Grandma Z

Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio


All my life, my mother’s mother was Grandma “Z” to the kids. Her real name is Hannah Zavoral and I recently visited with her at her new home. What I really wanted to do was deliver her Christmas present and ask some questions about her hobby of making oven mitts for my column. The phrase I’ve often heard is “peel an onion and you’ll find many layers.” The conversation about the mitts was the first layer to which many more followed.

Grandma Z has always been very talented. I even thought perhaps genetics had passed a little of her talent onto me as part of her Christmas gift was a picture frame I’d made from sand mix cement. You see my Grandma is quite well-known for making very nice oven mitts. My wife and I have a few pairs and you can hold an oven dish indefinitely with her mitts. Others we’ve tried give you a five second window in which to remove a hot dish and place it safely on the table. It’s no wonder she’s good at it-she has a lot of experience. Somewhere in the early fifties, she bought a pair of mitts, took them apart and made her original pattern. My sister Deb even wore a dress that matched her Barbie Doll’s dress courtesy of Grandma’s talent for patterns and sewing. Grandma must have felt the Ken doll was left out as she created a three piece suit with matching cummerbund and a silk tie for Barbie’s beau.

Today Grandma Z still makes oven mitts on a regular basis. My wife recently placed an order for camouflage mitts for our young nephews who like to hunt. It was part of the Christmas rush that Grandma has sewn for over the years. Grandma Z recently moved and so awaits the materials to reach her from her old home so she can get back to the sewing machine. My sister Deb told me that once Grandma and Grandpa Zavoral assembled a mail order engine on her kitchen table for their Model A. With this in mind, I thought perhaps I could offer her some mechanic work on my pick-up while she waited to begin mitt-making. Perhaps she could even teach me some baking so that when she came in from the garage I could have cookies and coffee ready for her. Grandma Z always liked to hunt partridge with my Grandpa so maybe she could hunt us up some supper while her dainty little Grandson stays inside near the furnace. None of this really seems like too much to ask, she is only 92 years old after all.

Towards the end of our visit Grandma Z gave me a Christmas present. Over the last four years she has cut out my column and placed each one in a scrapbook. It was an honor to receive such an archive from someone who I hold in high esteem. I’m not sure if Grandma Z will like me bragging about her but if you had a grandma like this, wouldn’t you?