Skip to main content

In memoriam: Miriam Blake

In my review of 2021, I mentioned that my grandma died in October.  Now, she deserves much more than a single line in a summary of the year.  I'm not sure I can do her justice even in a full blog post, but I thought at least I would share a few memories with you.

Grandma and Grandpa, 2018
 

All of my mum's side of the family is American.  I've lived in the UK my whole life, except for four years in Texas, but my grandparents still managed to be a large part of my growing up.  Each week, a  blue airmail letter arrived, covered in Grandma's swirly cursive handwriting, and bringing news of her garden, the family, pets and church.  At Christmas, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the big box from America, filled with presents wrapped in thin, soft paper.  I remember clothes particularly - I guess they were easy to pack - sometimes slightly odd, due to the difference in styles between the countries, and sometimes something we would love and wear for years.

And of course, there were the visits.  Every three years or so, we would make the trip across the Atlantic as a family.  Usually these were summer visits, filled with the hum of crickets and the scent of box in the warm humid air.  My brother and I would run barefoot on the hot paving slabs, ride around on the strange American bikes which you had to pedal backwards on to brake, and go swimming with our cousins.

All of us (Grandma far right) 1995
 

My memories of Grandma place her either in the kitchen or at the piano.  She and Mom would chat as they sliced green beans from the garden, or prepared coleslaw and applesauce - two things which were almost always on the table.  Sometimes I would be called in to whisk up Jello for a dessert, or bake a cake from a Betty Crocker mix.  In later years I remember Grandma calculating just how many meals she had prepared - it was a lot!

Emptying Meemaw's pantry, 2015
 

At the piano, Grandma would practice hymns for the Sunday service.  She would be on the piano or organ bench at church most weeks, sitting straight-backed in her smart skirt and jacket, and playing with the unhesitating confidence born of long familiarity with the tunes. 

In between our visits to the USA, Grandma and Grandpa would come to the UK.  They made the most of having an expat daughter - even, after they retired, renting a house so that they could stay for several months on one visit.  They would get a rail pass and tour the country, visiting cathedrals and stately homes - and me at university.

Grandma placed a high value on family.  She always made sure we got to see everyone when we visited, even my great-grandma's cousins or my great-uncle and -aunt once removed.  On one visit she decided we needed to see my cousin's daughter Lucy.  Lucy was at school that day, but no matter: Grandma drove us over there, marched into the office with us trailing behind her, and asked them to pull Lucy out of her class so we could say hello.  Amazingly, they did, and we had a short awkward conversation before we went off to visit someone else.

My great-grandma (Grandma's mother-in-law) lived with them for many years, and other family members stayed for a while when they needed to.  The definition of family was pretty flexible; my dad's family, and later Graham's parents, were welcomed as warmly as we were.  

She was Meemaw to her great-grandchildren, of which she had seven.  Toby and Theo can just about remember our visit to them in 2015, and their visit to us in 2018.  By that time Grandma was starting to get confused, but was still very much herself - getting the boys to do maths with the chocolates before they ate any!

with Toby, 2011
 

with Theo, 2015

with us, my parents and Graham's parents, 2018

I'm so glad I had Grandma in my life for so long, and that my children got to know her too.  Her house was always welcoming, her smile was always warm, and her heart was always big enough to make one more person part of her family.  If you met her, you will remember her; if you didn't meet her, I hope her legacy lives on in the rest of us.

Grandma and Grandpa, 1985

Her obituary is here: Miriam Blake obituary and if you haven't seen her memorial service and would like to, let me know.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Game of Life?

"I'm playing Snakes and Ladders with Jesus, because I haven't got anyone else to play with." Lest you think I have a super-spiritual four-year-old, I should inform you that we have a plastic Jesus figure that a friend gave Graham as a joke.  If Jesus is not around to play games, the toy penguin or dog get roped in.  Toby's pretty much board game crazy right now. But usually it's Mum or Dad who gets to sit down and play endless rounds of Ludo, Three Little Pigs, or the current favourite, Snakes and Ladders.  None of these are exactly challenging (although Toby is surprisingly good at winning), so you get plenty of time to ponder the deeper questions of life.  Such as, what sadist designed the Snakes and Ladders board? Oh yes, it's a very cunning design.  At the bottom you have lots of lovely ladders to go bouncing up, so you get halfway up the board in no time at all and think you'll win super easily.  But if you miss the mega-ladder up to 8

Equality is Biblical: Spiritual Formation Book 6

"To our reading of the Scriptures we bring our reason, experience, and the traditions of our faith, feeling down into the truth we trust is there waiting for us." Equality is Biblical is the only book I've read where the questions have been as good as the main text. Usually study questions range from mediocre to dire, with a distinct feeling that they are only there because someone suggested it at the last minute. Penelope Wilcock, on the other hand, provides questions like surgical tools, probing deeply into what you believe and why. The book's main topic is the place of women in the church, but the questions cover everything from how we visualise God to the power of shame in society. What are the main themes of this book? The subtitle of Equality is Biblical is Lifting the Curse of Eve , and a large chunk of the book focuses on Genesis, analysing how the story has traditionally been interpreted, and offering alternative readings of the text. Then there is a look at

What is a blog?

Well, what is a blog?  And why am I asking the question now, after seven years of writing one?  You'd think I might have worked out the answer already.  But there's nothing like meeting hundreds of other bloggers to start you wondering again... Of course, the first shock is that there actually are hundreds of other bloggers.  And that they make so much NOISE!  As I descended the escalator to the venue for Mumsnet Blogfest 2015, the clamour of dozens of voices rose up to meet me.  There was no one in the crowded hall that I knew; but although many others had also come alone, you couldn't have told it from the level of conversation. Panel session with live link to Margaret Atwood It quietened down once we had drunk our coffee and entered the auditorium.  The speakers covered a wide range of the writing world; from authors to agents, columnists to comedians, and brand experts to bloggers.  Every discussion was very entertaining, with plenty of humour and some thought