Grandly Yours

My maternal grandmother, Mary Scholastica, was of Irish immigrant extraction, and began her married life in a tent at a Colorado mining camp. She gave birth to my Uncle Alan in that same tent nine months later. Mary had been seventeen when her mother died of peritonitis following a burst appendix. Mary’s dad was Leadville’s town doctor, but he was off delivering somebody’s twins when his wife became mortally ill. Such was life, more than a century ago.

My paternal grandmother, Ina, lost her father when he went off prospecting for oil in the wilds of late 19th century Oklahoma, leaving Ina, her mom, and sister, to eke out a living as live-in help at a vicarage in upstate New York. (My genealogist sister discovered that Granddad had a second family as the result of a bigamous union, but Ina never knew what happened to him).

Ina married a Doughboy and ended up widowed with a baby at age nineteen. She married my grandpa next, and they managed pretty well through the Depression, but infidelity and drink took a toll on the union, and Ina ran off with her husband’s brother (my uncle John). She eventually married him and dumped him too (another drinker), and at the age sixty of she opened the candy store that would support her for the final twenty years of her life. She wore faux mink stoles and bright red lipstick, and referred to the contents of her voluminous handbags as her “plunder.”

Ina was gone by the time I was thirteen, Mary lasted another seven years. I would not say I knew these ladies well, though they both lived in the same town as I did by the time they expired.

In later life, I think about my grandmas a lot. They dwelled in times that were in some ways awful for women (and no picnic for much of anybody). Ina broke a lot of rules, Mary endured all manner of upheaval trying to keep her family thriving during the Depression. Both women had an excellent sense of humor, a lot of pragmatism, and a compassionate view of humanity. The older I get, the more I admire them.

Over the holidays, my first and (given the ages involved) probably only grandchild was born. He and his parents are thriving. Mother and father are agog and slightly a-fog with their new baby, and I am hoping plane fares drop by the time virus season ends. Compared to my own grandmothers, I can’t imagine that my story will be half as impressive, should my grandson be telling it somewhere “ages and ages hence,” and that’s OK.

I’m not a mining engineer’s wife in the wilds of Colorado or a teenage military widow in the Roaring Twenties or anything much very exciting. What I do feel though, knowing that this particular small person is inheriting the world I’ve lived in for decades, is renewed determination that it should be a good world, worthy of him and his confreres. And I promise you this, bloggin’ buddies, that boy will never want for good books, and my first official act as a grandma will be to read him a bedtime story.

Were your grandparents a factor in your life? Do you have any memorable stories about them even if you didn’t know them? I’m running contests over at Fresh Fiction lately, and that’s reminded me how easy it is to do e-gift cards. Somebody who comments will recieve a $50 Amazon e-gift card (or Barnes and Noble or Kobo if that’s your jam).



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32 comments on “Grandly Yours

  1. Congratulations!!! That’s exciting news for your family, and I wish you much joy of your grandchild.

    I didn’t know my grandparents on my mom’s side as they died before I was born, and my paternal grandfather died when I was 7. We lived far away from my sole grandparent as I was growing up, so I don’t have a lot of memories of her. I wish I had closer ties to family, but my parents moved far away from everyone else, so *shrugs*

  2. Congratulations!
    Only my maternal grandma was alive by the time I was adopted. She was special in so many ways, with books, baking, and stunning hand crafts topping her memorable moments lists (plus hugs). She always bought me 6 Nancy Drew, or Trixie Belden or Black Stallion books for Christmas and birthday. In her final years I kept up her Harlequin subscription so she could enjoy her monthly box of six books. It’s those subscription books, neatly stacked in brown paper grocery bags, handed down to her daughter, that I started stealth reading in after class in junior high. One an afternoon, like gobbling M&Ms. Am most assuredly a reader, esp romance, because of Grandma. ❤️

  3. I have many pleasant memories of my grandparents. I remember going camping with one set of grandparents and campfires with stores and what they called hobo pies, my grandma always having pies ir cookies( one of my favorites were her raison filled cookies. My other grandparents: my grandfather was teaching me his native countries language and I remember going out for lunch every Sunday with my grandma and uncle after picking my mom up from work as well as getting to feed the calves on her dorm and collect chicken eggs. She also had pies every Saturday for our lunch desert.

