A beautiful childhood memory.
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My mother grew up in a place that’s referred to as the Ottawa Valley. It’s the area surrounding our nation’s capital filled with small towns and chip wagons. Every summer when I was young we’d pack into the station wagon and drive up to Renfrew to visit my mother’s parents.

I loved those summer trips. The town was charming in a way even an 8 year old could recognize. People moved slower, the sun seemed warmer and there was a quietness in the air. The town had a genuine penny candy store up the street from my grandparents’ house where they had a glass cabinet filled with candy they’d plop into a paper bag for you.

It was a town that seemed to be frozen in the year 1910.

My grandparents have since died, but the house I used to visit is still there, as are my memories of laying on the thick lawn daydreaming about what candy I would get at the store that day.

When my grandmother died years ago, my Uncle bought the house and lives there today. So when we were up that way attending a funeral a few weeks ago my mother and sisters took a trip to that little town to visit him.

The candy store is now gone, and the kitchen I remember so well has been remodelled, but much of my grandparents’ house is how I remembered it. Weird little toys around and trailing plants hanging over the fireplace mantle. I’m sure you have similar memories of your grandparents’ homes. Even the art hanging on the walls and the knick knacks from the shelves were still there. Things I remember from when I was a little girl. Things that made me feel warm and secure. Things that made me feel I was in the warm hug of my grandparents’ home.

So when my Uncle told me I could take a few things home, things that reminded me of my summers spent there as a little girl, I knew right away what I would take home with me.

Chair With Fern

Oh I’m sorry. You probably think I’m talking about this chair. Or the fern on top of it. No, let’s open up to a wider shot so you can get a better look.

Boobs Over Chair

Boobs. This is the single strongest memory I have of my grandparent’s house. Chalkware boobs.

Chalkware Boobs 2
 

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Or if you want to get technical about it, they’re “Mammalia Americana”. American boobs. They now hang (or protrude if you prefer) on my office wall. I took down a nice painting so they’d fit. With boobs it’s always hard to get a good fit.

Chalkware Boobs

I’ve mentioned a few times over the years that my grandparents were interesting people. Interesting in the way most people weren’t in the olden days. Interesting the way the criminally insane are interesting.

Which is not to say they were *actually* criminally insane. As far as I know they were never once jailed or institutionalized. And it’s a miracle that none of their offspring or offspring’s offspring were either. Unless you count that one time I was “detained” for the incident in the grocery store. It was the last unbruised peach, it looked perfect and it was to be mine. I took whatever actions necessary to make sure it got into my cart and no one elses. That was an accidental choke hold I had that woman in anyway. Pinkie swear.

In many ways my grandparents were like any other regular grandparents. They had a cottage we’d visit where the kids would fish off of the shore and the grown ups would get looped on the screened in porch.

My grandfather was a small town dentist and my grandmother stayed at home because that was best for the children. And her raging agoraphobia.

They had chattering teeth and plastic bed bugs and questionable specimens in jars. They’d lovingly fill your bed with the bugs before you arrived. It was like a game. Whoever could scar the child for life won.

Was I scarred? Oh yes. And I couldn’t be more pleased. Because if I hadn’t been tormented and influenced by those two freaks I never would have become the freak I am today.

The freak with a soft spot for penny candy, lush grass and an office wall that conjures up good memories instead of good taste.

67 Comments

  1. Barbie says:

    ….I have a feeling I am going to be that crazy kind of memorable granny! I CAN’T WAIT! LOL

  2. Barbie says:

    You can tell those boobs never had a boob job! They are 100% natural! Well….ceramic natural that is! Rather refreshing if you ask me!

  3. KellyM says:

    Raised my kids in the countryside just outside of Renfrew ……… great place !!

  4. Kelli says:

    Funny how you never really appreciate your grandparents until you’re grandparent age yourself. I had only one set of grandparents–my fathers’s parents–my entire life. And they were quintessentially the grandparents that others might strive to be: fiercely independent, living off the land (ok, it was a huge garden), always giving of themselves to others, and always the best food! The worst thing my grandmother ever said about anyone was that they were “a pill.” :) We never lacked for fruits and veggies while I grew up (oh how I miss those foot long zucchini’s that got out of control, and those bushels of tomatoes and corn!), and discovering all the amazing stuff in their barn (gorgeous handmade furniture, and collectibles like first-run Fiestaware). We also got to hear stories like the the one about the “Bohunk goose boy” who came to the States, settled on the prairie, and married my grandmothers’s grandmother…or the fact that Frank LLoyd Wright used to buy horses from my great grandfather…. At their funerals (2 months apart), we were touched by not only the stories we heard, but by the sheer number of people they had touched in some positive way. They were truly special and amazing people, and our family wouldn’t be what it is today without their influence.

  5. stefani says:

    My brother just asked me last month if I remembered the specimen in formaldehyde that my grandparents had in their garage. I don’t remember but we did decide it was a vein from my grandfather’s leg. My grandmother was in to crafts so I figure she was saving it to make a tastefully done clear-cast paperweight. Good times. I really miss them.

  6. Sandra says:

    When I was 15, I went to stay at my grandma’s place – stayed out late (I thought) playing a pinball game. She looked surprised when I walked in – I realized she’d forgotten I was there, and I could have stayed out longer to play my free games.

    She had the best garden, and was very straight laced. No weirdness there. Well – except for no weirdness; I hope I have a bit of some so my kids and grandkids think of me so nicely.

  7. dana gault says:

    Too bad they don’t light up. Or glow in the dark. I smell a project…

  8. Brenda says:

    Your grandparents sounds like mine. One year for Christmas my Nan & Pop (my mom’s mom & dad) got their 3 daughters (my mom & aunts), boobie slippers…yes, they had boobs on the front of each foot. And penis lipstick. It looked like lipstick your normal lipstick, but when you rolled it up, it was a penis. :) Ahhh…good times. They’re both gone now (my grandparents AND the boob slippers/penis lipstick. But I’ll always have the memories (mammaries) (that pun was stolen from a few of the posts above).

  9. Pam'a says:

    One of the best things about childhood is growing up with all sorts of bizarrity (ok-my word) that seems completely normal… Until decades later when you discover that not everyone’s grandparents _________ (had boobs hanging on their wall, collected taxidermy, etc. etc.) like yours did.

    What a lovely bunch of stories!

  10. Stephanie Hobson says:

    I am the weird grandmother. Such fun. :)

    • karol says:

      Me too, Stephanie. Nothing better than the “weird” label. Beats, “conservative”, or “cranky” any day.

  11. Anne says:

    Your story brought back memories (mamaries?) of visit to my Gramma’s house. Lots of porcelain or ceramic horse figurines and a glass cabinet that held all sorts of interesting things. You are a great story teller!

  12. Fran P. says:

    I remember the sound of my grandmother’s creaky wicker rocking chair. Also the brown sugar sandwiches she made for us.

  13. Amanda says:

    My dad’s family were missionaries, my mom’s family were horse thieves and prostitutes. I’m a happy medium! (And I’m not kidding – the lovely wrought iron bed my grandma gave me when I was 5 was from a 1890s brothel in a ghost town in Nevada…that she knew about. Why yes, my little girl now sleeps in it.)

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