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Posts Tagged ‘influence of grandmothers’

Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






visiting Estelle
gravestones outlast the living
markers for the dead


all that’s left behind
a letter, a horseshoe ring
lasting love and luck


face of a pine tree
warm thoughts of the Grandmothers
hover over me







It’s the time of year when I think often of family and loved ones, living and dead. One of the highlights of my October trip to Georgia was visiting my Grandmother Estelle’s grave for the first time. I did not know her well, had not seen her since I was 2 years old. I knew none of my blood father’s family. It was synchronicity when in 2007 my paternal aunts ended up in the insurance office of my maternal uncle and asked the question, “Are you related to….?”

It happened to be two weeks before Mom and I were scheduled to travel to Georgia. After 50 years apart, the question’s answer led them to me.

It turns out, my paternal grandparents are buried down the hill from my maternal grandparents in the same cemetery. I’ve been visiting the cemetery with my mother for years and never knew. These photographs are of the pine tree that grows high over their graves. My Aunt Annette told me that my grandfather loved pine trees. So do I. When I was a child, I would spend hours sweeping pine needles, the scaly bough of a branch curving to make just the right shape, a prairie-style home.

The thing about cemetery trees is that they are many times old growth trees, never to be cut. I like to think this pine is a guardian for my grandparents, its long roots extending deep underground, branches tall and proud (reminds me of another pine in New Mexico that I’m quite fond of, the Lawrence Tree).

There is more to the story — a letter, an obituary, a ring. Perhaps another post. This week I give thanks for all who live, and those who have come before.


Skin Of A Pine Tree, Pine Trunk In The Graveyard, My Grandmother’s Grave, Cemetery Pine, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Post Script: the day Mom and I met my aunt at the cemetery, we also visited the Gertrude Herbert Memorial Institute of Art in Augusta. That’s where my Canon G6 battery died; I had forgotten to charge the backup battery. These photos are all taken with the BlackBerry cell phone camera.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

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Roma in the old truck, date unknown, image
© 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Look at her smile.

I knew her smiles. I saw her dimples and I saw her straight teeth, and I saw the dance in her eyes, but I never saw the smile she’s wearing in that photo.

That is the smile of a woman in love. An adoring smile. Look at it.

That is the smile that tells me Roma was a woman and a lover and a friend before she ever became my grandmother.








My Aunt Sophie, the oldest of my grandmother’s children, wrote an essay about her mother. The following are excerpts taken from that piece.


Roma was my mother. I wonder what my grandparents were thinking when they named her Roma. Her family called her Romey, her friends called her Romana, and close friends and relatives called her Romanita.

Her birthday was February 28, 1904. A very special date to be born. It was the day before Leap Year. I can verify that she was special. She was beautiful, she was romantic and adventuresome…She loved deeply, and others loved her because of her friendliness and her ability to reach out to others. She was born of an era when being poor was fashionable; a time when adults told stories to children about caves, trains, owls, witches and demons; it was one way of keeping the children at home in the evenings. Roma was a wonderful story teller. She loved to make up stories and songs and dance and laugh, all in that order.



I like to think about who Roma was before she became a grandmother. She grew up in the mining camps of northeastern New Mexico. She went to public schools with the children of immigrants from Italy, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

She was 16 when she married, a handsome New Mexican who was killed in one of the state’s worst mining accidents. At the age of 18, Roma became a widow with two children, the youngest not even a month old. Then she met my grandfather.

Mom told us about the songs her mother sang, songs she learned in school. Aunt Sophie remembered them, too:


When we were children, Roma sang us songs using the sounds of her childhood. The words did not make much sense, but the melodies live in us to this day.

Hanti-Nanche tu ti maja, mata tu san ches san a ma way.

Another song, a blend of English and Spanish, went like this: Cuando estaba chiquitita me decía me mamá, Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby.



I always wonder who took that picture of her in the truck. How old was she? It’s hard to tell. I imagine it was my grandfather, her second husband. Everyone called him Sandy, even his kids. He was a cowboy.

They lived on a ranch, seven miles from school and Cimarron, the real Wild West. Where pavement ends and Hell begins.