  4. Congratulations!!!!

    I have wonderful memories of both of my grandmothers. Nana Molly was widowed during WWII leaving her with 5 children to raise. She worked 2 jobs to provide for them. Nana Molly taught me how to bake. I remember making cookies and cakes for the holidays with her. Nana loved small children and dogs and truly was a kind soul.

    My Nana G went to secretarial school in her 40’s as her husband died. She had two sons to support. Nana was an excellent cook- her roast beef dinners were the best!
    And the mashed potatoes…wow! I admired Nana G because she made her own choices, traveled and worked at a time when most woman vowed their jobs as work,her job was a career.

    I named my first home bred corgi after Nana Molly as the puppy was weak and the vet didn’t think she would make it. Give her a strong name he told me. Molly did make it and brought our family a lot of joy! I am not sure my Mom appreciated Molly’s name but my Dad understood and spoiled my Molly.

    My daughter has my Nana G’s independent nature and love of clothes. I see Nana Mollys compassion and kind soul in my daughter, too.


    Welcome back!!

  5. My mother’s mother died when my mom was 3 and her father raised her, but he died when I was 8 and I don’t remember if I ever met him (though I might have). One story is that when my mom was a child, her dad would send her to the local bar with a pail to get his nightly beer while he made dinner (they lived in Milwaukee and were German and this was not a big deal in the 1930s apparently.)
    My paternal grandparents were important in my life. They and my Dad were natives of central (rural) Florida. My grandfather lived until I was 23 and my grandmother lived until I was 49. She flew from Florida to Philadelphia for my wedding with my Mom and a sister. My grandfather had built their house and we visited there many times before I was 10 years old and then I visited every couple of years after I turned 21. Most of their troubles were due to living during the Depression with 4 growing boys and my grandfather being an alcoholic. My grandfather helped build the Gandy bridge, as well as worked cattle, and grew and sold produce in Tampa from the back of a wagon. I remember my grandmother’s Southern cooking, that she taught my Midwestern Mom to make and is also what I largely ate growing up. We drank sweetened tea at supper every night. When my Dad retired from the Air Force, they were able to buy land 3 miles down the highway from my grandparents’ house and my mom helped care for my grandparents as they aged.
    Very happy to have you back online, Grace, and Congratulations on becoming a grandparent!

  6. I knew my father’s parents well. They lived a few blocks away, although they were old by the time I came along. I had a class in high school where we went around, interviewed “old” people and wrote articles about them. I believe one about my grandfather was published.

    I had a great grandfather who disappeared down the road to start a new family discovered by each family of this generation’s genealogy buffs. I rather think my great grandmother knew, but she didn’t want him back, either.

    And I’m getting a package of infant board books ready for my cousin’s latest grandchild. You go, grandma! You will have stories, if different from your grandparents, about rotary dial phones, carbon paper and hand written letters!

  7. Until I was about 12 we lived in the basement of my Nonna Angelina’s house. I used to go upstairs to visit with her often. I remember her watching Jack LaLane on TV and, being confined to a wheelchair, the only exercises she was able to do were the hand and arm ones. She also liked to watch wrestling, favoring an Italian wrestler named, I believe, Antonino Rocco. She used to curse at the TV when her favorite guy didn’t perform well. Her husband had abandoned her with 6 kids; my Dad being the oldest, and the only boy in the family, took on the role of “man of the house” shepherding his sisters through to adulthood. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  8. All of my grandparents lived in Mobile, Alabama. And no matter where we lived (primarily in Houston), the vacation destination for our family of 6 was Mobile (aka my dad’s center of the universe). We would divide our time between my mom’s parents (LouLou & Daddy Boo) in the “city” and my dad’s parents (GaGa & Daddy Jack) in the country. Both of my grandmothers were unusual for their time for having jobs outside the home. LouLou was an educator and GaGa was the telephone operator at Mobile shipyard for the graveyard shift. Daddy Jack owned his own body & fender shop; he was an “artist”. Daddy Boo had been a professional baseball player as a young man and later worked for the L&N railroad as a fire man. My grandmothers influenced me directly with their enjoyment of cooking a good meal and feeding our family. Daddy Jack passed his work ethic along to my dad and in turn along to me. As my GaGa would say, “my eyes are filling up” thinking about all of them and all the great memories: shelling peas & watching TV (baseball games) on GaGa’s screen porch, and playing cards until all hours of the night with LouLou. Didn’t mean for this to be so long. Congratulations on the new addition to your family, Grace! You’ve got a great start on stories about “my grandmother the equestrian-music major-lawyer-author…”

