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Friday, 25 January 2008

Memories of my Gram

By Dorothy of Grammology

It's snowing in a suburb of Buffalo, and I'm nestled in my chair wondering if I'll get out for work tomorrow. It's predicted there will be high winds and we have over a foot of snow here already. I'm glad I cooked ham and homemade soup. We'll be all right until this passes.

After reading some of the Elderblog stories and commenting, I wondered why I had no memories to share. What was going on in my head. Wasn't there something I could remember for the wonderful readers whose comments I continue to read and enjoy? Didn't something worthy of my life happen I could tell about? After all I am 61. When you get this age there should be something worth repeating.

So here I sit, wondering why my memories are so vague. I decided my mind was not ready to relive any of my past. My mind is storing the images for a day when I was ready for my life as a child. Then I remembered something. It was precious, and I'd rethought it so many times, I hardly thought of it as my past. It's like a badge I wear, an experience so vivid in my mind, I hardly think it a memory. So if you don't mind I'll share this short true story.

I was brought up in a Polish household. My mom and my aunt, who lived upstairs, spoke English. However, they often spoke Polish when we were around. (Whenever they didn't want us to understand what they were saying).

My gram, who lived down the road, had a small farm. There was a farm house, barn and chicken coop. Then there was the tractor, garden and two work horses. They were beautiful. Yes there were two cows, a few pigs, chickens, I think one rooster, several ducks and whatever else I can't remember.

I do remember Gram had one of those old sewing machines you spun the wheel and pumped with your foot. She loved to sew and I remember aprons and skirts she made, which I loved to put on and pretend I was a princess while wearing.

Her home was filled with long, hanging house plants and a lots of doilies. Needles, yarn and string were always around to get lost in. Grandma spoke very little English and I spoke very little Polish. However, I can't remember a time when we didn't know what the other was saying. Grandma tried to teach me Polish. I did learn many words however, my mom never wanted us to speak the language and there was very little support to learn more unless I was with Gram.

Mom felt it was more important to concentrate on good English and we did. However, every time I'd visit Gram, we'd sit on her couch - the couch which had a sheet on the cushions so you didn't ruin her furniture.

We'd sit next to each other and she'd talk, speaking only Polish, and me in broken Polish and English. She'd point to her watch and say the words. She'd show me objects which I learned how to say the words too. I think we spent hours. Time was seamless and I didn't want to go home. I loved my Gram. She died when I was still young. I think I was around 10 years old.

Her face is still strong in my mind, her smile still makes me grin. We had something going on, Gram and me, and I think I didn't want to share this until now. I loved my Gram and she loved me. Every time I could, I was at her home. Maybe she is part of why I try to be such a good grandma. I had a heck of a role model.

My mother was a strict and good mom. However, the feeling Gram gave me was special and different. Hard to put in words, easy to remember and feel to this day - over 50 years later.

She taught me many things on the farm - milking cows, feeding chickens which attacked you on a regular basis. I didn't care; thought it was fun. Cleaning stalls in the barn. It was one of the jobs you just did when you owned animals and I didn't mind at all.

If you’re interested, maybe I can remember more things Gram and I did. As I reread this story, I'm amazed I'd not thought about the whole thing much. I always remember the barn, farm house, outhouse and pot to go sho sho in. It's all here, back in my mind and Ronni, I'm loving these warm thoughts. Thank you for allowing me this memory, giving me this opportunity to remember my Gram from Wheatfield, New York. I've never shared this before and I can't tell you how good it makes me feel.

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


The love you had for your Gram was warm and special. I, too, had a very close relationship with my maternal grandmother.
My only regret in life is that my granddaughters are in another State and I am not able to share that wonderful bond between grandmother's and granddaughters on a regular basis. It makes me sad.

Dorothy, you honor those memories in your heart and sometimes it is good to share. I remember my grandmother with the same kind of love and true friendship. I think good grandmothers love unconditionally, and that is why it is a little different from your mother's love, which still wants you to do things right all the time!


I really enjoyed the story you told about your childhood and your Grandmother.