One last thought from Sophie:


I always enjoyed looking at my mother’s profile when I was working with her at some project. She had an abundance of rich, black hair, and depending on what she wore, her eyes were sometimes green and sometimes blue and she had this mischievous smile. Sometimes I wondered what she was thinking, and I wondered too why a woman of this beauty would be living out here where only the cattle roam.





Roma, date unknown, image 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved






-related to posts PRACTICE: My Grandmother – 15min and  WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS

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My grandmother was a generous woman. With only a 6th grade education, she managed to pull herself out of the poverty of rural Georgia to study for her hairdresser’s license and run her own business. Later she would work at Gracewood State School and Hospital helping those she saw as less fortunate than herself. Elise was a pretty woman and always sought to live a better life. She was a lucky Sun sign, the 9th, Sagittarius — surprisingly unlucky when it came to men.

Her last husband was a good man though. She met him when she lived with us in rural Pennsylvania for a few years in the 1960’s. I was in junior high; we shared a room. At that time, we had 9 people in a small rambler with 3 bedrooms. It’s something we didn’t think much about then, how small the house was, how little privacy we had. We were a close family; I was a brooding teenager. I found solace in riding my brother’s mini-bike down the hill behind the house, shooting hoops on the uneven backyard slope, a net my step-father put up for me, and hiding under my headphones, lost in the music of Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, and Chicago.

Elise didn’t like the cold. Neither does my mother for that matter. But after 43 years of living in the North, Amelia has learned to tolerate it. My mother and grandmother did not always see eye-to-eye. Even though they loved each other deeply, they often disagreed on style, clothes, and how to raise the kids. It wasn’t for my grandmother to say; she was living in my mother’s home. But that didn’t keep her from voicing her opinions. I held a soft spot in Grandmama’s heart. I think it’s because she took care of me around age 2 while my mother worked to support us. Mom is a hard worker. I think it’s something she passed down to us kids.

I was sad when Grandmama moved back to Georgia. She met her last husband Raymond in the same state where her father was born, not all that far from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Raymond agreed to move to Georgia with her and that’s exactly what they did. North and South have always comingled in the family tree. I don’t remember seeing her often after that (but I remember all the names of the streets she lived on). I grew up, moved out of the house, 4 hours away to college, then 2000 miles to live in the Pacific Northwest. I alienated myself from family and old high school and college friends. I was angry and wanted desperately to figure out who I was without the ties of the past. It took over 10 years.

During that time, I wasn’t in as much communication with my grandmother in Georgia. I was looking for steady work, rode my bicycle through the winter streets of Missoula to drop off job applications, hiked the Bitterroot Mountains, helped friends build their cabins. Grandmama would call to check on me. Elise was a worrier. I tried to tell her I would be alright and not to worry. Eventually, she stopped calling as much. I was 30 years old when she died. I remember getting the call from Mom that Elise had had a heart attack. She survived and came home from the hospital; I called and talked to her one last time.

A day later, she went into the hospital again and did not come home. I remember the sinking feeling of knowing I’d never get to see her again, to ask her all the questions I wanted to ask. If only I knew then what I know now. If only it had been the wiser 50-something person and not the selfish 30-year-old that made that last phone call.

What I have learned is that being close to someone doesn’t require that you see them all the time, or spend time together. Sometimes blood is thicker than water. I knew she would be there if I ever needed her, the same way Aunt Cassie was there for her. My biggest regret is that I didn’t go to my grandmother’s funeral. I have always carried a nagging guilt about that. Why did I make that choice? Money, time, shame, scared to face the relatives I knew would be there after so much time away. Why did I isolate myself so from the family?

I had to grow up. It’s that simple. I had to forgive, learn gratitude, do emotional work, mature. I had to let go, in order to pull close again. Sometimes it’s just too late to go back.

My grandmother was a strong woman. As is my mother. I like to think I carry some of that inside me. And every time someone says I’ve got strength or courage, I think of them. The smell of Elise’s perfect red lipstick, the lavender talcum powder she fluffed after her bath, the Phillips Milk of Magnesia on the edge of the bathroom counter, the jagged scar from her hysterectomy, a long, long time before laser surgery, the sweet perfumes she wore near the end of her life, the way her curls smelled like hairspray. All this and so much more.



