Today, I found Ella sitting on one of my “Love Rocks” as she was waiting for her ride to school, and I had to retell the story of where it came from. What a beautiful example of how a grandma’s love can carry on from generation to generation, without even realizing it.
I grew up in Bountiful on a beautiful piece of land in the canyon. My Grandma and Grandpa Mabey lived on their 15 acre ranch just down the hill from us, which was originally over 350 acres. My Grandpa grew up in Bountiful with his parents being some of the first to settle there. His dad was the governor of Utah. He was the Mayor of Bountiful before he was the governor. His family had all lived in Bountiful when he was young, and had a lot invested in the area.
When my grandpa Mabey went to dental school he met my grandma. She was a secretaryat one of the buildings he went to. Eventually he asked her to marry him. She agreed to move away from Michigan and to Bountiful only under the terms of living on a ranch with horses. He of course agreed! One day after he gave her the engagement ring she was crossing the road with her arm outstretched looking at her beautiful gift and was distracted to the point of almost being hit by a car!
My mom was raised in Bountiful, as was I. It was an amazing place to grow up. The house I was raised in was actually the “Picnic Spot” on the ranch. It was up the canyon from their house in North Canyon. It has a stream and 4 acres of forest haven. My Grandparents had horses and lots of land to play on. The view from their house was breathtaking. We used to have picnics on the lawn and look out upon the Great Salt Lake sunset. We loved to light fireworks, play tag, and ride horses up the canyon. My Grandpa Mabey had a rocket ride he made out of steel that went around and around on chains held by a center pole. Two kids could sit back to back in one rocket! I look back at it now and can’t imagine it to have been very safe, but VERY fun! If someone happen to walk in front of the four rockets as it was going it would have been devastating!
They spent countless hours tending to the land. I don’t remember once visiting their house when my grandma wasn’t bent over pulling weeds as she talked to me! My grandpa was constantly mowing the lawn around the house. There was a ton of it! Riding in the little trailer that was pulled behind the lawn mower is my favorite memory of my grandpa. He would pull us around and dump grass on us for fun.
My grandpa died when I was about 8 years old, so I don’t remember much about him. I do remember him working around the house and smoking cigars. I recall one day he took Allyson (my cousin) and I up the canyon in his old Bronco. It had two side sitting seats in the back. He strapped us up and told us to, “hold on!” We had no idea what he was about to do. When the incline of the car started getting steeper and steeper, Allyson and I started to scream! We were scared to death! We asked him to stop through gritted teeth and a few nervous giggles, but I think he took this as cue to keep going. He had a dry sense of humor, so as a kid it was hard to read him. This scenario was obviously too much for him to hold in, as he was laughing out loud. This scared Ally and I even more! I think I blacked out at this point because I don’t remember anything after this.
After my grandma died, everything on the ranch changed. She was able to keep up pretty good for several years with Uncle Bob, and my dads help. Eventually she started suffering from Alzheimers. At first it wasn’t that bad but as time went on she needed more and more help to function. My dad was great at helping us find humor in a very sad situation. He felt bad for her but wanted everyone to stay upbeat and enjoy her while she was still around.
I loved her a lot. She wasn’t the typical “grandma” in my opinion. Most grandma’s are baking cookies, watching t.v., and reading. My grandma was golfing, traveling, horseback riding, and attending socials. She had a lot of friends. She would celebrate Christmas with us and leave the next week to her condo until about May. My grandparents had a condo on the beach in Manzanillo Mexico that is amazing. My mom owns it now with a few of her siblings.
My grandparents found it as they traveled down the coast one time together. She always made sure we had bar-b-ques in the summer with all the cousins. She would take us on horse rides and let us hang out. Every time anyone walked into her house she would offer them a drink. Her house is where I fell in love with crushed ice. She did get remarried to Paul Barker. I never really considered him my grandpa because I remembered my grandpa. He was a very nice guy and kept my grandma company. She loved not being alone.
Eventually he died, and this was very hard for my grandma. We had a few live in people come help her but even that wasn’t enough after a while. Towards the end of her life she moved into a facility to help her full time. I remember visiting her one time with my little girls. They sang “Whitney’s” song from Tarzan to her. She just smiled and held our hands.
It was sweet.
For just a moment I felt as though she connected and was present. She talked about her ranch most of the time and didn’t remember anyone. It was hard to see, but especially painful when she didn’t recognize my mother who spent countless hours taking care of her. My mom tried not to take it personally but that was a tall order. I know my mom will be blessed for her patience and loving care. If anyone loved the ranch as much as grandma, it would be my mom.
