DIG DEEP INTO YOUR MEMORIES TO REFLECT ON YOUR GRANDMOTHERS AND GRANDFATHERS
My sisters and I could never have wished for a better grandmother than our mother's mother, our Nana. She loved us unconditionally and she made the best yellow cake with chocolate icing in the whole world and we got to lick the bowl. And she cooked a mean leg of mutton. And, to make it more interesting, she cooked and baked in a wood burning range. Originally from England, we only knew her in Oakland, in her brown shingle house near Lake Merritt, where she or our grandfather took us to feed the ducks. We can still hear the sound of the swinging door from the dining room into the kitchen and trace her whole house in our memories. When we spent the night we usually slept where she did - on the sleeping porch at the back of the house which only had screens - no windows. We could hear all the night sounds. And we could always hear her living room clock which bonged every quarter hour. We rode the street car with her to downtown Oakland where she would take us shopping at Capwells. She laughed with us, talked to us and made us stand up straight. She was my first role model for being a grandmother.
My Grandmother's Kitchen
I never went in the kitchen
when Annie was our housekeeper
unless heading through the back passage
down the wide steps to the yard.
But during the war many of the women
put together food bundles
at the Red Cross, worked at the steel mill, or
like my Mother
made bandages on Atlantic Avenue.
Mother brought home seconds.
No longer medicinal white,
but a pink stretchy material,
They sprawled on the kitchen table next to
the magical growing balls: string, rubber bands,
tin foil. And the stacks of woven squares,
khaki and scratchy,
for making blankets to send to the army.
Annie was gone, Mother was tired, teaching
all day, bandaging at night but the kitchen
stayed the same -- creamy white walls,
big wooden table in the center
with grain drawers that opened down like yawning
mouths, rattling with a few potatoes, onions.
In one corner the tall hutch, where a turn
of the crank snowed out sifted flour. My Grandmother
seemed to like baking. Maybe she was glad
Annie had been swallowed by the war.
Grammy became dredged in flour, a virago
of pie crusts and cakes, dumplings and roast
chicken and together we went to the butcher,
See that it's ground beef and not
horsemeat. I know you, Andy Henson.
To Granelli's for vegetables and grains.
I would make a village of roads by dragging my
shoe through the sawdust. Mr. Granelli
had a trolley ladder attached to his shelves
and would spring abroad as the ladder raced
down the length. I thought it fine as any fair ride,
but he would look grave and give me
a pickle from the barrel.
Sometimes we walked all the way down Pacific
where even the side walks were sawdust and crates
lay broken open, fish stacked and chickens
and the smell thick and rank. I would be in a hurry
to get home to our kitchen even if it meant
plucking pin feathers from cold pimpled skin.
Eventually the war ended. Mother cried
and we went out onto Forest Street and danced
with neighbors and strangers. White bandages
returned but Annie never did.
The kitchen had changed hands for good.
Meals My Grandmother Made Me
Dredging pieces of meat into flour,
a blizzard over the breadboard,
my grandmother puts me on a stool
with the paper bag and heavy iron pot
to shell peas.
I break the stem end, strip the vein
from one side of the pod to weaken it,
crack it open and slide my finger down
its silky green insides, popping peas,
send them pinging and bouncing
against the metal. The bag crackles and inside
the pods are slick, translucent.
I slide them empty up and down my nose.
Tiny unformed peas at the end
of the pod, too small for the pot,
fly about the kitchen like insects
on missions of their own. If I can grab them
first, they are tender, musky.
Too preoccupied to teach me,
my grandmother cooks hamburger and onions,
rich buttery-salt smells fill the house.
What I like least is chickens. Grammy
takes me to Pacific Avenue where
sawdusted streets hold boxes of fresh meat
and fish. Chickens come from Mr. Garibaldi,
who takes three or four by their scrawny legs
and flops them on the counter. Grammy pinches
their thighs, slaps at breast bones,
the hollow music giving her some information
she never shares with me.