-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS

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Her name was Romey. Not her real name. Romey was her nickname, the name on her checks. Where she was from you could use your nickname in your checkbook.

She carried a leather purse, hard leather tooled with elaborate scenes. A man on a horse or flowers set among borders. I think she had more than one, they came from Mexico, and when she died I purposely arrived a day late to the divvying out of her belongings. Nothing she had left could make up for what I lost, but when I saw the purse unclaimed I asked for it.

I’m named after her. People ask me all the time where I got my name. Mom just yesterday told someone that Grandma had wanted Mom to name one of her children after Grandma. Mom waited until she ran out of kids, and knowing I was the last chance to fulfill Grandma’s request, Mom gave me the name.

We all thought it was an ugly name when I was young, a name similar to other old lady names—Velma, Erma, Mona, Ramona—except worse because no one had heard of it. Now we know it’s a beautiful name.

I got her curly hair, too. Mom always says I must have got my hair from Grandma. And her sometimes bad temper. And her love of gossip.

She loved reading National Enquirer. The intrigue of alien babies born to earthling mothers. She insisted that the funny little redhead who showed up in deviled ham commercials and talked with a lisp was actually an old lady midget. She’d read it in the National Enquirer.

She taught us to make butter and play Black Jack, and it dawns on me that she was a pioneer woman, living an isolated life on a ranch with her kids and chores and when she got old, her soap operas and plants and apricot poodle named Dukie.

She taught us to all turn the faces of Abraham Lincoln on our penny bets to face the dealer, so that Lincoln would send the evil eye and prevent any possible stroke of luck the dealer might have. It worked; Grandma always won at Black Jack.

She had the bluest eyes, they got lighter the older she got. People ask me how I birthed a daughter with green-blue eyes when my own and Jim’s are brown. I carry Grandma’s blue eyes in a recessive gene, I tell them. Her curly brown hair, her smooth olive skin, her fiery temper, her name, and the hidden jewel of her light blue eyes.

She cooked, she knitted, she sewed quilts from old dresses. I have a blanket that covers the fashion trends of her day: paisley prints and flowers and Day-glo orange, pink, and yellow.

I still regret the time Tina and I bugged her for days asking if she’d leave us this thing or that thing when she died. We were young, 13 and 14, or 12 and 13, and we got on a kick, loving all of Grandma’s ranch house knick-knacks. She was annoyed with us, and still we persisted, pointing to a painting of a horse or an ashtray or a wooden bowl. Can I have that one, Grandma? How ’bout that one? And that one?

Later Grandma gave me a wool blanket that Grandpa had brought her from Mexico. I was in my 20s. I wonder if she remembered the time we wanted to take her with us in bits and pieces thinking we could hold on to her forever.




-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS

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Grandmama Elise On Washington Road, Augusta, Georgia, August 23rd, 1958, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Grandmama Elise On Washington Road, Augusta, Georgia, August 23rd, 1958, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



What do you remember most about your grandmother? Was she tall, thin, short, heavy? Or maybe she changed shape over the course of your lifetime. Do you remember what she smelled like, or the color of her hair? Is your grandmother living? Or has she passed on after a life well-lived. Out of all the relatives that come to mind, grandmothers wield tremendous power and are often respected by the entire family.

Grandmothers are the Elders, the Wise Ones, the Matriarchs, the glue that holds a family’s odd misshapen tree together. Many writers and artists are influenced by their grandmothers. Frank Gehry’s grandmother was the inspiration for his personal symbol, the fish. He includes fish in his architectural drawings, makes fish lamps, and has even designed buildings shaped like fish.

One of his most famous fish sculptures is the Standing Glass Fish commissioned by the Walker Art Center. Its first home was the lobby concourse between the Walker and the old Guthrie, where it was built scale by scale and exhibited as part of The Architecture of Frank Gehry Exhibition, September 21-November 30, 1986.