  9. Both my grandfathers died of old age decades before my birth, so all I know of them are pictures & family lore. Granny on Mom’s side died of cancer, aged 82, when I was a toddler. I still remember her fabulous hands, their incredible strength & gentleness formed by a lifetime of milking cows & plucking chickens, her beautiful thick hair only partially gray even at 82, & the joy that lit her face when we entered her hospital room & her cry of, “Bring me my baby’s baby!” as she stretched out her arms to me. (Mom was the baby, born when Granny was 56, & the youngest of 14.)

    Granny on Dad’s side bore a striking resemblance to Bette Davis & my grandfather was the love of her life. I asked her why she never remarried & her answer, “They weren’t your grandfather.” He was a college man & published poetry on the side. She was a first generation immigrant forced to leave school in 3rd grade to work. They met when my grandfather stopped in her ice cream parlor after attending the opera, took one look at her, & asked her out. She turned him down, being a teenager & 22 years between them. He tracked her family down, & charmed my great-grandmother who wore down my great-grandfather until he agreed to let them meet on the front porch. Apparently my granddad was a force to be reckoned with as shortly thereafter his Irish Protestant self married my Polish Catholic gran & the rest is history.

    Both women were barely over 5 feet from lack of food growing up. Polish granny worried I was growing too tall as I soared toward my eventual 6 feet & sneaked me huge cups of coffee in hopes it would stunt my growth. Resigned at last, she used to shake her head & sigh, “See what happens when you feed them?”

    She taught me hard work, scrubbing the front stoop clean is as good a use of your knees as church prayers, & the belief in love at first sight, reinforced by my parents who married 2 months after they met, then had me 16 years later. (Dad used to laugh that they were in a hurry to have me, but good things come to those who wait.) Her reading might be shaky, but her budget & checkbook balanced to the penny. I spent many an hour reading Harlequin romances & the National Enquirer to her as she loved “her stories” even if her 3rd grade reading skills weren’t quite up to the task.

    Both sets of grandparents stayed married until death parted them & raised very successful children, both in life & finance, by instilling a love of education, & a reminder that poverty is overcome by those who are rich in learning & love.

  10. That’s lovely that you have a grandchild! I’m predicting that you may eventually move closer. I lived in the same house as my paternal grandparents until we moved to our own house when I was six and that was about an hour away so I saw them fairly often and on all holidays. They had emigrated from Ireland in 1920 with their three young children. He had worked in the Belfast shipyards as a machinist and supposedly had been asked to sail on the Titanic as an engineer – fortunately for us he declined. They died six months apart when I was a teenager, Pop on his birthday and Grannie on Christmas morning. My maternal grandparents lived about 15 minutes from the other and that grandmother died when I was 6 so don’t remember a lot about her – Mom said she was a tough German lady who held the family together to feed 5 kids; Pop-Pop would give away the shirt off his back even tho they couldn’t afford to – he was a milkman who drove a wagon pulled by a horse named Jimmy. I wished I had asked them about their lives, but kids don’t think about that. I had found a Grandparents book my Mom was supposed to fill out, but never did so I gave it to my sister-in-law to fill out for her grandkids – you should do one for the new baby – it has place for facts but also question that lead to stories.

