids and great-grandkids, at least the girls, arrive early to decorate. The aunts have brought Happy 100 napkins, dangles, banners and pencils. My cousin brought gorgeous sunflowers at a farmer’s market for centerpieces. My mom and aunts brought lots of pics to display of Grandma at various ages, including those of her as a little girl. her high school graduation and wedding.
Party kickoff time is 2:00 pm, and Grandma arrives around 1:50 looking beautiful in a gray slacks and a pink (her favorite color) top and blouse and a pearl necklace, the color of which matches her nail polish from the previous day’s manicure. The guests soon start to arrive, and it isn’t long before the large room is filled. Grandma had earlier said she was worried no one would come, and she turns out to be quite wrong with some 80 people or so attending! Grandma is in fine form, remembering nearly everyone who walks in, including relatives and many friends and neighbors from Oberon and surrounding towns, including Minnewaukan. The outpouring of friendship and affection is quite incredible and touching! Later my sis and niece I read the 80-plus bday cards Grandma received, and the kind bday wishes and warm thoughts and memories make it apparent that she had a positive impact on so many people’s lives!
As the crowd mingles and chats with Grandma, my sis and I and the nieces are on cake and ice cream serving duty, and my sis-in-laws are serving punch. Grandma’s cake is white with lemon filling and beautifully decorated with white, purple and green icing flowers and “Happy 100th Birthday Virginia.” As we cut and serve the cake and the rapidly melting neapolitan ice cream, a tall, striking man with white hair and a big smile strolls up and says something like “who do you belong to (aka how are we related to Grandma)?” As we fill him in, out of the blue he asks if we like his teeth, which are in fact, quite luminous! He says he just spent a small fortune on his teeth (thanks for sharing). so they better look good! It’s obvious he is quite proud of these shiny new teeth and perhaps fishing for a compliment. It turns out this character is a second cousin, who I recall always had a reputation for being a bit wacky!
After several hours and lots of photo snapping (thanks to my 10-year old niece for taking so many great pics with my camera!), the room slowly empties. We all agree the party could not have turned out any better.! Grandma is a bit tired, but you could tell she thoroughly enjoyed herself. I am so incredibly happy that I and the rest of the family were there to help her celebrate this milestone birthday!
I remember an old yellow tape dispenser in the kitchen in Grandma’s house that I always looked at when we were washing dishes.. The lettering on the dispenser read “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” Although it IS hard to believe Grandma is now 100 years old, she was always one smart cookie! Grandma has always had a good sense of humour, and often says some unexpected one-liners. A couple of years ago, I asked her the secret of her longevity. She paused and said “Well, I guess I’ve been a good girl!” Happy Birthday Grandma B!