I only met my Mother's Mother one time and my Dad's Mother came to live with us when she already was suffering from dementia, so I had no relationship with either Grandmother.
Both Grandfathers were gone before I was born.

Yes, we want to have you tell more memories of your Gram. It makes us remember the good things in our own youth, even if we didn't have Grandparents. So, think hard and share those memories with us.

Sharing special memories spreads a warm glow. Keep them coming.

I once saw an elder wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, "If I'd known how much fun it is to be a grandmother, I'd have done it first." Maybe you should get such a t-shirt printed up for yourself, to wear on the days your grandchildren are around.

Yes, could you please share more of your grandmother stories with us. This one is just delightful.

Maybe all stories are, as you mentioned, like badges or metals that speak of times past.

I can picture the living room, the doilies and the sewing machine. Sharing the story keeps the memory alive.

My grandparents were from Sweden and spoke Swedish to each other, but none of their seven kids learned Swedish. They were so proud to have immigrated to America, and wanted their children to only speak English. My mom felt they were ashamed of their accents.

It's too bad, because the kids could so easily have been bilingual. But then they would have heard all the secrets, too!

Since I didn't have a father or even one grandfather when I was growing up I cherished the thought of my grandmother who lived in Port Angeles where my grandfather had invested in the first family co-operative colony there.

My grandmother raised chickens and saved her egg money for things that she wanted to buy that Grandfather probably wouldn't have had the money for. She kept this money in a pot under her bed. In those days one didn't have to save up thousands of dollars for a nursing home because extended families and neighbors took care of old people who were infirm.
But she had to have enough to bury her.

My husband's mother was visited by an insurance salesperson who scared her about the cost of burial. He would come around every week to collect the money for the insurance policy that was supposed to provide burial costs. As it turned out, the family had to pay all the costs as the policy was not worth the paper it was written on, as they say.

But as people always remind me, "Didn't your mother ever tell you that life isn't fair?" Coming from a family of upstanding school teachers who were always worrying about right and wrong it took me a long time to learn that lesson.
I am still having difficulty with it.

Luckily for me, my grandmother taught my mother to be self sufficient and when she was widowed with nine living children just before I as born she was able to survive.

As an 87 year old great-grandmother I have learned that survival technique as well. Never ever let 'em see you sweat. Put on a great hat and some stunning jewelry and come out into the world ready to smile and be involved. And remember the aging mantra: Use it or lose it.

Oh, these comments are so beautiful. They made my heart swell. There is so much in our hearts to share. Aren't we lucky this blogging stuff happened. Aren't we lucky we have Ronni.

I loved reading everything. I hope you'll do what I did, dare to send Ronnie a story of your past, so we can share. I'll bet, she'll post it..she's like that..

My best, and thanks for reading my story.

Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

As others have said, your story warmed my heart. I have memories of my uncle Guy, who lived on a farm. When I was about 5 or 6 he sat me out on the porch with a pail full of popcorn and showed me how to pop the kernels off. I was entranced--I had never know where popcorn came from. And I got to collect the eggs and help him with the milking. This is one of my earliest memories, and one of my best ones too.

Peg, how fun that we are able to share our memories and what a beautiful example you were able to share with your Uncle Guy and the popcorn. I loved it.....

Thanks for enjoying my memories, this is one of the best things we can do for our history. Preserving for our families so they can enjoy the experience as well...

Hope to hear from you again..

Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

A true love story. If you hadn't turned that spigot, the flow wouldn't have begun. Here I am as one of the last drops splashing into your memory pool.

I knew no grandfathers and my paternal grandmother for only a few good years. I bear her name. My maternal grandmother was a real friend of mine. Since her passing in 1994 at age 94, I've yet to shed a tear of sadness. I've been known to recall our time together and laugh until I cry though. I can tell my 89 year old mother still misses her. I see her in my mother in these years as I see myself in my 90 year old father. TAS

She cooperated with me, and we made a video of her life story. She told stories of days in old Virginia and her love story with my grandfather, right through the birth of my mother and on to mine. What a treasure.

More? Yes ... more more!

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