Thursday, October 1, 2009


Grandma's house from the north (street) side

In my previous post, I wrote about my memories of my grandma's house in Crosby, ND. (Grandma Julia was the only grandparent I knew.) In this post I'm back with more of these memories.

With Mom
I remember those saddle shoes!

I treasure memories of sitting on the bench by the willow tree of a summer evening with Grandma, Aunt Mary and Mom. I'd go play for a while, then come back and find a lap to contentedly sit on while I listened to them talk. After it got dark we'd sometimes sit in the enclosed front porch, watching the soft breeze billow the gauzy white curtains in and out, the street light giving us all the illumination we needed.

I recollect having the measles and being kept in a darkened room with the shades pulled, because "measles can settle in the eyes." I got two rubber "Measle Dolls" as get-well gifts - one had a red dress with white polka dots and the other had a white dress with red polka dots. And how can I forget the two stuffed bears – black and white Handy Andy and white and black Andy Pandy – who lived in Grandma's tool box. After I got older, sometimes Mary would pay me to sort out her jewelry box or put canceled checks in order.

With Aunt Mary

I can see it all now: The "Pink Room" that hadn't been pink for years; all the brown-painted furniture and floors (Grandma was dangerous with a can of brown paint - even MY little chair was painted brown!); Grandma's flowers - moss roses and Wee Willie dianthus by the garage, dwarf irises in the tire planter and huge blowsy peonies by the front porch; the yellow shrub roses that grew everywhere in the neighborhood.

I can still see Grandma's worn calico housedresses and navy tennis shoes, her full-length aprons and old-fashioned brown wavy hairpins. I can still smell her unique scent of peanut butter and coffee. Sometime she’d let me wear her bifocals. I’d walk around high stepping, because the floor wasn't where I thought it should be.

With Second Cousin Vern.
There's that weird facial expression again!

I can still see the musical Miles Kimball lighted plastic church and the red cellophane wreath that came out at Christmas time, and the big old-fashioned bulbs and tinsel on the tree. Auntie Jennie and her husband would ship the Munros a freshly-cut tree from Montana on the train! The only time I never wanted to be at Grandma’s house was on Christmas Eve, because that’s when they feasted on lutefisk. Ishda!

I can still feel the weight and warmth of Grandma's heavy, utilitarian crazy quilt. I can still feel how sad and bare the house looked on Mondays (wash day), as beds were stripped and tablecloths removed. I remember how much I loved watching Grandma sprinkling clothes. Using a 7-Up bottle with a perforated cap, she would shake water on the clothes, then roll them up tightly and put them in the wicker laundry basket so they would become thoroughly dampened by the time she ironed them. And how good those ironed clothes smelled!

In the wagon by the back steps.
Who let those weeds get so long?

I can still smell Grandma's cooking too: Her pork mulligan stew, the mashed potato and salmon patties, her raisin brown bread (I loved to pluck the plump raisins out of the rising dough), the Sunday dinners (always roast chicken, roast beef or roast pork), her chocolate drop cookies, Denver sandwiches for Sunday brunch, Jell-O with cream on top, chocolate cake with crystallized 7-minute frosting, chicken soup with wide homemade noodles, "Ronnie's Potato Soup". (My brother Ronnie ate so many bowlsful of this soup everyone joked he must be storing it in his hollow wooden leg.)

I'll never forget dipping sugar lumps in Grandma's cream- and sugar-laden coffee, or going to the grocery store to buy her some Half 'N Half or to the bakery for some long johns. I loved playing with all the buttons in the button tray, riding my trike with the plastic ribbons in the handles, making mud pies decorated with cotoneaster berries and boxelder seeds, listening to Grandma's tales of Norway, having my special toys that “lived” at her house.

Walking down the the street.
Good thing it wasn't a very busy street.

Grandma’s house was not too far from the swimming pool. I loved walking “home” in the late afternoon, my hair smelling of chlorine and my body smelling of sun and Coppertone. I would have sprouted a million new freckles, and because we had to wear bathing caps, I would have a strip of white skin across my forehead.

Grandma’s house was the kind where “Back Porch is Best” – only strangers came to the front door. On late Saturday afternoons in summer, we’d all gather on the back porch steps and the grownups would gossip about happenings in town. Sometimes at night, I’d sit quietly on those steps and watch the red lights blink on and off over at the grain elevators humming away in the dark. I’d watch the beacon from the airport sweep the sky, around and around and around yet again, and I’d wait to hear the 10:00 curfew siren before going in to bed.

