Wicked Wednesday once again, where we all contribute to the same topic. This has been a wicked kind of month – five Wednesdays! Continuing on our theme of memories, Wickeds, who is an elder you remember strongly? A grandparent, great-aunt, neighbor, teacher – tell us who she or he was and why you remember that person so well. Bonus points if the relationship had an effect on your career as an author.
Liz: My grandpa, hands down. He was a detective who loved to tell stories about his adventures, so I guess you can see the correlation with my career! He loved to tell this one story about a guy named Nick Maluff, who had this dog who allegedly bit everyone he met. It was like that game of telephone. Every time he told the story the dog was more vicious and had attacked more people, until you would’ve thought he was out terrorizing the city on a daily basis. Turns out, the dog was just a sweet little pup who had maybe nipped at one person. Most likely my Gramp, who probably poked him with his cane or something! I always wished I’d gotten to hear more stories from his police adventures before he died.
Barb: This is my great-grandfather, Walter P. Taylor, Sr. He lived until I was in seventh grade, so I knew him quite well. He lived with my dad’s family during the thirties, forties and fifties, so my dad grew up with him in the house and they were particularly close. But by the time I remember him, he lived in Myrtle Beach with my great aunt and uncle. Every year, on the last day of school in June, my grandmother would pick up my brother and me and take us, along with my great-grandfather (whom we called ManPop for reasons to complicated to explain here), out to her summer house in Water Mill, Long Island. We spent two weeks, a lovely time, of beaching, going out to lunch, and to the penny candy store. In this photo, he is doing the thing I remember best, painting beautiful tiles. With his help, my brother and I painted them, too and then we took them to be glazed. I still have many of his tiles at my house, as well as some with my brother’s and my own childish drawings.
Edith: I was always particularly fond of my San Francisco aunt Jo Reinhardt, and was close to her. She was my father’s baby sister, and ended up the tallest of the three siblings. I know she was grateful and surprised to live into her eighties, since both her parents, as well as her sister and brother, died in their sixties. Jo was a fabulous cook, a generous smart sweet woman, both elegant and practical, a mother of three boys (when I became mother of two sons, we had an extra link), and a memoirist in her later years. She loved having fun – our families had a reunion when she was in her seventies and she was dancing as much as any of us in the living room one night. She and my uncle Dick were very close and always seemed to model the perfect relationship to me. Her laugh was a rill of bells and her eyes always seemed to be smiling. Miss you, Jo!
Sherry: My Aunt Pat isn’t a blood relative but my mom’s sorority sister. She was beautiful, interesting, funny, and oh, so full of life. She married her college sweetheart — Uncle John — on radio show and won a honeymoon in Carmel, California! They lived in Arizona, very far from me in Iowa so each visit was extra special. Everyone should have an Aunt Pat in their lives. Aunt Pat always told the story of one of their visits when I was in high school. I was supposed to clear the table and do the dishes but told my mom that I needed to talk to Aunt Pat. The picture of us is the last time I saw her — she died unexpectedly six months later. But it’s a perfect example of how fun it was to be around her — the cigars are cookies.
Julie: My maternal grandparents were/are very special to me. Though I loved my grandfather fiercely, and still miss him. 35 years after his death, I think my grandmother had the most influence on me. She used to say that grandchildren were the applause of life, and she treated us accordingly. That said, she was very human to me, foibles and all, and I loved her very, very much. She taught me how to knit, the secret to a great apple pie, to love shows like Dallas and Dynasty, and that love could be complicated. Today, as I put on the red lipstick and put a couple of bobby pins in my hair to keep it from fluffing up beyond belief, I think of her, and smile.
Readers: Which older person do you miss the most, or learned the most from?
Veronica Lynch was my hero growing up! (Heck, my cousin even uses her name as one of her pen names.) Veronica Lynch was a grade school president and single woman. She lived in her parents’ home alone, wore lovely classic clothing styles, knew exactly how to get people to do what had to be done, and also knew when to back off. “Backing off” was not giving up, however. She always had a phrase like “only four more years, and you’ll be out on your own and can do as you please!” up her sleeve. Believe it or not, it was her clothing advice that stayed front-and-center in my mind. I was a chubby kid and always had a sweet tooth, so weight was a constant battle for me, and Veronica’s wardrobe strategy was an important tool in the battle of the bulge. She always bought her fabulous clothes at end-of-season sales. “But what if you’re not the same size next year??” I wanted to know. She put on her wise-woman face and told me, “Ah, that’s why I maintain my weight so carefully. I’m always the same size, so my clothes last from season to season to season.” My sugar-crazed brain was not capable of thinking that way without her teaching. I’m forever indebted to her. Hoisting a cup of tea… –kate
How lovely. How I wish I had her self-discipline!
