The house you see here is in downtown Franklin, Tenn.–a historic district on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. It was built in 1818 (or thereabouts) and my grandmother lived there from the late 1930s (or thereabouts) until she died in 1976. My mother, aunt and uncle all grew up there.
The house that’s there today is much different from the one I remember. Instead of the stucco wall you see now, there was a white picket fence. Instead of the busy street and traffic signal, there was a four-way stop. Over the years it has been added onto and the original layout is hard to remember.
We visited my grandmother there often. She was not a cookies and milk kind of grandmother. Cigarettes and cokes were more her style. She didn’t cook and I’m not sure she ever ate anything other than Stouffer’s spinach souffle and lifesavers. She wasn’t big on home decor either (now I know where I got that gene) and the ivy that grew on the bay window in front often found its way inside. One Christmas a pony found his way inside too–he was tied up in the living room–a present for my aunt.
My grandmother was widowed at a young age and left with three children under the age of ten. She didn’t have a lot of money, but in those days you could get by on a lot less.
Here’s a story:
In the years after my grandfather died, my grandmother would take her children to Florida for the winter. She would usually take a maid/cook/babysitter along. Mind you, the trip from Franklin to Florida took days. It was not unusual for her to stop and rent a hotel room in the middle of the day so they could all nap. One year when my uncle was still in diapers, my grandmother decided that she didn’t care for the maid and put her on a bus for home in Chattanooga. That left my mother–all of 10 or 11–in charge of the baby until they got to Florida. My mother knew nothing about caring for a baby and, after one diaper change, asked her mother what she should do with the dirty diaper. My grandmother didn’t miss a beat–“Just throw it out the window.” And that’s what my mother did–all the way to Florida–leaving a trail of dirty cloth diapers all the way to their doorstep in Del Ray Beach.
My grandmother never did remarry, but I think she had her share of admirers. When she died, her children went to the bank to clean out her lock box. Lo and behold there was a small envelope with a diamond ring inside it along with this note…This ring is for my daugher Lucinda…no one knows where it came from, and the mystery dies with me.
Is that great or what? I’ll take stories like that over cookies and milk any day.