Selected, its head is chopped off at the level
of my eyes, the chicken wrapped in crisp
white butcher paper faster than I can follow.
Grammy counts out the exact charge
and puts the chicken in her string bag.
Nothing is expected of me if she buys beef,
lamb, fish, but chickens once plucked and naked
have pin feathers. I am the one who pulls
each and every one out of the white
sickly-looking body, clammy
and smelling of limp skin. Hard
to get out especially if you bite your nails
down to sore edges as I do.
Kitchen smells are warm, full of gravy.
Flour is in a high cabinet, with a crank
which releases white powder into a bowl
or if I want to make it snow, if no one
is around, I release it
all over the counter, irresistible.
When less than a year,
C. B. Follett
I only knew my Paternal Grandmother, who died when I was six. We visited fairly regularly when I was very little, meeting for “lake/fishing” vacations in Mich. or Wis. but when WWII came that ended that, with gas rationing, we couldn’t travel the 400 mile distance that separated us. All I remember is Grandmother seemed very old and, additionally, that her house smelled of lavender. But I know some of the details of her life. She had four boys, one of whom died when he was @10. She sent her oldest to WWI from which he returned forever changed, not physically, but mentally. He never quite recovered from what he had had seen as an ambulance driver.
When her husband
became ill, she took over the family business in which she was a partner
and ran it long after he died. Those are strong genes to draw from. My
maternal Grandmother came to this country from Denmark as a bride. She
and her husband owned a hotel near the railroad station in Kenosha,
Wisconsin. She was widowed when my Mother, her only child, was five. Her
husband died of skin cancer which slowly ate away his face, a horror to
watch. It was his dying wish that his daughter learn to play the
violin. Valborg, my grandmother, somehow scraped together money to pay
for violin lessons and Mother became somewhat of a child prodigy,
concretizing for years until Motherhood overwhelmed her. Though I didn’t
know those grandparents, their gift of music has sustained me all my
life, is part of my son’s life and that of my two grandchildren who take
piano lessons. That’s four generations. Quite a legacy.
I never knew my paternal grandparents, but I do remember my maternal grandmother very well because my sister and I would visit her every summer when we were young. When I first knew her, she was an active woman, busy with a little gardening, cooking (making doughnuts for grandchildren) and listening (a difficulty) to classical music on the radio. In her eighties, severe arthritis prevented her from being active, but her mind remained clear into her late 90s. She died at 103.
Since she had been born in 1854, she could remember the Civil War. She enthralled her granddaughters when she sang Civil War songs such as “We’re tenting tonight on the cold camp ground” or “When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah.” But most of all she was a great story teller. We sat spellbound when she told us of the day Lincoln was shot. She and her sister (probably about ten years old) were playing outside when the town crier walked slowly down the street calling out his mournful message: Lincoln – shot, Lincoln shot. Terrified the little girls fled into the house and hid under the bed. We never forgot this story.
At the time of my birth my father was studying for his oral exams for his Ph.d degree. After I was born my mother went into a severe post partum depression. Who would care for this new-born? The decision was made to take me to my father's mother who lived perhaps one hundred and
fifty miles away. This grandmother (Anna) lived in a Victorian house which always smelled deliciously of lavendar. I lived for approximately three months under her devoted care. When I was returned to my parents we moved to the college town where my father taught. Moving with us was
my mother's mother ( Valborg) who had some kind of a heart condition. She spent much of her time with me. Unfortunately she died when I was about a year and a half old. Obviously I have no conscious memories of this early part of my life or of the role these two women played in my
life at that time. However, throughout the rest of my life (I am 76 years old) I have been aware of their continuing strong presence in my life. Somehow Valborg and Anna have protected and guided me.