Ah, Edith. . .too many wonderful elders have marked my life to single out just one! And perhaps, in a way, they’re all still around me, watching, so how can I choose just one? My grandmother, Laura Forbes, who picked me up in her Chevy every summer on the day school let out and brought me to her “camp” at Mousam Lake in Maine–returning me to Salem the day before school started. My Aunt Carrie Russell who talked the principal of the Bentley School into letting me start when I was not quite five because I could already read. Miss Davis my eighth grade teacher, who overcame my hesitance to speak in front of the class by declaring “We’re going to have a club, and Carol will be president.” Not very democratic, but I learned fast how to address a roomful of peers. My red-haired ex-mother in law, Ibby Hill, a reference librarian who loved travel–and loved taking me along with her. I find them all showing up in my books, and always hold them in my heart.
P.S. Edith, I told you last week that your post on Appreciation inspired me to get an engraved plaque, expressing appreciation for all the many-term president of the Bay Area Professional Writers Guild, Steve Traiman, has done for the group with little recognition. Barb ask me to tell how the presentation on Monday went. It was such a good thing! President Steve was surprised and so delighted! I didn’t want it to be from me, so I grabbed each member as they arrived and had them sign a card–one with a Superman logo on it–I know it was a very special, and long overdue day in his life and his broad smile and misty eyes proved it. Thanks for pushing me to show appreciation!
I’m so pleased you did that, Carol! And that Steve loved it.
You certainly had a crew of fabulous women elders, too. And great memories to hold fast.
Thanks for your stories, and for your appreciation of “Appreciation”. It was a great post, wasn’t it? I also love your story–it shows how a little time, and a lot of thought, can really matter.
There are so many elders I miss in my life, I’m not sure I can quantify whom I miss the most. But my great-grandmother, Gladys, had a big impact on me. She was born in 1899 and when she was a girl her family homesteaded in the Dakota territory, where she met her first husband. She lived to see women get the vote, the silent movie era, WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and beyond, men on the moon, as well as every other event of the twentieth century. She found the courage, even as the mother of five daughters in the Depression, to divorce her not-so-great husband, then to remarry a great guy who was subsequently killed in a tragic accident. She was a great reader, and when her eyes began to fail she would listen to audio books, and I know she would have been–and is–so pleased that I’m now writing books. She died in 2001 at the age of 102, mind razor sharp until her last day, and I still miss her. And she’s still with me today. And now I’m crying. 🙂
I’m crying, too, Susannah. What a wonderful woman.
It is amazing how some people stay with us, isn’t it? I am also overwhelmed by how much impact folks have even after they are not here physically.
My grandmother on my mother’s side, who passed away a week shy of her 94th birthday (not that she’d admit it–every official document of hers I’ve ever found has a different birth year on it). She was orphaned young, was adopted (we think–I’ve never seen the proof) by a family in Providence RI that she left when she finished high school and moved to New York. Then she got diphtheria (sp?) and a lost uncle miraculously appeared (he was real–I checked) and funded her recuperation at a spa, where she met my grandfather, the only child of a rich widow. The short story is, she rose from a difficult childhood and reinvented herself, achieving a major position at Lipton Tea Company and a Park Avenue apartment. But she never talked about her childhood (she never even mentioned Providence, in all the time I knew her), not even to my mother. I was happy that my daughter had a chance to know her, and I still miss her. (And yes, she too was a reader–she and my mother would trade historical novels.)
You’ve mentioned her before, Sheila. She sounds wonderful, classy, smart.
Great stories! I found that a lot of that generation didn’t tell their stories. A loss to us all.
My great-uncle Arthur lived on a ranch at the northern end of the Napa Valley. He wore cloves of garlic around his neck and slept on a screened porch at the top of the farmhouse, where the air was cleaner. He had opinions about everything, and told me stories about my mother’s childhood summers on the ranch. Yes, I’ll have to write about him.
You must! Love the cloves of garlic necklace…
Edith, my maternal grandmother, Jennie, was really “the sunshine of my life.” We lived with Grandma and Grandpa during my early childhood, and I recall sitting on the back stairs, Grandma helping with my first clumsy attempts at crochet. She was an expert, but the moment I mentioned that I’d like to learn, she rushed into the sewing room and returned with large needles and thick wool yarn (not her usual fine, lacy thread and metal needle from which she birthed beautiful bedspreads and umpteen doilies.) I imagine she had been waiting for that request.
It occurred to me when wading through a pile of genealogy materials that perhaps Grandma and her sister, who sailed from Naples in 1921, did not know their husbands-to-be. Yes, they grew up in the same small town on the Adriatic, and the families were well-acquainted, but Jennie was twenty four, her sister twenty-seven, and guys were thirty-six and thirty-nine! Grandpa and his brother had been to the U.S. and back several times, working on the Railroad, then boarding with other men to work a large farm.
