Tuesday, July 14, 2009

At My Granny's House...

I have more recent pictures of my Granny, but unfortunately had not gotten them on my computer before it decided not to "see" the scanner. In this photo she's with my mother, who was about 8 years old, so Granny was about 33. Photo was taken around 1935.

I was not blessed with a granny right around the corner, in the next county or even in the next state. My granny lived in England and came to visit every five years or so. When she came, she stayed for months and we loved every minute with her. She was such a perfect lady, such a perfect...granny. Sensible shoes, gray hair pulled back, glasses, sweet smile, soft hands, good-smelling hankies in her pockets, soft English accent and the ability to produce tea at any time of the day. She wrote long letters on thin blue airmail paper that made reading difficult and sent lvoely hankies and manicure kits at Christmas. Sometimes she called on the phone and there was always great excitement in the house then.

Although my memories of my grandmother are usually of trying to keep out of her way, I remember her infectious laugh very well. And this photo makes me wonder if there were sides to Grandma I didn't get to know.

My grandmother was of German/Prussian heritage. She lived in a nearby town when I was very little, but by the time I was 5 or 6 she and Grandpa had moved to Louisiana and later to Texas. They made long road trips to Canada, the Southwest, Northwest, all kinds of places. They stopped by to visit every 6 months or so, staying for a few days. I was scared of Grandma--she had a deep voice, a stern way with us children and thought our mother let us run amuck (She did, thank goodness. That's why so many of us are creative people). We liked it when these grandparents came because they brought slides to show of all the places they'd been. Grandma made tied quilts for us, and dresses of always the same pattern. She sent us $1.00 in dimes that stuck into little slots on our birthday cards. Still, I was aware of her disapproval of our mother and of our family in general and that still colors my memories of her. That is a whole different story, however, and one I may tell here one day.

Neither grandmother was what I'd call accessible. They were just too far away. I have no memories of sitting in their kitchens making cookies with them, or working in their gardens or hearing stories of when they were young. I don't remember them being there to listen to my sorrows or to watch proudly when I was in a school program or won an award. They just weren't part of my life in that way.

So I love to hear Larry's stories about his grannies. About visiting them, helping them with chores, hearing ghost stories from them or about how they'd kept their grown sons in line (with a coal shovel, I think it was). They were part of his every day, just down the road, a place to go whenever home got too difficult or just boring.

For my grandchildren I try to be the kind of granny I think I would have liked. I am sorry to have to be a working granny with a job that seems to get in the way quite a lot. But when the grandkids are here, we cook. We talk. They visit the chickens and walk up the hill to get my mail. We tell stories and sing songs. We watch the stars and the dogs. We build fires and watch those too. We go Mothman hunting and ride ferryboats and go to the Downtowner for breakfast. I hope they carry these memories with them and remember being at my house with the kind of comfort with which Larry remembers his granny's homes.

Which got me to wondering. What is it you remember most about your granny or grandmother's house? When you start a sentence with the words "At my granny's house" how would you most likely finish it? Leave a comment and tell us about what it meant, or still means, to you to visit your granny.

20 comments:

Nance said...

I did enjoy this post. Thanks!

I, too, had a West Virginia Granny who wasn't accessible to me. She might have been -- my older sister remembers her as gentle, refined, accessible -- but then she moved a way out to California and there we were stuck in Iowa.

My other grandmother already had 20+ grandchildren by the time I came along. She was "babied out" then, she was. She was always kind and gentle. Just not that connected. No more energy for little ones.

Lost them both while still in my teens so I am like you -- trying to be the kind of Nana that I would have wanted for myself.

solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

what a great post!
we never lived far from where my parents were born so would see both grannies often. my dads mum, seeing her through my adults eyes and for some reason this is the only way i can see her~was always striving to be seen as from a 'higher class' she wanted my dad and then either me or my sister to join the forces and climb the ladder. she disaproved of my mum who came from the 'rough' part of portsmouth.
my mums mum, half irish, is still alive (well into her 90's!) and i always remeber her tales of portsmouth during the war~the blitz, the air raids, rationing, the odd evacuation and tales of family members, for her family occupied both side of one road in the city, near the dockyard. that road was never bombed and my nan's favourite saying about that was 'the devil looks after his own'

Brighid said...