My maternal grandparents lived on a ranch southeast of Pueblo, Colorado. They raised cattle, alfalfa, and wheat along with my grandmother raising rabbits. Naturally, with living on a ranch, they also had chickens that lived in a really elaborate chicken coop with a brooder. I recall accompanying my “Grandmo” as she collected eggs. I seem to remember that when the nannies had kids, they too were in the large area where the larger chickens roamed. The garden was quite large with corn, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, and I do not remember what else. The barn was also large and frightening for me (as most things were for me). My grandmother would go up into the loft of the barn to shoot the pesky magpies with a shotgun. As she fired away, I recall a horse looking in from his stall at me which frightened me and me crying, “Grandmo”, are you finished now?” I was frightened a lot however, I believe I was too young and a city slicker. I never even cared for animals in town, nor neighbors or strangers holding me when I was young.
The ranches during that time, or many of them, did not have electricity or water as it was not there to be hooked up to. Thusly, it was hard work for both of my grandparents. My Mother and her brother loved it. They went to barn dances that my grandfather and mother played for. My “Grandpo” played the violin and my mother played the piano. My Grandmother cooked pastries which even to this day a few of the ole timers have commented how they remember her doughnuts etc.
The Grandchildren, there were five at the time, played Chinese checkers and jacks. The older three children hiked around or climbed the apple tree which did have a swing on it. I, myself, stayed as close to an adult whether outside or indoors. The older three really did enjoy their stay. I was too young and a coward.
My Grandmother had a treadle sewing machine and made goat cheese, and was quite busy all the time. She always smiled and called me “Honey Bunch.” I felt quite safe with her and also with my grandfather. My Grandmother was German and my Grandfather part Choctaw Indian. However, there did not seem to be any difference from how most of my friends grew up. My best friend, Carl, since kindergarten until sixth grade, loved being with my family as we knew the mountains and loved being in them. I still did not enjoy the nights camping as I was frightened and still do get a tad frightened. My friend since grade school still loves to go to the area that my Mother was raised and does not mind my Mother reminiscing how wonderful it was. She absolutely thinks I was fortunate as it really is quite lovely.
We no longer have the ranch as my grandparents parted. I suppose we started to grow up and did not frequent the ranch as much. Yes, I did sit on my grandmother’s lap as well as my grandfather’s. I was too heavy to carry. I was always a chubby, healthy baby and toddler.
My paternal grandparents lived in town and were a part of my life. However, I was not as close to them as I was with my “Grandmo” and “Grandpo”. My Maternal grandparents lived until their nineties. I was fortunate that I could spend time with each one. My “Grandpo” and I hiked together and my “Grandmo” and I would have lunch or dinner together.
Re grandparent memories:
After my grandfather died, my parents and their three daughters moved into my Grandmother's large home. I, the caboose and what was hoped to be the long awaited son, came along a few years later and enjoyed the apple of not only my Dad's eye, but also my grandma's. That meant: playing endless games of rummy with her, disappearing when she stood over the heat register in her billowing nightgown uttering, "My feet are like two chucks of ice," and taking the bus downtown to the Civic Theatre for her beloved weekly Bingo game. Truly, she was dressed in purple from hat to gloves to shoes when we went to church and how I love the poem,"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple..."; it hangs in our powder room and I just took a loving look at it. Let me know if you'd like the words...I bet you have them : > )
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
I only knew my paternal grandfather who called me Anneke, which is the Dutch version of my name. He came to the States from Holland in 1933. My father arrived in 1927, and my mother in 1929. My mother told me he used to call me his "golden angel" (in Dutch) when I was small. So you can see why I have loving memories of him. He died when I was seven, so the memories are pretty limited. I will have to think about it and maybe come up with more.
