When gardening with seeds was the subject, I wrote about my sturdy gardening grandma, who was born on a farm. This is my other grandmother, Grandma Kitty, a 4’10” bundle of spunk and style. She was born in April, and she's still remembered every April by her descendents. In this photo, Kitty is 21 years old, wearing a pleated dress that she designed and sewed.
Kitty died when I was quite young, so it's likely that my few actual memories of her have replicated themselves into memories of remembering her. But I’ve seen photos and watched old movies and heard a lot of stories about Kitty.
A city-loving apartment dweller with no chance to be a gardener, Kitty was pretty and kind, frequently taking in relatives who needed somewhere to stay for a while. The tale is that everyone loved Kitty – she’s seen in many group photos, never separated from the people near her, but always with someone’s arm enclosing her. Every Friday she baked and cleaned the house like a tornado, getting ready for whoever would drop in over the weekend. You might get her famous kidney stew, or the children's favorite Burnt Sugar Cake, or her own favorite coconut macaroons.
Having a houseful of company was Kitty's delight. With a large extended family just a stroll or a streetcar away, casual visiting was easy and children grew up in a expansive social network, where the cousins were as close as sisters, and the friends were as close as family. There was always someone in the group who could play the piano in Kitty’s parlor, so everyone could sing as they passed the refreshments – which probably included a bucket of suds fetched from the nearby tavern.
I heard that Kitty would spread a sheet of newspaper on the carpet, have one of the children lie down with arms extended to the side, and make marks on the paper. She'd send the child off to school and make a well-fitting coat by the time school was out. [Carol of May Dreams Garden posts the diaries of her grandmother Ruth, who was also a lightning-fast seamstress.]
I’d dearly love to be able to talk to my grandmother, finally find out the answers to genealogical mysteries, ask her if she remembers the Chicago World’s Fair, and quiz her about the photo taken at a pre-World War One party where all the young wives dressed as men and smoked cigars. But tomorrow, it would also be great if Kitty could clean my house like a tornado, whip up some macaroons and magically sew me some new clothes, because company’s coming and I could use her help.