Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: My Two Grandmothers, Part II

The following two paragraphs are repeated from last Sunday, in case you missed the introduction.

When I was a kid and walked into either grandmother’s kitchen there was always a deep feeling of home and comfort to be found there. The kitchen was the center of each family’s existence. There was of course a best room or front parlor, what we’d today call a living room. But the kitchen was where everyone went right away and where you’d find all the family. That’s where family stories got told over and over again. Maybe your grandmother’s home was like that?

As an adult I can now see that Grandma Kelly and Grandma Williams had very different kitchens, and that’s really an extension of the differences in the families as well as the differences in Mom and Dad. Without being too psychological about it I bet that you can easily describe the differences in your grandmothers and their kitchens, if you were lucky enough to get to know them.

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And now a message to my dear cousins:
We shared a grandmother, you and I. I’ve been thinking about them lately and wanted to get down in writing how I remember them. And you might have remembered them entirely differently, or notice the details I get so very wrong. Can’t help it: that’s just the way the past is stuck in my head.
Mom and I had a discussion about this recently when I asked her how many mounted deer heads were in Grandpa Williams’ living room, because I remembered a lot of them and could picture a whole wall full of horns and glass eyes! She said it was just one.

So if you have a different past stuck in your head, please share it with us. The “truth” of it doesn’t matter so much now. What matters is the way we remember it and share it with family.
 
 
In the kitchen:
Grandma and Grandpop Kelly with Aunt Louise Kelly Cheney, their youngest.
 

Grandma Kelly’s kitchen was the hub of a busy, loud, and opinionated family. The front door was always open to the house on the busiest street in town, Main Street. Getting in the front door might be the easiest part of your visit if news of the neighbors, politics or religion were topics of discussion back in the kitchen. You might arrive to find no seats available because aunts and uncles had beaten you to its warmth. It was noisy, often combative one moment then filled with rolling laughter the next.

On other days I was lucky to find just Grandma in the kitchen while Grand Pop slept on the daybed in the dining room. Soft and cozily quiet was her kitchen then. You could sit at her table, eating a sweet treat, looking out the back window, over the back yard and down to the old Percy Cemetery, long out of use and in the 1950s very overgrown.

Were you ever sent out to burn the trash for your grand parents? I was and remember the exact spot and how you might find a chard of some long-ago piece of broken pottery or bit of “tin foil”.

There was usually something cooking. Grandma was a wonderful baker. Breads and dinner rolls I can still smell, and sweet treats she called (Pennsylvania, or German) Dutch Cakes that consisted of bread dough with wells of fruit or custard, my favorite. The last tiny bits of bread dough got pressed into a more or less round shape and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. They came out as tasty as any cookie and you could have one with a little glass of milk if you were good.

Opposite the table was the big stove ready at all times to produce a hearty meal for her big family of six offspring, their many grandchildren and anyone else who happened by. On the far wall, Grand Pop sat in his rocking chair. You see he acquired Black Lung disease in the coal mines where he worked from about the 6th grade until he was no longer able to breathe. It was all he could do to climb down the small ladder to the basement and stoke the coal fire to get the furnace ready to heat the house. And there was no way my ample Grandma was going to fit half of herself down that hatch door!

Behind Grand Pop in the corner was the pantry where an inquiring youngster could find all manner of stuff from staples like flour and sugar to canned items. Next to it and a tall metal cabinet held extra plates and everyday table wears. Finishing the far wall was an old kitchen cupboard, sometimes painted green or whatever color Grandma was fond of. She did love to brighten a room with a fresh coat of paint on the occasional piece of furniture.

Sitting on the outside wall next to the wooden cupboard was the refrigerator. Do you remember the ones with the coils sitting on top, becuase I sort of do. I don’t remember an ice box that used real ice and the ice man delivered it, but they tell me it was once there.

The table anchored the middle and in the corner the sink. On the right hand wall as you entered the kitchen was a hat stand with a mirror on top and a bench below. That was the seat of last resort if the kitchen was full! Come early, stay late!
 
Grandma Kelly in her back yard, the brick path following the clothes line,
with the Old Percy Cemetery off in the distance.

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