Archives for posts with tag: grandmother

My oldest grandchild left for college yesterday. Another milestone for the family, for this cute guy. It’s not like he’s going that far away and I’ll even see him next week since I work on campus part-time, but it’s still a milestone. For me, the grandmother, the emotions run across many decades.

Watching him packing, I saw his mother and father helping him with everything from checking the car to doing his laundry. It’s amazing how much he’s taken for granted and I know this because I was the same way when I left. I’d never really been away from home other than to stay with relatives, so college was a cultural and environmental shock. I graduated with 650 students and my new roommate was from a class of 6. Wow!

My grandson went to visit the campus a couple of weeks ago just to walk around and see where his classes were so he didn’t have to stumble around the first week. I bet he still does some of that because Freshmen tend to stand out, no matter how sophisticated they think they are. Everything is new and your parents aren’t there to ask for help. Of course, now the kids all have cell phones where we had to get change and wait for the pay phone and make a long distance call, which was through the operator in those long gone days. It doesn’t really matter what the differences are in technology because the emotions are all the same.

This grandson is the oldest of the three boys who were born before my husband died, all born in an 8 month period before and during the time he was battling cancer. This oldest one had his first birthday exactly one week before his grandfather died. And here we are at our next chapter. My mind spins with memories of my own college days, his mother’s, and now the new images of him leaving. And then my mind takes many turns as it goes through memories of his mother as a child and this one’s birth and all the years in-between. Is it a wonder we get emotional with all of those images flying around?

My eyes get teary from happiness for him mixed with the ever-present concern based on the years of knowledge of all the things that can go wrong. I expect his parents will experience what we did, going from waiting up for him to come home to wondering where he is and what he’s doing in a new, wilder environment where we aren’t minutes away. What I can tell them is that parenting never stops, never ever. I still worry about them and feel a rush of relief when they are all home, safe and sound. It’s an uncontrollable component of parenting for me. I know there are people who let go and that’s fine, but I don’t seem to be able to do it. My kids are grown, accomplished, wonderful adults and I love and trust them, but they’re always going to be my kids. I’m a sentimental idiot about them. Nothing they do is too mundane for me to enjoy hearing about, good or bad. But, my mind wonders again.

That’s the problem with this college thing. It’s releasing all the old emotions and memories again, giving them new places to roam. Next year, my next two grandsons leave for college, so this is just the beginning of letting these kids go ahead and live their grown up lives. I have two grandsons in tenth grade this year and a grandson and granddaughter in 8th grade. I’ll be going to graduations and seeing them off to college a lot in the next few years. And then, there’s the one who’s heading into kindergarten. Will I be here to see her off to college and launching her new life?

The average person now starts having kids in their late twenties or thirties. I’ve commented many times about the danger of edging out grandparents along the way. My own grandparents were such an important part of my life that it makes me sad to think of generations of kids without grandparent. I hope I’ve been an important part of my grandchildren’s experiences and memories and I hope their parents can do the same for them. It’s one of the greatest gifts you get in life.

I’m imagining my grandson waking up in his room in the fraternity house with a new roommate from Texas, probably getting up late after staying up all night talking and getting to know each other and the other guys or finding his high school friends on other parts of the campus. It’s a heady time in life with all your dreams ahead of you and all the realities right in front of you. It’s a giant step. Working with college kids, I envy them the experience but not all the challenges that lie ahead as they study for exams, look for jobs, build relationships. 11899866_10207157287068278_5262443680856584506_n - Version 2

This will be an interesting week and I can’t wait to hear from my grandson. I’m proud of him and all my family and I’m so very grateful to be here to watch all of them in these next steps, step by step really, through life. 


Today, I’m remembering a song my grandmother used to sing to me and my mother and I sang it together forever…

I just took a peek in the pantry
And there on the row of shelves
sat a row of pies
that would be a surprise
to the Mince Pie King himself.

My grandma is here and my grandpa,
my cousins and Auntie May.
What is it about?
We’ll soon find out
for tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

Happy day before Thanksgiving to all!

Karen & Mommie Dude 1950

Sixteen years ago today, I became a different person.  I went from mother to grandmother in one second that exploded into years that fill my heart and life.  Sixteen years ago today, my first grandchild was born, followed by another one eleven or so weeks later and another one eight months later and then they kept coming until I now have eight, six boys and two girls.  The first seven are between eleven and sixteen as I write this.  The youngest is three.