Don't know why I
skipped over my other "grandma", who was actually a great aunt and
raised my mother after her father left town. She also lived in the
hills of Kentucky, in Hitchens. I don't know if that is even on the map
any more. We visited every summer. I thought she was very sweet and
was always very old! I learned a lot about a life style there. There
was no in door plumbing and the water came from the well, which was on
the porch. The stove burned coal I believe as they were in the hills
which were near W. Va and coal mining country. They may have had
electricity, but I don't remember. There was a lot of porch time, with
swinging, rocking and talking to the neighbors who passed by. I
remember her being sweet to me, but not having any expectations. When
life is centered around survival I believe expectations are not too
My maternal grandparents lived with us until I was about twelve and it was a fantastic experience. I viewed them as another set of parents and feel extremely lucky for the experience. My grandfather took me to the park almost daily. My grandmother was a loving, caring and "homebody" kind of person. She had the smarts to always seem to give me the right advice. Their love determined my decision (together with Ralph, my husband) to retire and move close by to my three grandchildren. It's been one of the best decisions we ever made.
When I see the children next, I'll ask them about how they'll remember me.
I'm one of those with not much to say. My paternal grandfather was dead by 1910 and my paternal grandmother was killed in the Holocaust, probably around August 1941, in Lithuania.
My maternal grandfather died when I was about 4 years old, and my grandmother when I was 15. I remember visiting them in Brooklyn in their tiny apartment and we would all sleep in one bedroom, my grandparents in one bed, my mother, brother and I in the other bed. One of us always slept with feet toward the other two. My grandmother, at the age I am now, wore long, black dresses, with tie-up black shoes and opaque stockings. She wore her gray hair in a bun and never seemed to leave the tiny apartment. She seemed like a very old woman. I remember her as a kind, sweet lady who like to hug and kiss us and give us a few pennies to go to the corner candy store to put the money in the candy machines for candy or whatever. In my case I always got Indian nuts and would then sit on the stoop and crack the shells with my teeth to get out the sweet meat. It has only been fairly recently that I discovered that my Indian nuts were really pine nuts. Now I can by them by the bag full at Costco, already shelled. It was a big thing for my grandmother to open her change purse and give me a few pennies on Saturday (usually the only full day we were there) because, as a religious woman, she did not touch money on the Sabbath.
I only remember her visiting us once and that was when I was quite young. The feelings generated by thinking of her are warm, filled with love and for me, sadness because I did not get to know her when I reached adulthood and would have been more interested in who she was.
What a nice idea. I wish I could be more helpful, but, the only grandparent I remember is my Grandma Webb. Probably I was five and I was staying with her and got to have soda crackers and honey with her before I went to bed. It was so delicious and I still love this combination.
I knew all four grandparents. My father's parents lived in Evanston,Ill - Grandpa worked for the Wrigley Company and always had lifesavers and gum in his desk drawer for us when we went to visit. We didn't see them often but did know them. I don't remember them ever coming to Michigan to visit us. We always drove there - the three children fighting in the backseat of the car and finally falling asleep just as we arrived. My mother's parents lived next door to us and we children lived comfortably in both houses. My 'Baba' was probably the most important nurturer and role model in my life. I adored her. As the oldest of three children and a girl I was very privileged to have her full attention. She took me on wonderful trips - to Boston, Washington DC, Williamsburg, NYC, Los Angeles, Europe. We once took the Super Chief home from LA. She took me to flower shows, which she judged, from the time I was 3-4 yrs. We played in her huge attic on rainy days, slept over numerous nights, had slumber parties in her many bedrooms.
Before she died of breast cancer she came to California to visit us and I have pictures of her holding our daughter. I am sure the reason I feel it so important to have a close connection to our grandchildren is because of this experience. This grandfather was pretty independent - traveled alone and sort of lived his own life. He came home from Mexico one year with a Chihuahua in his pocket and nearly blind from some condition I was too young to understand. I remember reading aloud to him when I was in jr and sr high school. I resented it. I think as Grandparents we need to strive to enrich our grandchildren's lives on as many levels as we can. Parents are so busy today, especially when both work. Kabubble will help me do that!
Interesting question. I only knew one grandmother very well.
