First Memory

How far back can your recall? For me, I believe my memories go back to age three, because I am able to remember playing with my grandfather. I was 3 ½ years old when he died. The pungent odor of a cigar transports me back to that time, and my mother has confirmed that he did, indeed, smoke cigars.

I remember sitting in a chair near the window in the left front corner of his living room.  (or was it the right?) Was the aroma from the smoke-infused curtains imagined, or does my subconscious hold the actual moments of a little girl hiding within the folds of the fabric?

I would giggle with delight as Papa would carefully back into his seat, pretending not to notice his tiny granddaughter seated proudly on his chair. Because I have that memory, I now play that game with my own grandchild. Someday I will tell him the story of the inventor of that game—a survivor of World War I, the Great Depression, and father of six children.

My parents purchased the building lot adjacent to my grandparents’ home from my great uncle, Pat Cooney, so I was the lucky cousin who could climb aboard a chair near the kitchen window, wave, and perhaps play peek-a-boo with them every day.

And I was the cousin who was instructed to bring Papa to our house for dinner that wintry night in January. He had been too tired to accompany my grandmother earlier in the day, saying he would come later after he rested at bit. But he never answered my soft knocks on his door. That was the last time my tiny feet ran next door to see my grandfather. Do I remember that evening, or do I know the story because it was told to me so often? I will never know, because some memories can never be retrieved.

Papa pushing me on my backyard swings.

Papa pushing me on my backyard swings.


Ask a Busy Person

How Did She Find the Time?

Grandma always said that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Her feeling was that if, for example, cupcakes were needed for a class party, you never asked the stay-at-home mom with one child to provide the treats. Nine times out of ten, those mothers were always too busy. The mothers with five, six, or even ten children would never refuse. Those women probably didn’t even consider saying no, and I suspect it was because those were the most organized woman.

When I was in sixth grade, it was traditional to have an end-of-year picnic at the Tourne, which was a county park used for hiking and picnicking. (Did I ever take you there?) Six graders at my elementary school, School Street School, were the “senior class”, so this was a way for all the students to gather one last time before moving on to junior high, where they would be mingled with the students from John Hill, the other elementary school in town at that time. That was the beginning of the long process to adult separation, culminated by graduation, college, marriages, and moving away.

I was so proud when my parents volunteered to organize the event. With four younger children to care for, ranging in age from one to seven, I now wonder how Grandma did it. I am not ignoring my dad, but I am sure he just showed up to flip the burgers, while my mother did all the shopping, planning, and calling the moms with eight or ten children to bake treats for the event. Remember, back in the sixties, particularly in my hometown, it was not common practice to send pre-baked goods. You could not afford to, nor would you even consider sending in goodies which were not home-made.

Did I mention that my mom always worked, even while we were young? She was employed at a local doctor’s office, answering calls on an old-fashioned switchboard, working the evening shift from 4 pm until closing around 9:00.  Dinner was always prepared before she left, the laundry was done, and the house tidied, so all that needed to be done was for the food to be heated in the oven (no microwaves then).

So somehow, she managed to coordinate this party for 40-50 eleven year olds with a smile on her face, concealing any difficulties she must have had in doing so.

None of you knew that thirty-something-year-old woman who is now living in a nursing home, still with a smile on her face, but with so many dwindling memories. I hope to help you all get to know that grandma with these stories.