But, sixteen years ago, my husband and I entered this new phase with joy and humor and all the anxieties that come with watching your children enter new phases of their lives along with you.  We took the Grandparenting Class at the hospital to refresh our memories and see what was new in the world of babies.  We learned, with amused glances at each other, that we were expected to do things a little differently this time around.  There were car seats to contend with from the moment the baby left the hospital and infant CPR to learn and other things that I’m sure I’ve already forgotten.  We graduated with a certificate that declared us as ready as we could be.

Shopping with my first time mother-to-be was an experience.  In the years since I’d had my children, the baby business had exploded.  I went with her to register at Babies R Us (the name makes this old English major cringe) and was overwhelmed by the aisles of choices to get this little one started.  How did I ever manage in my little duplex right off the college campus when I had my first one, the inexperienced, but very educated, young mother that I was?  Where we had one brand and one size of disposable diapers and only used them when traveling, there was an aisle filled three shelves up on both sides with diapers.  Just disposable diapers.  There were new kinds of diaper pails, which we probably could have done without, but listed anyway, going with the hype.

I used a new kind of baby bottle with my babies, Playtex with disposable liners.  They had those, but there were infinite other kinds.  Where to begin?  There were different styles of binkies, which we called pacifiers and my babies never used.  And accessories for the binkies.  And an aisle of cribs and an aisle of strollers and an aisle of high chairs to match every decor and an aisle of car seats and an aisle of cribs and then there were the crib accessories.  It went on and on and on…I couldn’t even begin to give advice because I had never seen most of these things or never had so many choices.  Besides, most of the things we had so carefully protected our babies with had now been deemed unsafe.  I think a lot of the industry is built on guilt and fear because who doesn’t want their child or grandchild to be as safe as possible?

Then you got to the cute side and all the clothes and toys and you just oohed and ahhed your way through the store, ending up with a long list of what you thought you needed along with all the things that looked so cute you couldn’t resist.  The registry led to baby showers with young mothers and other grandmothers-to-be.  Of all the parties that women have devised, baby showers are about the most fun.  Opening all those gifts with those cute little clothes…it’s our way of playing dolls again.

When the time came, my daughter had read her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting through and through and was moving on to the next book in that series, leaving me to flip through my old copy of Better Homes & Gardens Baby Book and remembering having to prop it open to follow the pictures on how to bathe a baby when I was starting out.  My mother had done the same with her copy and she stood by me as we both began that journey together all those years ago.  My daughter was induced, which has become pretty common for who knows what reason.  On the morning of the birth, the entire family gathered, except for our son who was away at college.  This was a far cry from our days when nobody was allowed in with the mother and the father sat in the waiting room with the other fathers.  When it was over, he could call the rest of the family from the phone at the hospital.  No cell phones for instant pictures then!

We could all go into the labor/delivery room to visit until closer to the time and my husband and other daughters, both of whom were also pregnant by this time, and I waited with the other grandmother-to-be.  What a difference a generation makes.  My son-in-law was not only allowed in for the delivery, but carried the baby to the nursery.  That was pretty scary since I’m not sure he had ever held a baby, but he did it like he had always known how.  He got to stand there with pride while they weighed this not so little 9 pound 5 ounce boy and we all watched through the window.  By that night, everyone had gathered and we filled the room, baby talk beginning to stream out of our mouths.  How instinctive is that?

They throw the moms out of the hospital as soon as possible these days and they have the babies with them most of the time, so it’s a little bit hectic between the nurses, the visitors, and trying to figure out what is going on with your body.  I was happy to remember my two-five days stays when I had my babies as times I could get some rest and gear up for the rest of my life.  I was visiting the hour that the lactation nurse came to explain breast feeding and I’m sure my son-in-law would have killed to be back at his job at that moment.  It was all my daughter and I could do to keep from giggling as she told her how to stop swelling by plastering her chest with cabbage leaves.  I hadn’t nursed because it was kind of out of fashion at the time I had my first child, but was happy with my choice by the time this nurse got through with us.  I’m all for it, but it was a bit of overkill from an overzealous advocate that day.

The parents were thrown out on their own with this new baby and I spent a lot of time remembering the ropes myself, hoping to be helpful as I remembered what an overwhelming responsibility it is to become a new parent.  Fortunately, it is amazing how quickly you remember how to hold a slippery, wiggly baby.  My mother and I laughed a lot remembering our own adventures and bonded with her new role as great-grandmother.  It was a time of happiness and joy.  What is better than having a little baby snuggled up against you?