We all knew that eventually the ranch would be sold and it was. It was almost sickening to see the “for sale” signs go up all over the property and being subdivided. Then the bulldozers came to clear the land. Clear the land of all my childhood dreams that had been cultivated there. It was like another world, a Secret Garden. The animals seemed to be happier there and the land at peace. It was loved and it knew it. My heart aches as I visit this sacred spot in my mind. It will always remain as it was when I was a child in my head. The pine trees were enormous. They were dug up somewhere by my grandpa and transplanted to the ranch when they were small.
My mom used to tell us stories about having the chore to dragging around the house for hours watering them so they wouldn’t die. The hard work paid off because they lent shade as we enjoyed the summer days for years. There were some enormous boulders that Grandpa Mabey hauled off of the mountain. Ally and I always used to play house on them. We claimed the rocks for our homes. We would pick wild flowers and set them around our house. It was like having our own little piece of the ranch. The wild flowers were perfect. They were tiny blossoms spread across the fields by the garden in lavenders, pinks, and yellows. There were also huge sunflowers that filled the air with the unmistakable aroma of their smell.
To this day I love sunflowers for this reason. The first time I tried a radish was in their garden. I distinctly remember being shocked that a cool vegetable pulled out of the ground could taste hot! She also had cactus growing everywhere. She was a great combination of the wild west with the beach. If you walked through her house you would have seen shells she had collected on her walks across the beach and cactus planted in cute little vases. She had great style, wearing clothes I would love to wear now if I had them! She was beautiful with tanned skin and a tone physique up until the day she died. She was active and loved her horses.
Sometimes I laugh when my mom is snowboarding, riding horses, water skiing, traveling, doing yoga, water skiing and whatever else keeps her busy instead of knitting. She does bake cookies, but they are made out of things you have never heard of. They are basically a different recipe every time of healthy ingredients and some chocolate chips thrown in the mix, otherwise she couldn’t get away with calling them cookies. As soon as I am ready to tease her for being an unconventional grandma I realize that I may very well be the exact same. I always have a list of things to experience and accomplish. I think it’s in the blood. Don’t get me wrong, she LOVES her grand kids. It isn’t uncommon to see her tear up when she sees them, for joy. She has spent hours making them porcelain dolls, dresses, ceramics, and pajamas. She is a great example of living life to the fullest. It is no wonder I am who I am.
One day when I went to visit my parents, Jon talked me into driving by the ranch to see how the development was going. We pulled into the freshly cleared culti sac. I was breathless with nothing to say. What is there to say? They hadn’t gotten too far yet but work had been done. I got out of the car and started to slowly walk toward where, I don’t really know. I glanced up toward where the barn had been and saw MY rock. It was at this point that the emotions boiling under the surface became too much to bare. Tears came pouring out of my eyes. No sound, just tears that came from deep inside. Jon gave me a minute alone and then walked up behind me. I told him the history of my rock in as many words as I could get out at the time. He didn’t say much but just held me. After about 15 minutes of watching the sunset for the last time over the Great Salt Lake from the ranch I willed myself to get back into the car. We drove home in silence, which is saying a lot for Jon and I. He new I needed processing time. I came home and crawled into bed and fell asleep.
The next day I was fine, it was a new day. At about 12:00 I was driving home from running errands when Jon called me on the cell phone. I answered his call but couldn’t hear much of what he was saying. I finally made out the words,
I sat for a minute and made out some beeping in the background. He said, “Did you hear that?” I told him I had but that I didn’t know what it was. He said, “THAT my dear, is the sound of me bringing you YOUR rock!” I was so touched I started to cry. He had actually rented a backhoe and was loading me two rocks to bring to our home in Orem.
He almost broke the trailer hauling the extremely heavy load so far. He brought them that day and placed them into our yard. My rock is in the back yard and another rock Allyson played on is in my front flower bed. We actually planned our landscaping around them.
I warned him that if we ever moved they would have to come with us! Jon constantly amazes me. His love and devotion are tireless. When I told the story to my sister in law Heather she named it my “Love Rock”. Every time I look at the rock my mind is flooded with so much emotion and memories I can’t believe it. My kids now sit on it as they watch each other play in the backyard. It has become a part of me and my family. I guess we all pass things onto the next generation weather it be mannerisms, things we love, or rocks. I would have to say it is the rock that means the most. My family is my rock.