Grandma sitting on the railing of the back steps.

Grandma’s house was a “curtains and floor rugs” house, not a “draperies and carpets” house. It was a house with bluebird china and chenille bedspreads. It was a place where dinner was the meal served at noon, lunch was at 4:00 and supper was at 6:00. It was a place where we had evening snacks of plain spaghetti with butter and salt and pepper, a place where Grandma always watched Billy Graham's TV specials, where we listened to Hank Williams on the radio, where there was a bookcase full of novels by authors from the 40s and 50s - and earlier: Zane Grey, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Agatha Christie, Edna Ferber, Grace Metalious (scandalous!), Kathleen Winsor, Frank Yerby, Francis Parkinson Keys, Gene Stratton Porter, Samuel Shellabarger, A. J. Cronin, Taylor Caldwell.

Grandma’s house - yes, it's all there, still in my head, and now it’s on these pages.

The west, or front side of Grandma's house

Today, October 1, would have been my Mom's 88th birthday. I miss you and love you, Mom.


Odette Bautista Mikolai said...

wondeful memories, julie! reading this made me think of my grandma too and how i missed her.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Absolutely fabulous post - tremendous memories and stupendous writing. I feel like part of the family.

Autumn Leaves said...

Your memories are so poignant, Julie. I love reading them...some of them ring similarly with my own. Except the lutefisk (no Norwegian blood), but even that reminds me of two of my pastors that I had when living in Washington. My grandmother wore housedresses all of the time and I always remember them and her blue slippers. I hope you will continue to write of such memories and share your photos. I am one of those who never tire of looking at family photos, even when I do not know the subjects. I just know your daughter would treasure memories such as these (with the photos) bound up in a book. (I suppose I can be pushy at times. Please forgive me...)

Lila Rostenberg said...

YOur childhood photos look a lot like Kristin! YOUr wardrobe from those days would be almost identical to mine from childhood! I craved and finally got my saddle shoes when I was in first grade!

Roses and Lilacs said...

What a lovely tribute to your Grandmother. You brought back some wonderful memories of my Grandmother. I suppose many women of that day were very similar. House dresses, handmade aprons, always cooking, doing laundry, ironing, or washing dishes;) They had lived thru the great depression, their tastes were simple. Being surrounded by family was the greatest joy in their life.

gma said...

Your memories stirred some of my own. The dotted swiss dresses, mine was white with red dots.
Times were simpler. We had "curtains and rugs." (My gma used to make round rag rugs.)
Edna Ferber and Taylor Caldwell were on family bookshelves too.
Love you Julie.

marthaberry said...

Hi Julie,
How lucky you are to have the photos and know who is in them. We lived far from my parents families and as a result, I really don't know any of my kinfolk. There are photo albums, but no one to tell me the stories behind them. I am connecting with a cousin. Her father and mine were brothers. everyone else is gone now. So we have 4 kids here, one in France, and my cousin, and that is it. very very sad.

Joyce said...

I haven't forgotten about you one bit. I just have been caught up in "wedding" planning. But it will be finished this weekend. Finally. HA!
So I will be back after that to read more of your site. I read all the way down to your Keats article but didn't read it.

LOVED all your very "Vivid" details about your Grandmother and your family members as you remembered them through a child's eyes. Such great thoughts.
Sad and happy......I totally CAN RELATE to this.

We will chat more later......
Miss you very much and you are ON my heart this morning.
Be blessed,

Shopgirl said...

Julie, the more I know about your childhood, I see pictures of some of the things that stood out in mine. Thank you for this lovely piece of history...we all have a story and you tell yours so well.
I have put on my blog a short story about me when I was 5 years old. I wrote it in 2005 and then put it away. I was going through some stuff and there it was. So I hope you will take a peek. Happy Fall, Mary Thank heaven for Grandma's.

Robin said...

Thanks for sharing. This brought back SO many memories of my own Grandmother..and it's inspired me to write about her, so that my two daughters will "know" her better.

Thanks and many blessings!

Lila Rostenberg said...

I was blest to have 2 grandmothers when I was little. The one who lived with us was my favorite then, though now I love them both.
I really like your painting for October, the long white dress is so romantic!

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

lately i started a little collection: old photos
so this post was very enjoyable to me, how do you recover some of thos pictures? i mean because of what happened in that fire