  11. My maternal grandparents were an active part of my life, as was my paternal grandmother(her husband died when I was 9).

    Grandpa Henry and Grandma Gretchen met because they both rode hunters/jumpers. Grandma was a gifted rider; she won many trophies and awards when she was in her teens and 20s. We even have a photo of her riding two horses while standing up, a foot on the back of each horse. My grandpa was directed to riding as a form of healthy exercise when he was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age. Grandpa and his father operated a business managing outdoor movie theaters. I often got to ride with my grandparents when they made the rounds of the theaters to make sure all was well. My mom inherited the horse-loving gene and so we had horses, too.

    My paternal grandmother had a wealth of strength I didn’t appreciate until recently. She was widowed at a relatively young age and lived independently until she was nearly 90; she lived to be 96. Grandma Grace was a devout Norwegian in all ways except for lutefisk. She was strong in her faith and loved her miniature poodles.

    I’m fortunate in that I had my grandpa until I was 18 and both my grandmas until I gave them great grandchildren. They were definitely part of the foundation of my life.

  12. My maternal grandpa worked for Morrell Meats and somehow ended up in Africa for a while, working with tribal leaders in Ethiopia, I think, to improve the health of their herds. (We have a picture of him and Grandma on camels by the pyramids.) He came back with a monkey skin rug which I loved – everyone else hated it. I say with my feet on that rug as he played endless games of gin rummy with me, teaching me the nuances of the game and scoring. He left me drive the golf cart, fish without touching either worms or fish, and wander in the woods behind their house. I didn’t get to spend lots of time with hun, but he was special. There is a very faded basket pop brought back from that trip on one of my bookshelves, and whenever I look at it I remember red bobbers on Lake Okoboji.

  13. My maternal grandmother was the rock my mother leaned on and kept a home we knew we’d always be safe, fed and loved! My mother was married 4 times and had 5 daughters in 10 years over 3 husband’s who were all abusive alcoholics. Mom would take so much abuse until she’d leave with us in tow. She always seemed to pick the same man over and over – just with a different name. Anyway,she would have had to stay in those abusive relationships if my grandma didn’t take us in. My grandma, herself, was married to an alcoholic who wouldn’t work. My grandma always worked hard hard for very little pay. My grandmother would throw him out then take him back repeatedly before she finally cut him lose in her late 40’s. She was such a good woman and taught us so much by example. We all miss her so very much…I’m in my 70’s and very few days go by that I don’t think of her and mother.

  14. Oh, congratulations on your grandson! I can very slightly imagine how thrilled you are. Fingers crossed that plane fares drop soon.

  15. My grandparents were all immigrants in the early 20th century. I didn’t know my maternal grandparents well but had regular interaction with paternal grands at least once a year or so.

    When I was a freshman in college a summer camp near them came to my campus recruiting counselors for the summer. I went for an interview the minute the recruiter heard that I was Max & Celia’s granddaughter I was hired on the spot.

    The job was low paying and exhausting. The redeeming fact was that on my day off each week I was able to go to my grandparents house, do my laundry and fall asleep. I did various helpful things while I was there as well,such as climb on the counter top and clean the ceiling when gran didn’t clamp the top of her pressure cooker correctly.

    For the rest of their lives they told the story of my wonderful summer visit to many people. I was amazed and learned a lesson about the power of little kindnesses.

    • Oh dear! I have not so fond memories of tomato sauce on ceilings & having to climb the ladder to clean it off. Those pressure cookers went off like bombs!

  16. Congratulations!!! How wonderful that you are a grandparent! I hope you are able to snuggle the little one soon, what a joy!

    (As a writer you may enjoy the beautiful picture book by Mac Barnett about Margaret Wise Brown, The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.)