After two years in the Walker concourse, the 22-foot sculpture (constructed of glass and silicone and supported by a wooden armature with steel rods) was taken apart in five sections and reassembled at its second and permanent home in the central gallery of the Cowles Conservatory in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Gehry made a number of plexiglass models to study the flip of the fish’s tail, the characteristics of its eyes, and the shape of the scales.

The brass plaque on the edge of the pond nearby, calls to mind Gehry’s fond remembrance of his grandmother’s fish:


In Toronto, when I was very young, my grandmother and I used to go to Kensington, a Jewish market, on Thursday morning. She would buy a carp for gefilte fish. She’d put it in the bathtub, fill the bathtub with water, and this big black carp–two or three feet long–would swim around in the bathtub and I would play with it. I would stand up there and watch it turn and twist . . . and then she’d kill it and make gefilte fish and that was always sad and awful and ugly.

        —Frank Gehry



Glass Fish Scales, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Standing Glass Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Flying Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Glass Fish Scales, Standing Glass Fish, Flying Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photos © 2008-2009 by Liz & QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


In dire circumstances, when money is tight or family tensions rise, grandmothers often step up and help raise their children’s children. Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1943 and, though she moved to Cincinnati as a child, she returned in 1958 to spend her summers in Knoxville with her grandparents, John and Louvenia Watson. With explosive tensions between her parents difficult for Giovanni to handle, she chose to live in Knoxville for a time and attended Austin High School where her grandfather taught Latin.

It’s at this time that her grandmother’s influence profoundly shapes her life. According to her biography:


Her grandmother, who is involved in numerous charitable and political endeavors, becomes an increasingly important influence on her (Giovanni), teaching her the importance of helping others and of fighting injustice. When a demonstration is planned to protest segregated dining facilities at downtown Rich’s department store, her grandmother Louvenia cheerfully volunteers her granddaughter Nikki. In high school, Giovanni has two influential teachers: her French teacher, Mrs. Emma Stokes, and her English teacher, Miss Alfredda Delaney.


Her grandparents’ home stood at 400 Mulvaney Street in a neighborhood that’s long since been demolished, a casualty of urban renewal. In 1964, Giovanni’s grandmother Louvenia must move from her home at 400 Mulvaney Street; Nikki’s biography recalls the impact: Although her new house on Linden Avenue is nice, it lacks the accumulated memories of the home on Mulvaney, which Giovanni has also come to regard as her own home.

Nikki Giovanni often mentioned her grandmother when we saw her at the Fitzgerald Theater in January. She had returned to Knoxville on April 29th, 2008 when Mayor Haslam unveiled of a historical marker honoring Giovanni and the old neighborhood where her grandmother lived. It is now Hall of Fame Drive across the street from the Cal Johnson Recreation Center. It was on that childhood ground that Nikki Giovanni stood and recited her poem, “Tennessee By Birth.”


  Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940’s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


My maternal grandmother (lead photograph) is standing on the dirt of what used to be Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia. Her neighborhood, too, has been long gone, sacrificed to the growth of suburbs and cities. She was a hairdresser in her 30’s when I was born. My father was “allergic” to work and could not (or would not) support our family. My mother left him at 18, a few years after their marriage, and went to work. During that time, I stayed at my grandmother’s home. When I was a child, we were always close.

I remember the smell of her talcum powder, the imprint mark she would leave when she dabbed her lips after putting on her lipstick, the sound of her laughter in the evenings, her snoring at night.


*     *     *     *     *

When you say the words “my grandmother,” who comes to mind? (Most of us have at least two.) Who was your grandmother? Was she the matriarch, a dowager, estranged from the family? What was her name? Did you call her Grandmother, Granny, Grandma, or Grandmama. Did she spoil you, was she strict, how often did you see her, what kind of house did she live in? Does she ever sneak into your dreams?

Get out a fast writing pen and write the words “My Grandmother.” If you have any family photographs of your grandmother, it’s fun to pull them from the archives. Then set your timer for a 15 minute Writing Practice and Go!


Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

For Della Elise, I Miss You, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950’s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



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-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 19th, 2009

-related to posts: Art & Architecture – 2 Reasons, WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), You Can’t Go Back, Nikki Giovanni – Hope at V-Tech

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