Today is my paternal Grandmother's birthday. As long as I am living I will celebrate her birthday. Grams was a wonderful role model for all of us and always gave me unconditional love. That is what I hope my grandchildren remember of me. We weren't allowed to misbehave, mind you, but we always knew we were cherished and loved by a very strong, loving woman.
My grandmother is truly a woman of French heritage. Her grandparents were Parisians before they came to New Orleans. Her grandfather was an attorney and later a judge. While he was an attorney he was challenged to a duel by a former client. Not a wise idea for the poor client. As the person that was the recipient of the challenge, her grandfather was given the choice of weapons to be used in the dual. He was an expert marksman with a pistol, so of course, that was what he chose. Fifty paces and I'm afraid it was not a good out come for the client.A beautiful and adored young child, with one sibling, her brother Alfred. Grams shared memories of visiting her grandparents home on Esplanade Avenue and having her parrot whistle and hail the street car. They eventually had to move the parrot from the front porch to the back yard because of the street car drivers' complaints!
Grams was a true New Orleanian to her core! She loved our city...from City Park and the lagoons to uptown and the Zoo! When she was young she had a skiff she used for fishing. When we were young she would take us to City Park to feed the ducks and geese and play on the swings. I think she enjoyed seeing us play and climb on the same lions as she!
I do believe I inherited my love of dogs, gardening and cooking from her. I've mentioned I wasn't fortunate to inherit her excellent seamstress ablilities. I'm thankful for what I did inherit. She loved to plant flowers, fruits and trees. I could spend hours peeking under the leaves of her strawberry plants checking for ripened strawberries or climbing in her fig trees picking figs. Grams had a gardner, Bill Taylor. He helped maintain trellises for the arbors and keep her beloved rose bushes in tip top shape.
My grandfather liked to grow grapes for his homemade wine. He also grew tomatoes and bell peppers.
A funny story about the grapes and wine. A Church official was visiting when all of a sudden these popping noises came hurtling through the air, up the staircase from the basement below! It seems it had grown so hot in the New Orleans summer that the corks started popping out of Paw Paw's homemade wine. Grams was mortified as she was a tee totaling Christian Scientist. My Dad never tired of the story and laughed heartily with each telling. He would mimic the popping noises going POP POP POP, chuckling after each POP!
Grams' first born was my Dad. Her second son was Richard, or Dick as she fondly remembered him.
Dick died young, he was twelve...my Dad was fourteen.
Grams was a proud Mother...her family was her world. Grams was the quintessential homemaker. She could de feather a chicken or goose. She cooked everything from scratch. Her home was always spotless. She had a housekeeper that came once a week for the 'heavy' cleaning and ironing, Francis. But Grams kept everything spic n' span until Francis returned. LOL, I even think she used Spic n' Span as a cleaning agent. No clutter anywhere in her house, why didn't I inherit that gene? OK my children, enough from the peanut gallery...!
I remember once visiting a cousin's home with my grandmother. I was a young wife at this time so I was 'keeping' house myself. After we left my cousin's home Grams commented on the dust bunnies in the corners...me I didn't notice and I'm sure they were cousins of my dust bunnies!
Grams loved to share story after story about Dick. According to my grandmother, Dick was not as serious as my Dad was as a child. Lighthearted and more mischievous. Knowing some of the pranks my Dad did as I child I think my Dad was perhaps better at flying under her radar!
I was entrusted with some of Dick's childhood creations and the photograph she kept of him on her desk. She said she knew I would keep them and not throw them away. My second born son's middle name is Richard, in honor of her second born son. So yes, I display the photo and keep mementos of the uncle I never met. For Grams.
In order to make sure we each had special time with our grandparents we grandkids were treated to a rotation of Friday night sleepovers with our paternal grandparents. We were taken either to a restaurant of their choosing or our favorite home cooked meal. I remember Friday evenings of 'Flicka' and grillades and grits. On the nights we would eat out, A & G cafeteria or Wise's cafeteria, The Smokehouse and Fitzgeralds's were favorite choices of theirs.
