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Monday, 20 August 2007

Stories of Gram Norris

By Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge

My first memory of my great grandmother Norris was of sitting by her kitchen stove and smelling something cooking. Even though she lived alone, Gram always had a pot of food simmering on her stove.

It was often cabbage that she overcooked until it was black. (Obviously, there was nothing wrong with her digestive system.) Cookies were her specialty and I'm sure that's why I spent many hours at her house.

Gram was tall, rawboned and ramrod straight. She was not affectionate by nature and her only visible feminine qualities were a love of cooking and, incongruously, a box of fancy handkerchiefs. A rare and special treat for me was when she allowed me to open the box and spread the dainty, lacy squares over her bed.

My mother and grandmother were terrified of her. Gram Norris, as she was known, liked boys and disliked girls and she made my grandmother's life miserable after she married Gram's only child - the son Gram adored.

Gram was not a doting grandmother to my Mom, but spoiled my mother's brother, Ivan, completely. Mom was always intimidated by her. To say that Gram was stubborn would be a massive understatement. She was irascible, opinionated, and extremely independent. Since she liked boys and not girls I asked Mom why Gram spoiled me and Mom replied, "I always thought it was to irritate me."

My grandfather (her son) decided he wanted to be a gentleman rancher and he set up temporary headquarters on a ranch at Boone, Colorado. When the family would go to the ranch, Gram was always included.

My uncle was chosen to take care of the cattle and he would be gone most of the day. Gram Norris always packed a delicious lunch for him that usually included fried chicken and chocolate cake.

My mother was thirteen years old at the time and she was envious of the repasts that Gram made for her brother. She begged her brother to take her with him one very cold, snowy day so she could get in on the largess. He finally consented and Gram packed a lunch.

Mom could hardly wait to open the lunch box to see what goodies were inside. When lunch time came they opened the box to find two sandwiches made with Jello. That was it - no chicken, no cake and not even a cookie. Now that's mean! I guess Gram didn't want Mom to have Ivan all to herself and she made sure it would never happen again.

When I was four years old I fell and knocked out a permanent tooth. Mom rushed me to the dentist and he put the tooth back in its socket with a warning that I should not eat anything but soft food until it was embedded in the gum once more.

Being unable to keep me from Gram's house, Mom told her that I was not to eat anything hard. Being told not to do something were fighting words to Gram. No one, but NO ONE was going to tell her what to do and she promptly gave me a hard ginger cookie. The tooth became a part of the cookie instead of my mouth. I still have trouble keeping a straight face when a dentist asks me why I'm short one tooth.

Every Friday a local bakery sold salt rising bread and Gram made Mom drive her to buy a loaf. The bakery was on the opposite side of the street and Mom wanted to turn the car around so Gram wouldn't have to cross the street. Gram would have none of it and she insisted that Mom let her out when they were across from the bakery. There was no arguing with Gram.

When Gram exited from the car she crossed the street without looking right or left with an expression on her face that dared someone to hit her. Fortunately traffic was light then, but I am sure a few cars had to come to a screeching halt to let her pass.

While she was a thorn in my grandmother’s and mother's sides, I loved that cantankerous, eccentric old crone and missed her terribly after she died at the age of 84.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great post! I was blessed to have two great grannies who lived long and were part of my life. I wish I'd realized how special they were when I was younger.


Gram Norris was a thorn in your mother's and grandmother's sides but she loved YOU and you obviously returned the affection. You are still writing about her today.

I enjoyed your story.

I was lucky enough to have 2 very loving ones (my grandmother and her mother) on my mom's side, but the step-grandmom on my dad's side left a lot to be desired. I enjoyed reading your story and perhaps she loved you in spite of the fact you were a girl.

To this day one of the true loves in my life was my maternal grandmother. How I would have loved it if she would have been alive to be a part of my children's lives. This was a wonderful, witty and warm post Darlene....thank you.

This is a well-written colorful character description of your great grandmother I thoroughly enjoyed reading. She's understandably a memorable loved but cantankerous lady.

Thank you for your comments. My maternal grandmother was the opposite side of the coin; she was loving, kind, diplomatic and admired by all who knew her. The only two things she shared with her mother-in-law (Gram Norris) was her husband and the initials, CAN. She was Carrie Amelia and Gram Norris was Charlotte Amanda. The result of the latter was my grandmother's inheritance of a monogrammed gold locket watch that my daughter now owns.

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