By the end of that year, we had three new grandsons and I was well on my way to being known as Mimi as well as Karen (I’m not sure all of my grandkids know my real name even now).


We had had first trips to the car show, the zoo, the Drillers baseball games, the swimming pool and the pumpkin patch.  Life was changing and repeating itself in the best ways.  It was also teaching us about life and death as my husband was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of this season of births.  He died a week after this oldest grandchild had his first birthday, changing all our lives and teaching us how love heals those losses and life is never-ending cycles.

Once I became a grandparent, grandkids started coming at a fast rate.  Within the next couple of years, there were two more boys…

Scan 11

Then a girl and a boy.


Each time there was a birth, the ever increasing family filled more and more of the hospital waiting room, ready to greet the newest addition.  We could all diaper a baby in seconds, had wiped more faces than we could count and the babies probably had to figure out sometimes whether the person holding them was a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle.  They were interchangeable at family gatherings.  And they grew up way too fast.


Then we had another one.  The only two births I missed being at the hospital for were my two granddaughters.  The first one was born while I was in Seattle with my son as he battled cancer, so we met her together over the computer, laughing at her first hospital picture, and then meeting her in a few days at the airport.  The second one was my son’s daughter, also born in Seattle.  I’d have been there, but we didn’t know when she was coming, so I heard from a text in the middle of the night and saw her first pictures on Facebook the next morning.  Such was the new technology in those fast moving years since the first baby came.


So, now I have eight wonderful grandkids and each is unique and a delight, just as their parents were.  They teach me so much and keep me up with what is going on in the world and make me feel old and young at the same time.  Following their busy lives, watching them grow into young adults, sharing their mistakes and triumphs, is a blessing beyond words.  I am lucky to have all eight of them here with me.  I make some of their ball games…soccer, football, basketball, baseball…and their assemblies and their confirmations and graduations.  The biggest problem is that they grow at a faster speed than my kids did.  Maybe I’m just on that downhill slide that comes when you go over the hill.  We won’t talk about that.

Sixteen years ago, I started on a new journey with my children, watching them become parents, watching them grow as people, watching them nurture their children through life.  Now we’ve got babies who are taller than their parents but not as smart…yet.  Sometimes I think that watching my own children with their children may be the very best part of it all.  May I live long enough to see my grandchildren with their children and my children become grandparents!  How much love can one family have?  There’s always room for more.

Baking has always been fun for me since I got my first cookbook and started making little bitty cakes and pies and cupcakes in my tiny oven, before Easy Bake or maybe an early edition.  I just know I had little pans and made little things to eat.  Then I graduated to my mother’s pots and pans and stove.  Maybe that’s why I still have her old mixing bowls and still think they are the best bowls ever.

Today, I was hungry for my grandmother’s ice box cookies, but heaven help me if I make something that starts with a pound of butter when I don’t have a crowd in the house.  Yikes!  My paternal grandmother, Aggie, made these when I was little.  I keep her cookie jar, minus the lid, in my kitchen window.


My mother made them, too.  Nothing was better than the cookie dough pressed into squared rolls and wrapped in waxed paper in the refrigerator.   As kids, we would sneak in and slice off a hunk, making no pretense of polite slices, and eat the dough raw.  Can’t believe how wickedly good it was.  I made them for my four kids when they were little, but I must have…okay, I know I did…been caught with the dough and they picked up on it.  One of them told me she couldn’t remember having these baked.  For your information, they are nice little butter pecan cookies.  Really.

I’m not sure Aggie ever ate the dough but there was a twinkle about her, so maybe.

Aggie on 39th St

Many years later, I was teaching a course for the American Red Cross on Safe and Healthy Kitchens and we had to tell the people that it wasn’t healthy to eat raw cookie dough.  That was the hardest bit of information for me to give anyone, nonbeliever that I am.

I’m trying to restrain myself from running to the kitchen to start creaming the butter and sugar right now.  Help!  You go make them for me.   Note:  The recipe doesn’t say how long to bake them.  What does that tell you?

Aggie’s Ice Box Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

1 lb butter

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tbl Karo syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sode

5 1/2 cups flour

1 cup nuts

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Add 1 cup flour sifted with soda and salt.  Add rest of flour with nuts.