Saturday mornings Grams' homemade crepes and her homemade stewed apricots and prunes. Without a doubt my grandmother was a wonderful cook of creole cuisine!
Grams also loved to include her grandchildren on her travels. We would go to Ocean Springs with our grandfather, his sister Weenie, and Grams. The photo above shows my Mom and Dad coming to pick us up after a week spent with my grandparents in Ocean Springs. Grams was taking the picture, that's Paw Paw and Weenie with us. I'm the shrimp on the end. Actually we are standing in birth order. I've since read most children unintentionally arrange themselves in birth order for photographs.
Her brother, Alfred had a daughter Mary Anne. Mary Anne's husband was a diplomat for the United States, serving in France, Poland, and the USSR to name a few of his Ambassador assignments. My grandmother loved to keep a scrapbook of all of Mary Anne's travels and postings. Yes, I still have that too!
Uncle Alfred and Grams were very fond of each other! I remember him as being quiet but very kind. I found online a write up in a French newspaper in New Orleans, announcing Uncle Alfred's return to the city for his sister's wedding.
Grams loved to travel the globe. I remember trips to Iran when it was still ruled by the Shah. She went to Israel and Europe. After our grandfather passed away the rotation of vacations began in earnest! Lee and Patsy went to a Dude Ranch in Texas...Lee and I went to a Dude Ranch in Colorado! Later, when Patsy was older they travelled to well, Patsy, was it Sweden? Norway? I was invited as a young woman to travel with her to Hawaii, unfortunately my employer wouldn't allow me to leave. Should have had the sense to quit that job!
As a young woman she thought of herself as somewhat of a flapper! I know she kept a lifelong friendship with many of her friends. She would have them over for different activities. One of the groups she would meet with monthly 'hooked rugs'. I inherited one of her beautiful designs, but as it was wool, eventually it went the way of dry rot. Sigh...
Grams opened the first Christian Science Reading Room in the French Quarter. She and the hippies of the sixties had their own love fest of a Mary Baker Eddy order! A woman ahead of her times, she managed the family rental property. A business minded woman. Grams was not a shy or retiring female at any time I knew her. She sometimes gave the appearance of a crusty old salt. But, those of us fortunate enough to see her soft and loving side felt it to our core.
I lived a few houses away from Grams until I was three. It allowed us to spend a lot of time with our grandparents and make happy memories. A quick slam of a screen door and a scamper across a lawn and I was busy 'helping' with the gardening.
When I was a young wife, my husband and I moved back to that same neighborhood. Even when it was obvious we were outgrowing our house and the economy of New Orleans was in a downturn and we should relocate I refused to consider moving as long as Grams was living. I needed and loved all that she gave in love and knowledge to myself and my children.
One afternoon, I watched her from my window 'schooling' a tenant on how to maintain his lawn. Her finger was just a wagging at him. I knocked on the window and started wagging my finger at them. Fortunately, Grams had a wonderful sense of humor...it started her chuckling and then the tenant. I had a lifetime of that wagging finger. I figured her tenant could use some comic relief. The memory of that finger wagging brings smiles to my face. As an adolescent it made me furious...I am sure Grams thought that was just fine!
One early am I was locked out of my house in my nightgown. It was when I was pregnant with my first child. It was raining hard...the kind of soggy, heavy downpour one experiences in New Orleans. I ran over to her house and frantically knocked on her door. She opened it and quickly dried me off, put me in one of her nighties and tucked me under her down feather comforter! Ohhh Heaven!
But what I know most of all about my grandmother is she loved her son. My Dad was her heart. He was her firstborn and then her only surviving child. Sometimes a hard place for him to be I think. A big responsibility. Didn't matter, he loved her dearly in return, and gave us a closeness with her we will always cherish!
Happy Birthday to the original Steel Magnolia!
I miss you so...