    My paternal grandmother was an important and steadying influence for me away from my chaotic home life. Unfortunately she did not live close by but we went to her and she came to us a few visits a year. She had raised 4 kids during the Depression by working at Goodyear (she crawled into the gas tanks of WW2 fighter planes to make sure they were airtight). My grandfather was sickly and could only work part time at best and died young, so she worked from a small child in factories until retirement. She died shortly after I was married but had been suffering from Alzheimers for a decade and hadn’t known who I was for many years. I think about her often as the most important positive figure in my childhood and certain smells stop me in my tracks; cooking smells, the scent of the same flowers she had in her gardens, Pond’s cold cream etc. I delight that my daughter looks just like her.

  17. I have fond memories of my great grandmother on my mother’s side. I was 20 years old when she passed. I also spend plenty of time with my mother’s parents. My granddad taught me how to tell time and play checkers like a champ. Also, poker.

  18. Here’s what I love most about grandparents: being one! I only remember my mother’s parents from a very young age as my mother was one of their youngest so they were already in their 80s in my earliest memories. My grandfather played the harmonica and loved teaching me about nature and telling stories. My grandmother had long fingernails that were very good at tickling me just the right amount.
    Reading aloud was a very big deal although most of that was with my Mom.
    I remember many of Margaret Wise Brown’s books and I read everyone of those 4 books you have above to my daughter over and over again. And then again with my grandchildren.
    Grace, you write wonderfully about children in your books and I hope you get to spend significant time with your grandchild. Everything I know about you tells me you will be a gifted grandmother!

  19. What happened to Lady violet’s neighbor who had been kept out of sight for many years. But he was quite literate re agrarian science…? Or do I have a wrong book series? I think he
    was to be fixed up with a wealthy, on the shelf Londoner?
    I hope you can advise. Thanks

    • You’re thinking of the Mischief in Mayfair series & Hecate Brompton was the heiress. You need to read Miss Dashing to see what happened. Things, of course, don’t go according to plan.

  20. I lived next door (1/2 mile) from my Father’s parents until I left home after college. Gpa owned our house and it, plus $100 per month was my Father’s wage for doing EVERYTHING a dairy farmer has to do, Every Day. I had to catch the school bus from their house because the driver, my uncle, wouldn’t drive to our house and turn around! So, every morning at 6 am I arrived at their house. Sometimes the door was locked and sometimes not. It depended on whether or not Gma was up. Gpa was difficult at the best of times but I truly loved my Gma. Once I’d left home for the Marine Corps, Gpa sold the farm out from under my father and gave him a couple weeks notice to move. What a stinker! Luckily, for Mom and Dad, this was the best thing Gpa ever did for us.

  21. I was born in my great grandmother’s home. No hospital in the area. Her life had been hard, she had 2 children. The first fell into a stream at 3 years of age. My grandma was just a baby. Them several months later her husband was kicked by a mule and left her a single mother. To earn money went to work as a housekeeper while her mother raised my grandmother. She was in my life till I was 18. She had a wild sense of humor and a ready smile no matter what happened. She married again and lost her second husband, he fell down a well. She was a strong woman and always looked to the positive in anything that came her way. She also raised my mother as my grandmother had Parkinson’s.

  22. Thanks to Grace for the opportunity to walk down two memory lanes.

    I was born in 1948. One of my grandfathers had died in 1942 and the other when I was 6 months old. Obviously no memories there! But one grandmother lived until 1970 and the other until 1984. I actually shared a bedroom with my maternal grandmother and my older brother until I was 8.

    My maternal grandmother was probably the most important influence on my life. She died the year before I was married. When my daughter (only child) was born 11 years later, she was gifted with Grandma’s name.

    That same daughter had her first child at 38 (!) and just had a second child at 41.

    I do not know the age of either Grace or her daughter…………….but never say never about the possibility of a second gift.