On my father's side:
His mother died before my parents were married. His father remarried fairly soon, and on his new wife's urging, gave up contact with his three sons in favor of devoting himself to her and her disabled daughter. My parents stayed in touch nonetheless, and I saw him once when I was around 10 or 12 when I visited Duxbury, Mass. where he was the town doctor and still living in the house where my father was born. I have very little recollection of that visit. He lived to be about 92, and when John and I visited back east in about 1964, we spent several hours visiting with him. He was nearly blind and in a wheel chair and he was interesting and welcoming and glad to see me. But that is the extent of my memory of him. For a Harvard educated doctor, he was blind in more ways than one! More than you wanted to know I think.
On my mother's side:
Her father died in his 50's from cancer, well before my parents met. My grandmother, Nana to her grandchildren, lived with her oldest daughter in Summit, NJ where I grew up. I was very close to Nana with whom I spent a lot of time growing up. It was a big treat to spend the night in her apartment. I always spent the Saturday night before Easter and for a while, thought the Easter bunny came up the dumbwaiter! We spent a month every summer on a lake in Vermont with my mother's family, and Nana was there as well, sitting on the porch watching my cousins and me swim, dive off the float, etc. and occasionally venturing down to the beach to sit in a beach chair. But I never saw her in a bathing suit or doing anything strenuous; she must have climbed into a rowboat but I'm not sure. She certainly didn't go canoeing. I remember her with a cane so think she must have used that the last 15 - 20 years of her life. She always wore a dress and most of the time a hat when she was outdoors. She had long white hair which she twisted up on top of her head. One of my favorite memories is of brushing her hair. And we did play lots of solitaire and other card games. She was very elegant but had a good sense of humor and was warm and loving to her grandchildren. She died in early 1961, right after John and I became engaged, and although she wasn't seeing many family members that January, she did see both of us to give us her good wishes. She was 91 years old.
I loved her a lot but certainly didn't play hide and seek or go skiing or interact in sports like we do with our grandchildren. She was about 70 when I was born which may have been part of the difference. And yes, she always seemed old to me.
There - hope that answers your question. I didn't mean to go on so long. The swimming thing is interesting; my mother had two sisters, one of whom didn't swim at all and the other dog-paddled with her face scrunched up out of the water. My mother was the best and all she did was sidestroke. I learned all my athletic activities from my father except for ice skating.
My, how times have changed!! Didn't you feel your parents were old when they were our age?
In response to your query about grandparents:
I had two sets--my father's parents and my mother's.
They all lived in Anaheim. Mother's had more material
advantages than my Dad's, but all four played some
role in my life. Poppe, my Dad's father moved to
California with his wife and two very young boys in
the 1880's. Poppe bought orange groves and tended them
with the help of various relatives, while his wife,
whom we called Grankins, cooked the fresh vegetables
and fruits that Poppe grew. She canned many of them,
including the green beans which we knew as Pickled
Beans. (I suppose that she used vinegar to keep the
botulism at bay). Poppe and various male relatives
spent their free evenings playing pinochle in the room
off the family kitchen. I only remember much laughter
and a sprinkling of German (swearing maybe?).
Somehow, Grankins and Poppe managed to educate all
four boys through college, three of whom became
pharmacists, the fourth a dentist. I do remember my
Dad saying that at a very early age (probably high
school) he spent several nights a week at the
telephone switchboard in Anaheim. I think each of the
boys worked to help with college expenses.
Since Grankins and Poppe lived on their ranch, perhaps
a mile from our home "in town", we didn't see them as
frequently as we saw my maternal grandparents, Grandad
and Grandma, who lived just a few blocks away during
my early elementary school years. My younger sister
and I traded weekend overnights at their house. We
carried little suitcases (presents from grandparents)
and felt very grown up making the trip of two city
blocks to their house. Part of the weekend treat was
getting a gum-ball out of the big, round, glass bubble
that required a nickel in the slot! This treat was on
our walk home from church with Grandad, a trip of
about seven blocks. Incidentally, Grandad made that
walk both ways every day until the last month of his
One highlight in my remembrances of Grandad and
Grandma was their return from a trip to Europe when I
was five years old. They had also visited Egypt and
brought me a toy wooden plow. I treasured it for years
and years. Grandad typed a record of that trip in a
loose-leaf album which I have read before departing on
several trips to many of those places. I marveled
then, and even now, that they took one of the first
airplane rides across the English Channel--I think it
was in 1925.
