Tuesday, October 16, 2007


My maternal grandmother lived near my family all of my life. In my earliest memories of her, she's a petite figure with whitening reddish hair and a lilting brogue, living in a little white house situated somewhere in a cul-de-sac of winding streets a couple of miles from us. As I got older, I would sometimes ride my bike across Germantown Road, past our church, all the way down into the little valley near the creek where she lived. Later still, she moved into an apartment downtown, far from our suburban home, and then finally into a nursing home a few miles away from the farm where I spent my teenage years. It was a longer haul, but I was still able to ride my bike over to see her when I was home from college.

Gradually I absorbed more information about her life -- how she immigrated from Scotland as a teenager, married and divorced, taught art at a local Christian college. She died at the age of 99, and my daughter is named after her. For as long as I live, there will always be certain things I associate with Mary Gray Jorges, the grandmother I called Mamie:

  • The Hershey bars she gave us as snacks when my brother and I visited her apartment.
  • The Cokes in twelve-ounce glass bottles she would get from the vending machine in the basement storage area for us.
  • A square flexidisc of bird songs that came in a book on birds she kept at her house, which I would put on her portable record player and watch go round and round -- or square and square, as it were.
  • Chicken pot pies, dumped upside down on a plate and cut to pieces, the default meal at the little white house.
  • The plaque in her apartment kitchen that read "All I want is a little peace and quiet."
  • Rust and yellow shag carpet, on behalf of which she would cackle "Don't feed the floor!" if we dropped something at dinner.
  • Flannel, like the backings of the flannelgraph Bible figures and backdrops that she painted in oils.
  • Reader's Digest condensed books.
  • The tropical fish food that she used to let me shake into the tank.
  • Frozen Pepperidge Farm devil's food cake.
  • Chocolate icebox dessert, a classic from the fifties and still one of my favorite sweets: chocolate wafers layered with whipped cream and softened in the fridge.


Doc Thelma said...

My paternal grandmother used to make that same dessert... she called it "Zebra Pudding" only the whipped cream was spiked with a couple of tablespoons of Jack Daniels.

Timothy said...

I think it's interesting that you have so many food memories associated with your grandmother. My paternal grandma (called her Grandma)died this Memorial Day from Alzheimer's complications at the age of 81. When she was still able, she used to make me sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving. She knew it was (still is) one of my favorite desserts, and she'd always make a pie just for me. My maternal grandmother, whom I call Muffy, tries to make sweet potato pies, but they just aren't the same. She sure does make some mean dressing for the holidays, though. It's one of the reasons that stressful time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

the secret knitter said...

What a nice remembrance. Thanks for sharing and giving me a blog topic for some undetermined day in the future.

Adam Villani said...

I have a lot of good memories of my grandparents (my maternal ones are still alive, but not really thriving) but, oddly enough, the only ones that involve food come from my paternal grandfather, who died when I was seven. He passed down "Dago Len's Spaghetti Sauce" to my mom, and I remember thinking who would eat weird foods, like sardines and okra. He was Italian and from New Orleans.

My other grandparents just liked bland food.

dougb0 said...

Thanks, Donna. I don't remember the little white house at all, but I do remember the downtown apartment from when I was really little. Going down to the basement to get a Coke was a big treat, but I remember being scared of the "cages" down there (storage areas for residents). The Hershey bars I also remember, especially the time the jar where they were kept was full of little red ants.