Thanks for a Great Post.
I have few memories of my maternal grandmother. She lived far away, passed away early on, and was not a fixture in our daily lives. My paternal grandmother lived close by and was always there for us. I have many great memories of her. Taking me on the train, up to the cabin, to the library, cooking & sewing, camping out, to the opera, to the Shakespeare plays. Most of all for the gentle kind caring granny she was. I often find myself talking to her even after all these years. Miss you, Love you Granny, Your Scallywag.

Laura said...

At my Granny's (Nonnie's) house we felt like we had freedom to do lots of things. We cooked with her, played games, had picnics...my children are fortunate to know her. My daughter has fond memories of making biscuits with her (and actually called her at the nursing home last night for the recipe.)

My Grandma was fun, too...she was always up for a game. Both grandma's attended as many of our events as they could--
I am lucky/blessed--I grew up with both my grandmas and two great-grandmothers in the same town!

Granny Sue said...

Babied out--I like that term, Nance! It kinda describes my mother when I had my older sons. Her baby was only 3 when my first son was born and she wasn't so into being a granny as she was later on. Then she became the perfect granny.

laoi, I hope you write those stories down or at least record them. That generation is fast leaving us, and taking their memories with them. Mom often spoke about the air raids too--they didn't seem to be too frightened by them to hear her tell it. I like "the devil taking care of his own!" how funny!

Brighid, you describe the kind of granny I want to be. It's difficult with working and storytelling, but it's what I aspire to. Sometimes I see traits from my German grandmother popping out--I can be pretty blunt!--but I'd perfer to like you describe your grandmother. What a blessing for you to have had her.

Granny Sue said...

Your upbringing is what I think most of us would hve wanted for ourselves and our children, Laura. When I moved to WV , I didn't think about my sons being far from their grandparents, and honestly I thought the grandparents would visit us at least a couple times a year. That didn't happen and we were lucky to have them come once every 5 years or so. We visited them annually or more often, but it was difficult to maintain the close "granny" ties with 6-8 hours of mountain roads between. Now with blogs, facebook, email and cell phones it is much easier to stay in touch with my grandchildren who are further away. For that I bless technology!

Mary said...

What a wonderful photo!
My grandmother made the best coffee cake and bread! -- and taught all her grand-daughters to crochet! I still have some of her pillowcases and one handkerchief.

Anonymous said...

At my grandma's house, music always filled the air. She was a gifted pianist. She also played the pipe organ at her home church for over 40 years. A very dedicated woman indeed. I am so thankful she taught me how to play the piano before my feet could even reach the floor. Now music fills the air in our home.

Tracy

Granny Sue said...

Mary, that's a memory I can smell. My German grandmother also did embroidery. When my parents passed away we found a good bit of needlework that I think she must have done, and perhaps some that my aunt had done as well. Although it's difficult to know since nothing was labeled and there was no way to identify who had done the work.

I did keep some of my mother's hankies. She had such pretty ones, lacy and flowers and smelling of lavender. They remind me of her when I come across them in my drawer.

Granny Sue said...

Ah, music! What a gift to you, Tracy. When my grandparents broke up their house in Falls Church, they gave my parents many records and books. We used to listen to the old recordings over and over, and I read many of the books in the attic during long hot summers.

When we sorted out things at Mom and Dad's house, we found programs from where our grandparents and maybe my aunt had gone to things like symphonies where aaron Copland or Leonard Bernstein conducted, and comments in letters about events like that. I never knew that part of their lives, unfortunately, so looking back through the old letters was interesting--although they also revealed, painfully, nmy grandparents' opinion of my parents. Ah well. It was long ago.

Anonymous said...

Ah...attics. That is another fond memory of mine at my Great Grandparents house. So many treasures to be found there. I also loved to eat grapes out on their front porch swing while waiting for the occasional passing passenger train.