I have eleven grandchildren, some of whom I have known
quite well. All live in California now, and I am lucky
to enjoy occasional individual visits with them and
yearly when my children, grandchildren and great
grandchildren gather at the family vacation house in
Suzy, thank you for suggesting this reminiscence. I've
been going to write a family history, so maybe this
will get me started.
I did have two sets of grandparents and I remember them to this day very vividly AND I do remember them as being VERY OLD even when they were about my age now. My maternal grandparents were born in 1884 and 1885, and my paternal grandparents were born about the same time. In about 1955 my maternal grandparents were 70 and I was 17. When they had their 50th wedding anniversary, they seemed very old. However, Steve and I will have our 50th in just three years and we certainly don't feel or look that old ... except once in a while when we might feel it!
A big event in the lives of my mother and I was that my father died when I was 10 months old. That was a terribly difficult time for my mom. (My father had had scarlet fever as a child and it damaged the lining of his heart. I arrived four years after they were married even though they knew that my father could probably not live.) From my perspective now I can see that his death drew my mother even closer to me as well as closer to her parents. My paternal grandparents took a negative attitude to the whole event, losing their son, and weren't interested in helping my mother very much. But my mother and I continued to visit them now and then. I loved that grandfather because he cared about me and I have good memories of him, but my grandmother wasn't much interested in me from what my mother has told me over the years.
On my mother's side she and I spent various times over the years, living with her parents after my father died. I was very close to my grandpa. He was a salesman and had work to do in the evening. He used to let me help him do work at his desk; I don't remember what I did, but I felt very important! Also he loved to listen to my mother play the piano (as did I); this was when I was about 4. From what I have been told, I danced back and forth behind my mom on the piano bench, singing "Dance with a Dolly with and Hole in her Stocking!" Grandpa used to sing with me, too. Thus, here lie the beginnings of my love of music and piano playing and singing together!
I do remember very well when both of my maternal grandparents died. When I was in college, they were both in the hospital at the same time which was very touching. The nurses would bring them out in the hallway in wheel chairs so they could spend time together. My grandfather died shortly after that hospital stay and my grandmother went from the hospital to a nursing home that she never left until she died which was probably another 8 years or so. I recall visiting her many times (either by myself or with my mother) until she died.
In addition to my four grandparents, I had two maternal GREAT grandparents (my mother's grandparents on her mother's side)! And I do have memories of them . . . a special memory with my maternal great grandfather. He was a wonderful, interesting man, in his nineties at this time. Mom and I would go to visit him in the summer time when I was about 4 years old. I would sit on his lap in a big front-porch rocking chair even on a hot summer day! My great grandma thought it was too hot for him! Also at about this same time, he wrote me a letter on which he had drawn a checker board with the checkers placed so that it showed that it was my turn! I still have that letter in among my keepsakes in the attic.
Overall, I have mostly wonderful memories of all my grandparents and GREAT grandparents. We probably don't realize, as grandparents now, how important the times are that we spend with our grandchildren. I hope to continue to instill the love and appreciation of music as our grandkiddies grow!
I have few recollections of my grandparents. I seldom saw them as we lived un-transportational distances from each other. Once I stayed with my maternal grandparents after my mother and I were evacuated from China (I was four) and before we went to Hawaii. I never saw them again as they died during WW II , but I recall them as old and my grandmother rather impatient with my spoiled behavior. Pretty much the same with my paternal grandmother and though she lived through my first 2 years in college, we had no relationship. Yes, indeed they all always seemed SO old!! There were never any special moments, excursions, reading books together or the like. I know this isn't very interesting but I am glad you made me respond as I really hadn't given it much thought - and now I have. Thanks for encouraging me to do that.