There was a proxy wedding for the women in Naples and – for the men, in Boston. Upon arrival, a quick ceremony by the ship’s captain coupled them, but the wedding mass took place a few days later. They all became citizens asap, raised families of gentle, wonderful souls, and lived long lives. But Grandma was my golden thread – to the past and into the future. She died a month before the birth of my youngest daughter, and I prayer to her to watch over this baby – and me – always. I trust that the promise is still being lived out.
What a wonderful story!
I moved into my house in 1953 and the man next door can over with a hand truck to help us move in.I was just 18 and had a little boy and had only lived in three other houses in my life and her I was 50 miles away from family a new house we bought and so scared.Regina Simpson was the next door wife and she became the center of my world.I saw her everyday at least once and she lived to be 95 and shared my everyday life. She taugh me to drive, help raise my boys, stood by myside when I was devoriced and welcomed my new marriage and a 4th son. We shared tears and laughs, death of parents and husbands. I was close to my parents and saw them often but Regina was there always and I had her much longer than my mom. Her husband Willis was a super guy and enjoyed having 3 little boys to follow him around and the youngest son the 4th boy just bought their long vacant house and moved from my house to the house next door.I miss her everyday and wished everyone could have a Regina in their life.
What a wonderful story–and a reminder that chosen family is so, so important. I bet Regina was grateful to have you in her life as well!
While one of my grandpas died when I was 11 months old, I was quite fortunate to have the other three in my life until I was an adult. They were all very special people and helped pay for my music lessons, took me golfing and bowling, and did some ceramics with me. I was very blessed to have them all in my life.
Then there is my uncle’s mother-in-law. While that’s not a relationship you would often consider, she was like another grandmother to me, especially when she moved close to my uncle and aunt after all my biological grandparents had died. She passed away just a couple of years ago, and I miss her as well.
Grandparents are so special. But I love that you are acknowledging the other relationships that mean the same. Labels don’t always signify importance. One of my favorite uncles, and the one who spoiled us the most, was my father’s best friend.
Oh, wow. What wonderful stories. I didn’t have many older relatives (alive), but my grandmother in Maine was a special influence. Although she wasn’t particularly talkative, her letters were so kind and often referenced her faith. Recently, I found one she wrote to my children when they were young, and I treasure it. Visiting her waterfront property in Maine also taught me about the peace our environments can provide, which is a huge gift! As the Wickeds will understand, I daydream about returning to Maine often.
Letters are such a gift, aren’t they? I still smile everytime I see my grandmother’s handwriting.
Susan, I still dream of Maine too, literally. A couple of years ago my husband and I went to visit Mousam Lake where I spent childhood summers.. We walked over to my grandmother’s “camp” and the present owner was outside. He invited me to go inside, and Susan. . .my bureau was still there, and the place on a ceiling beam where I had written my name in pencil was still there too! You CAN go home again!
Oh, what a wonderful experience, Carol!
Wow! That gives me goosebumps! Thanks for sharing that.
Ah, what wonderful memories, ladies! I still miss my Grandma Josie. I remember when I was five or six, she and I would take stale bread down to feed the ducks at the pond near her house. And we’d go next-door to her sister Della Mae’s home. The two of them taught me how to play Gin Rummy — and let me win!
What a great story!
Love reading everyone’s stories. I’d have to say my grandfather, Neal. We all lived in the house my mother grew up in until his death when I was a new mother. He was a tough New Yorker who’d had the temerity to marry my grandmother despite her having divorced her first husband, a real shocker in those days. He was a tugboat captain, guiding huge cargo ships and liners into New York Harbor. We went to visit him at work once and I was shocked at the tiny cabin he had to sleep in and even more, the mice that ran amok on the tug! He just laughed and said he’d named a few of them and shared his crackers with them. He was wise and well-read, a great judge of people, and when he told me my first marriage wouldn’t last as our dog was afraid of my fiancé, I didn’t listen . . . and wished I had! Note I said ‘first!’
What an interesting story and man! I love that he named the mice!
My dad was my first storyteller, and my mom helped us believe in ourselves by listening so well . . . my kindergarten teacher was clearly wonderful because I came home, not quite age five, knowing what I wanted to be, a teacher. I clearly remember my eighth grade English teacher, probably the person who determined my college major. She introduced us to Shakespeare, encouraged our writing, and wrote articles in the newspaper . . . I think she taught half the day and was the district’s P.R. person as well. Hurrah for those who encourage! My own happiest teaching moment was when a student, sidelined from dancing by injury, told me I had helped her see that she could express herself in writing as she did in dance. Yes!
What a lovely way to help a student! My parents were both teachers and I know what a tough job it is!
. . . and how rewarding. <3
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