Tracy

Granny Sue said...

That sounds like my house when i was growing up, Tracy. The attic had Dad's uniforms, mom's wedding dress, old swords, and a window through which I could see the Bull Run mountains if I looked in the right spot. We had a swing on the porch too and I spent hours out there; the trains went by out back and we'd watch them and wonder about the people in the dining cars, imagining all sorts of sophisticated lifestyles. Thank you for the reminders.

Cathy said...

I grew up with both sets of grandparents and a great grandmother on each side. I didn't know how incredibly blessed I was to have them. My maternal grandparents were 30 minutes away and we spent every weekend with them for years. That's where we learned to cook, garden and sew. We called them Totty and Popeye. I loved them like crazy.
My paternal grandparents lived near by until our teens and then they lived here in the summers only spending the rest of the year in Florida. I had ups and downs with my Mommaw Pack because she didn't like Mom but my Poppaw Pack was so sweet. He encouraged me and my sisters to never settle and work hard. He let me drive big trucks at his lumber mill and run the mill office when I was 16. I never took crap from the boys because he taught me not too.
Gosh, I miss them. I think we are lucky to have had the relationships we did.

MimiRock said...

This is morbid so I'll make it brief. The clearest thing I remember about my maternal grandmother is her death in the next room with her adult children standing around her bed while 5 of us young cousins sat at the dining room table behaving ourselves.

The clearest thing I remember about my paternal grandmother is that she was obsessed with her anticipated end of life, and talked about it very often, asking her daughters and daughters-in-law to promise they would "lay her out" in their living rooms. That was material for a lot of my nightmares since my bedroom was on the 2nd floor right over our living room!

No wonder I and my cousins are so neurotic!

Twisted Fencepost said...

One of my Granny's was much like yours. I tried to stay out of her way.
The other....she was the sweetest, most proper, easily embarrassed, with a little oneryness, person. I loved her much.

Susan at Stony River said...

Both my grandfathers and one grandmother died before I could remember them; the remaining one had suffered too much and gotten too old to be a cookies-and-milk grandma for me; my memories of her are of medications and hospitals.

My kids only have one grandmother too, my mother-in-law, and she has so many grandkids (plus is frankly clueless and self-centred) so it's like having no grandparents at all. I feel we've all missed out on a lot. My mother was a superb grandmother to the grandkids she knew, and I tell my kids lots of stories about how wonderful she was.

I loved your photos and memories in this post!

Granny Sue said...

It is almost a relief to know that we weren't alone with a grandmother who was not perhaps the gentlest of souls. Honestly, I thought most of the world was blessed with cookie-baking grannies who adored all the grandchildren! But of course, life is much messier than that, and grandmothers are still human beings who have likes and dislikes and personal oddities.

Perhaps that's the lesson here--to see our grandmothers a bit differently, as people and not as the fairytale-cottage grannies? And come to think of it, even in fairytales there were some strange old ladies in some of those cottages!

Country Whispers said...

So many memories at different stages of my live..
making mud pies under the mulberry tree, camping out in her living room with all my cousins for an overnight stay, a get-a-way spot in my teens, an open door for an anytime chat and a place to watch her sit and play with my kids.
She was ALL about kids and grandkids and when they were around everything else would have to wait. Many, many great memories!

Janet, said...

I loved my grandma and lived within hollering distance of her till we moved out of the holler when I was 19 yrs. old. Grandma was feisty and spoke her mind about everything. My fondest memories are sitting on the front porch with her waiting on the mailman, playing in her yard, her delicious apple stack cake and of course, picking blackberries with her every summer.And I loved the get togethers we'd have every June down in her yard on her birthday.

Granny Sue said...

I want to taste that stack cake, Janet. It just has to be delicious. What day wsa her birthday? Your memories are the lind I wish I had, and what I hope my grandchildren have. Even though I am direct with them, we have a lot of fun together and I enjoy spending time with them whenever I can. This summer is not working out that I will see them much unfortunately.

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