Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I want to give some blog space to my other grandmother, especially because my mother's mother lived with the Meltons in Weston, Connecticut from 1939 until we moved to Greenwich in 1954.
The McClure's were Yankees, and my father used to joke that he was twenty-one before he knew "damnyankee" wasn't one word. He may have been joking, but he was in some way acknowledging the Melton's rural Southern roots. The McClures were well-educated, urbane Midwesterners. My grandmother was a writer who had published five novels. Grandfather was trained as a medical doctor, but he decided the budding auto industry was more to his liking. Later he switched to a third career in finance—unfortunately just before the Great Depression.
When she was widowed in 1939, my grandmother McClure moved into a wing of the Melton house they'd built especially for her. My father truly loved "Nellie," as he called her, and the extended family lived in happy symbiosis until the Meltons downsized in the mid-1950s. Nana McClure then bought a house with her sister, Gladys Sibley, in Westport, where they lived happily for ten years.
Although my mother was a good cook, she was a better supervisor of the series of live-in cooks the Meltons employed, and never failed to inspire them to the culinary heights of which they were capable. But she never really mastered all of the Southern specialties my father loved. She once asked her mother-in-law how to make those gorgeously flaky beaten biscuits. Miss Rose's technique was to take handful of this, a pinch of that, knead it until it felt right, and bake it until it was done. Try as she might my mother could never master it. In fact, one might say that all things Southern proved difficult for her.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Before she became severely bed-ridden, there's a photo of her in a wheelchair in front of a big old 1930s Packard limousine with a ramp to the passenger compartment. It was obviously found or fashioned for her use by my father. But who drove her in this conveyance, I wonder? Married at seventeen, with seven children born over the space of twenty-four years, separation from her husband (although they never divorced), and numerous illnesses no doubt aged her prematurely. In late 1956, after five years of being completely bedridden following a stroke, the last three years with round-the-clock nurses, Nana Rose died at the age of seventy-eight of congestive heart failure. Remarkably, my father sang at her funeral. In spite of his sadness, he must have been relieved that this drain on his resources ceased at a time when he was beset by financial woes.