The orange book
Saturday June 16th 2007, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

GramGram’s inscriptionI signed a book for my friend Mary in Iowa at Purlescence last night, went out to dinner with friends and hubby, just normal busy life stuff, came home, and read Mary’s blog entry about her elderly father being interviewed and talking about how important it is to get our stories recorded. Yes. It’s not just a busy life–it’s how we spend our time becoming who we are.

My grandmother’s mother died of colon cancer when Gram was eight. When Gram was 60, knowing well what it was like to grow up wondering who her mother had really been as a person, she got talked into writing down some of her own life stories. Thank you very much, that’s me, the three year old in the family photo in there with the curls who, on being told to sit up at the table, declared emphatically, “I won’t sit up! I’ll sit down.”

This business of needing to get the words just right. It goes way back.

I got given a copy, with her inscription, “To Alison, who is old enough to read and enjoy this book.” I was by then nine. I hated it. It was boring. It had a vivid sunflower-orange cover, a color that was very much in vogue and that I very much hated.

Yeah, well. You know what comes next. Or some of it, anyway–the rest, I did not quite believe till I’d called my mother, who knew the people involved, remembered it, and confirmed it was so. So: I picked up the book a few years ago and read it, wondering why on earth I hadn’t earlier. Maybe I’d been afraid I would be critical of the writing, or that I might find it to have any vapid Washington DC politics, or–I dunno, but I didn’t want to be critical of my grandmother.

I liked it. Hey Mikey. The Supreme Court Justice who came to his office every day in a horse-drawn carriage? The senators’ wives being expected to wear hats and white gloves and to leave their calling cards at each others’ residences, timed and ranked by Senate seniority, her surprise at how southern and how Victorian-style Washington was in the early 50’s? It was fascinating.

But what I hadn’t expected to find was one story of what had happened after they made a slew of new friends when they moved there part-time after that first election.

My uncle, his father’s namesake, was serving in the Army in Korea, and an officer came up to him whom he’d never laid eyes on before, and barked at him: “I don’t know what your name is, soldier, but it ought to be–” And then he named my grandfather’s and his name.

To which my uncle, stunned, stammered, “Uh, yes, sir. That’s exactly what it is, sir.”

She named that officer. She published this when I was nine and my husband was ten.

It was my husband’s great uncle.

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Alison, thank you for sharing that story. It’s the third time today that I have been reminded of my grandmother – she passed when I was 11 after being hit by a drunk driver. I never got to say goodbye, and all I have is my father’s stories of her and the few precious memories… but I’d love to be able to read her accounts of life during the depression, and what her views were on Pearl Harbor. That kind of stuff.

You’re so lucky to have that orange book.

Comment by Amanda 06.16.07 @ 9:27 pm

What a precious bit of your Grandmother. Thanks for sharing…to both of you!
It is a reminder of how important it is to create for the future.

Comment by Sheila E 06.17.07 @ 11:40 am

Wonderful. 🙂

Comment by Romi 06.17.07 @ 3:50 pm

Oh, Amanda! I’m so sorry. I can only hope something surfaces for you like did for me: a letter from my other grandmother, long gone, talking about her knitting during WWII for the troops, feeling like the more she knit, the faster her sons somehow would come home.

I apologize for not giving the title of the book, meantime. There are a few used copies out there online, and I’m trying to give my nieces and nephews a chance to snag one. (And I wonder which relative…one bookseller is selling one that’s signed “Love, Aunt Frances.” Somebody out there is unclear on the concept.)

Comment by AlisonH 06.17.07 @ 8:24 pm

When my grandma died two years ago I kept thinking how awful it was to not have any grandparents. I was angry, I wanted grandparents. It took the better part of a year to acknowledge that I was extremely lucky. How many of us actually get to have a grandma until we are 35?? My husband lost his last grandparent(a grandpa) when he was 40. We were both very lucky.

Comment by Sonya 06.18.07 @ 12:16 pm

One word – serendipity.
Great story!

Comment by Adrian 06.18.07 @ 3:23 pm

[…] My grandmother wrote her autobiography when I was ten years old, and the story she told about an officer talking to her son in the Army–was Richard’s great uncle. […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.31.21 @ 10:51 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>