Wednesday, March 16, 2011

13 memories (edited since I remembered more!)

I met my stepfather on my first birthday, my parents married when I was 3. I never knew my biological father, and my step father has functionally always been my father in every way except genetically.  In fact, both my brother and I have forgotten that my step-dad isn’t our biological father and called him in doctors offices asking him about his medical history.  Woops...
When I was little I didn’t know what to call our grandparents. I had lived with my maternal grandmother, and knew her since birth so I didn't have a problem calling her grandma. I distinctly remember my mother telling me that they had talked to my paternal grandparents and asked if we could call them ‘grandma and grandpa’.  It simplified our lives a lot since ‘ummm’ isn’t really a name.  It was this discussion that made me feel fully integrated into the family.
My grandmother really was a wonderful woman.  She was a Harvard educated doctor (in a time where there were very few female doctors), a mother of seven amazing people, and a myriad of other things that I don’t have time to list.  
My grandmother passed away in early 1993 when I had just turned 9. We were living in New York at the time, about 3 hours away from our extended family. She had been sick for awhile with a rare type of cancer that had gone into remission and had come back stronger and, ultimately, took her life. I remember my father explaining to me how she’d turned herself into a guinea pig, taking experimental drugs, knowing she would die, but hoping to help others after her.  She was such a brave woman. I feel fortunate to have known her and regret that my children won't have the opportunity. I don't have many memories of her, since I was young, but I'd like to share ten of them.

1. She taught me how to put my underwear on correctly. I know--classy memory, right? Girl panties didn't have pictures on the back like the boys, and at 5 or 6 I was apt to get confused. She told that the tag always went on the left side. I'm left handed so I never forgot this lesson. I admit that when faced with undies with side tags I still, to this day, remember this lesson.
2. I remember her chastising us for beating the crap out of the piano right after it had been tuned. We basically would pound the keys and pretend it was music.  We inherited that piano after her death and I remembered her whenever we played it. I fondly remember her playing what, at the time looked like an extremely difficult version of "Mary had a Little Lamb" since it involved more than 3 note and *gasp* two hands! I was probably around 5 at the time and was just learning to read music. I liked the pictures in the book.
3. She had an amazing garden and used to kneel on this foam board that looked like the kick board you'd use in a pool. I remember her kneeling wearing gloves tending the garden. I believe she was wearing a big floppy hat. I wished I'd stayed to help her longer.
4. In my dads family there is a running joke that my grandmother never washed homegrown produce well enough so there was always a bug in the salad...the joke--definitely based on reality. I’m pretty sure I remember finding the bug. When I was visiting my aunt Ellen, there was a bug in her homegrown salad as well. It made me smile.
5. We drove to the nursery in the Subaru. Just the two of us. I'm not sure why it was just us. It was a beautiful day, very sunny and perfect.  I remember there was a crack across the corner of the windshield, and I asked her about it. She explained how something had hit the windshield and the crack had spread.  I remember walking around the nursery with her.
6. My grandparents built a house in Maine which I absolutely adore. It was supposed to be their retirement home, but my grandmother sadly wasn’t able to live there long.  I have a couple of memories of her there.  First going to Mass with her.  She was wearing a scarf on her head to cover the fact that she had no hair because of the chemo.
7. I remember her scarves really well.  I think of her whenever I see someone wearing a handkerchief on their head.  Another Maine memory was my grandfather, also a doctor, drawing blood and taking me to the hospital with him.  this was when she was in remission.  I remember exactly where she was sitting in the living room.
8. I remember dinners in the old farmhouse that my dad grew up in.  You could see into the basement through the floorboards. There was a round circular table, she was sitting at the far side...I just remember looking down at the basement.
9. Amazing ginger snap cookies. No seriously--best ginger snap cookies ever. We still get them every year since the awesome woman that was the family housekeeper makes and ships them out, all of the way from England
10.  My grandmother would type out and mail family updates a couple of times a year.  After she passed away we inherited the computer, and I learned how to type on it, play crystal quest and love apple computers.
Writing this made me remember a couple of more memories.
11. my grandmother made everyone in the family these amazing knitted sweaters. I didn't get one (it's okay, it would fit me 20 years later!) but she made me the most adorable mittens with bears on the back. My cousin apparently wasn't happy when she used her to size them, but they weren't given to her. I remember my grandma explaining why wool was such a great material to make clothing out of, including that you could get it wet and still be warm. I thought it was just itchy.
12. One of my favorite memories, that I can't believe I forgot was about eating fruit salad. We were sitting on the screen porch eating it, and I found a watermelon seed. She had claimed to have removed them all, and when I pointed it out she said that, since I found it, it was good luck. It was cute.
13. She called me handsome. When I pointed out that I thought that was a term for boys, she said that girls could be handsome too. Thanks grandma:)


My memories are vague, sometimes odd and spotty. My aunt named her daughter after my grandma, and now every time I see her write on facebook about her daughter, I think of her and these few memories that I have.  Maybe now that I’ve written these down I’ll remember more.  

If you are a relative--what are your memories of grandma?
If you aren’t a relative--how do you keep the memories of people you have lost alive?

Sorry I’ve been awful at posting during the last week.  I went to a fondue meetup last night that was fun, and am having some people over tomorrow for another crafting meetup. In honor of the holiday, we are going to make some cookies and perhaps dye some of them green.  I don’t think that peanut butter cookies are good green though.
I will post some new pictures soon!!


  1. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I hope to leave similar memories for my Perfect Ones. I have such great memories of my grandmothers...and a great gma as well. I wish my own mom could have known her greats. She would have been so proud. Come join me for What's On the Menu Wednesday whenever you can.

  2. Thank you Debbie-I will come join you next week! I have to cook more, just to have recipes to post! I have been falling back on favorites like homemade pizza and umm...leftovers, lately.
    I think when I'm old...I'll write for my young ones...

  3. I like this post. I read it the other day, and read it again after you added to it. I think I may write a similar tribute to my own grandmother. Now that they are gone, it's amazing how much those seemingly "little" things matter. There is a quote somewhere, "Enjoy the little things. One day you will look back, and realize that they were the big things."

  4. Sarah...I miss Aunt Dorrie:( She was such a sweet sweet woman. I remember meeting her at grandma's wedding. I think you were with her, and she was so calm and helped keep us company and SANE.
    My dad told me a story about how her and Bob used to go to a restaurant and had recommended it to my grandparents, so they went to check it out. The waitress was really rude to them though, and it wasn't until she spilled coffee in my grandmothers lap that they realized the waitress thought uncle Bob was cheating on Aunt Dorrie with my grandmother. Twins can be hilarious. I hope I got this story correct! I was pretty young when it was told to me.


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