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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.

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