  23. My maternal grandmother was twenty when she married my 44 year old grandfather. My mother was their first born and I was her first born. But I was out of college the first time I stopped and did the math to realize that my gray haired grandmother was 44 when I was born. She was a hard worker. She worked at a pants factory. My grandfather had a series of strokes and died when I was 13. When she needed to stay at home more, she took in laundry. He was born in America to German speaking parents and the strokes pretty much took away any English he had learned to speak. Grandma pretty much spoke English, unless she was talking to him, or to her girlfriends on the party line. She had huge gardens and canned almost everything she raised. She entered canned goods and cakes and flowers in the local fairs and won lots of blue ribbons. She made and sold woven rag rugs, and made quilts for pleasure. Grandpa made a living as a carpenter and they lived on a small farm that he inherited when his father died. They moved into town six years before he died. Grandma moved into a senior apartment complex when the house got to be too much. She developed dementia and moved to a nursing home where my cousin was director of nursing and my youngest aunt worked in physical therapy.

  24. Dear Grace:
    What exciting news and what an exciting new role for you! Re: my grandparents: only one still surviving when I was born and we lived far away. He was, however, a delightful Grandad – so delightful that his daughter once said, “I simply don’t know what has happened to my father. It’s as if he had a personality change once the grandchildren came along!” Interestingly, I thought the same thing once his son, my father, became Poppa to our children and, quel surprise, I overheard my daughter saying something similar to a friend of hers about me!! There is something quite wonderful about being the generation that is responsible only for loving.
    I, too, am at a physical distance from my own Grands: halfway across the country and flights are always dear. I was whining to a dear friend who gave me words of great wisdom: “You will be a novelty and you can be the Fun Granny!” And so it has turned out. The Grands are still young enough that my visits there and theirs to me are a novelty and fun. I wish the same for you.
    Blessings be.

  25. Congratulations!
    My husband and I have 2 grandchildren, and we are loving spending time with them.
    None of my grandparents talked much about their lives when they were younger, or their family histories. My parents took us to visit nearly every weekend when I was growing up. My maternal grandmother used to knit, I still have some shawls and a heavy sweater that she made. I always loved to read, and she gave me her romance books when she was finished reading them (an alternative to Stephen King, I discovered historical romance).

  26. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother, Grace!! Unless my son isn’t telling us something important, it will be years before we have anything more than ‘grandcats’ and ‘grandrats’. (Our daughter and her partner have talked adopting after they’ve been married a few years.)

    Both of my grandfather’s died when I was young: my maternal one when I was 4 and my paternal when I was 10. I never lived closer than at least 12 hours of drive time from either set of grandparents, until my maternal grandmother moved in with us for the last few months of her life. Even before she moved in I was closer to her than my other grandmother and she taught me a lot of good life lessons and had lots of stories of her youth as a tenant farm family in Kansas during the dust bowl years. Both of them grew up on farms just like my father did.

  27. My maternal grandmother lived to be 102. I remember her telling me lots of things to remember. “You feel older at ninety than eighty-nine.” “ Everything is better with a pat of buttah”.
    You kept your jam in the root cellar under the koi pond and send a grandkid out to get it. The root cellar was cool and dim, dusty and quiet, the ghosts of preserved plums in rows of jars.
    She, my Aunt and mother would sit at the kitchen table doing prep work for dinner, snapping beans, shucking corn, pounding meat and gossiping while I played on the floor. I learned lots of old fashioned words and the ways of women from the soothing cadence of their talk.

    • Congratulations! My maternal grandmother worked as a librarian in Detroit & supported her husband and daughter through the depression. Consequently I had wonderful books as I grew up. They moved near us when I was 12, & we had weekly dinners with classical music & bridge. She loved to have parties, & was outgoing & cheerful. Though my two brothers & I definitely had to be on our best behavior when we were there! On the paternal side however, Tina died in a one car accident about when I was born. I have some wonderful recipes from her mother.

  28. I had a lovely grandmother on my mother’s side. I was always welcome to stay the night and we would make sugar cookies in the morning. She taught me how to crochet and how to play pinochle when I was seven. I did not know my father’s parents well–my mother did not like them. I did some research on them as an adult and regret that I was not allowed to know them. I think I would have liked them, they were interesting and resilient people.

    Congratulations on your new grandchild, play and be silly with that child and love him/her greatly.