Work on board and make 4 loaves.  Wrap in waxed paper and keep in refrigerator.

Slice and bake as needed.

My maternal grandmother would be 114 today.  Her birth name was Artiemisha Lucille Holt.  I never heard Artiemisha, which must have been after her grandmother, Artimissa. I found that doing genealogy or I would have always thought her name was just Artie.  She grew up on a farm in southern Oklahoma, near Durant, where she was one of a bunch of kids.  I knew Nat and Clint and Lilly and the others, but there were more half brothers and sisters from her father’s first marriage.  I don’t know much about her life before, but I think she was 18 when she married Benjamin Newton West, who was 21 years older than she.  Before my mother died, she told me that my grandfather came to pick my grandmother up to get married in a cart with a brown horse and a brown blanket.  Her parents handed her a bouquet and they left.  My grandfather’s best friend was with him and asked, “Where did you find this pretty little thing?”  I don’t know much about their marriage other than the precious story of my grandfather building a fire in the morning and then carrying my grandmother down to get warm.  They had three children, two boys and a girl, and he worked for his father at the West Wagon Yard in Ardmore and then for the telephone company, stringing lines, I believe.  I know my mother was born at her grandmother’s home in the country, so they must have lived there for awhile.  When he was fifty-one, he died of Bright’s Disease, a kidney disease that could be easily cured today.  My grandmother was 29 years old with three small children, widowed in the depression.  My mother was five.

I guess my grandfather knew he was going to die because he left a small neighborhood grocery for my grandmother for income.  She ran that for years, supporting the kids through times when their gas was turned off because they didn’t have a nickel for the bill.  But my mother remembers they laughed a lot.  My mother was a serious and proud child, who loved her mother dearly and always recognized the debt she owed her.  My grandfather’s parents were among the founders of Ardmore, OK and had operated the West Wagon Yard.  They owned property and my grandmother did own her home, which was the only reason they survived, according to my mother.  By the time I was born, the grocery store was long gone and my grandmother’s income came from renting out rooms in her house and another property from my great-grandmother.

I was the oldest grandchild on that side of my family.  I was born several months early and my mother didn’t know much about babies, so my grandmother came and got me when I was a few weeks old.  I don’t think it warped my relationship with my mother, but I was always close to my grandmother.  She was a prissy little girl, so her brothers called her Dude, as did most of her close friends and family.  I called her Mommie Dude.  She was such an innocent in so many ways and so wise in others.  I don’t think she had more than a 9th grade education but she raised three very smart children, mostly on her own.  She packed parachutes at the Ardmore Air Base during the war.

My visits with Mommie Dude were among the most precious memories of my childhood.  I spent time at her house in Ardmore in the summers, swinging on the front porch swing for hours, picking pears off the trees in the back yard, rummaging through her drawer of photos or the garage full of stuff.  I chased horny toads and lightning bugs and walked to the ice plant for chips of ice and downtown to the dime store and to visit my uncle at the bank.  She finally got a car, but was never a good driver.  There was once an article in the Daily Ardmoreite with the news that Artie West had her grandchildren at the ice cream place.  I still have her cedar chest where she kept her fur coat and a hunk of her hair (don’t ask me why people kept their hair in those days).  It was all mysterious.  I played her records and she sang me old, old songs that I try to remember today.  Those songs were old folk songs and I’ve tried to find the history of some.  She made us “squares” when she knew we were coming.  “Squares” were koolaid, frozen in ice trays.  We would get a bowl of squares and eat it while swinging on the front porch.  It made the hot summers without air conditioning more bearable and fun.  There are so many other stories to write about my times with her…and I will.

Mommie Dude always wrote me and I have her letters somewhere in my garage, boxed with letters from my parents and grandparents.  Often she would put in a dollar, telling me to go get a Pepsi.  A dollar was a lot to her.  I loved getting those in the mail, even through college.  I have a photo of my grandmother with my three girls, holding 9 month old Kerry as they all stood on her porch in Ardmore.  Shortly after that, she was crippled with arthritis, almost overnight, and had to move to a nursing home.  My mother finally brought her to Tulsa, where she lived in pain until her death.  I was at the nursing home the night she died and sat beside her, singing the old songs that I hold so dear.  This sweet woman loved me so unconditionally all my life and taught me so many lessons without even knowing it.  Today, I’m thinking of her with love in my heart and a smile on my face.