"THE SHARING OUR STORIES PROJECT"
Vv and I are delighted to share our November story written by a granddaughter and a grandmother. Lee Curtiss and her granddaughter, Ella, have a very special relationship based in part on their love of books and their love for each other. Both Lee and Ella are talented writers and voracious readers who love talking about books and learning together so much that they started a book discussion group just for themselves. In their shared story, Lee presents a thoughtful analysis of her relationship with her own paternal grandmother and how that compares to her experience of being a paternal grandmother. Ella shares a lovely poem about what it feels like to be with her grandmother, Lee. Their insightful and inspiring collaboration invites all of us to reflect on what it means to be a granddaughter and a grandmother and how strong communication and shared creativity can make a difference to both people in the relationship. We know you will appreciate their story as much as we do!
Love, Carol and Vv
Lee Curtiss and Ella
Lee Curtiss is a Daughter and a Mother. She is a Granddaughter and a Grandmother. She is a sister, a friend, a wife, and a neighbor. Lee defines herself not by the jobs she has had or the degrees she has achieved, but by the relationships that have woven the beautiful fabric of her life, and those that continue to do so. In this essay, Lee explores the relationship she had with her paternal grandmother and compares that to her relationship as a paternal grandmother.
Ella is Lee’s 10-year-old granddaughter, the daughter of Lee’s oldest son, Nathaniel. She is a writer, a gymnast, a 5th grader, a sister, and a wonderful human. Ella and Lee created a private book club during the pandemic, reading several books and discussing them on the phone or through Zoom. When Ella decided to write a book of her own about finding balance during the pandemic, it was only logical that she would do that with Grammy using Google Docs. She did, in fact, create and publish a book entitled Homeostasis, A True Story of Finding Balance in the Spring of 2020, followed by another book titled A Painter’s Wish.
Lee and Ella's Story
Child of my child,
when you come sweetly
into my arms,
the years vanish.
When I kiss
your round fragrant cheeks
your solid warmth –
I go back in time
to the years when
the child in my arms
~Lois Lake Raabe
Mabel Montgomery Harwood was tall and solid, strong boned and wide hipped. I get my body type from her, my paternal grandmother who was born in 1901, the first of fourteen children born to a farm hand and his wife in southern Vermont. Her prominent chin made her look stern, but she was kind in that practical, common-sense way of women who had their babies at home, grew vegetables in the kitchen garden to survive, and helped raise everyone else’s children to earn a few dollars to raise her own. My father, her oldest child, was born early and small. The doctor didn’t expect him to live, but he defied that pessimistic prediction and lived a robust 82 years. It was her third-born, another son, that Grandma held in her arms at the age of six as he died. A mother never gets over the death of her child, but we grandchildren didn’t know that until we were old enough to be mothers ourselves.
I do not remember being cherished by my grandmother, as the precious child of her child. That relationship seemed to be reserved for those grandchildren who came along later and who lived in the same town. My father was in the military, as was his surviving brother, so the nine of us grandchildren who lived far away never knew her as well, as she also didn’t know us. Proximity is important, though not as necessary in our current world of technology, and we were handicapped by that lack of geographical closeness.
I knew she loved me, though, as I saw her annually when we visited Vermont on vacation. In my early teens, we moved back to Vermont and I saw her more frequently, even staying with her for a couple of weeks when my grandfather was in the hospital after a car accident. She didn’t need me there and I wasn’t much help, but it was the first time I had been with her alone. She was stoic and went about the business of her household as usual. I never asked, but I thought she didn’t really care that much that he was in the hospital. She didn’t drive and I don’t remember anyone taking her to visit him more than a couple of times during the two weeks I stayed. She seemed to like having me there and I remember settling into a relaxing flow of time spent with her and time spent with cousins I barely knew.
When I became a mother, I made sure my children (all sons) spent as much time as possible with my parents, and we often visited my grandmother, who by then was widowed. They remember the duplex house in Shaftsbury, with fabulous bay windows and the porch that stood in testament to the hundreds, literally, of children who had played on it for over 60 years; and, they remember the woman who was their great grandmother, though she had grown old and more fragile in those later years. I wish I had known her better and had thought to ask questions about her life. There was so much I did not know about this woman who was the mother of my father, the great-great grandmother of my grandchildren.
Now I am a grandmother, always a paternal grandmother due to my lack of daughters, though I was always delighted to be the mother of sons. With each new grandchild, I am overwhelmed with love for this, the child of my child. I hold the grandchild in my arms, unceasingly awed by the wonder of life begetting life that started with me. Or, that started with Mabel Montgomery…or, well beyond.
The daughter of my oldest son is 10-year old Ella. She is not my firstborn grandchild, as I wasn’t the firstborn of Mabel’s, but the reverence I feel when I’m with her might make it appear that she is not only the first, but the only grandchild with whom I share my life. This is a feeling I have with each of my six grandchildren and I always hope they recognize their own special place in my heart. I am lucky to have continuing contact with each of them, and to have the technology to see and talk with them even when we’re apart, especially during the recent pandemic.
During the pandemic, when school was fully remote, Ella and I started reading books together, talking two or three afternoons a week about the books, like a book club. This was an especially great way to get to know her better, by sharing thoughts about characters, life situations, and writing styles. Perhaps because we set aside this hour multiple times a week, we found ourselves immersed in deep discussions that we would not have had under other circumstances. I found myself to be profoundly grateful for this unusual opportunity, despite the overall tragedy of the worldwide pandemic.
Ella also wanted to write a book during this time, about how she and her family found balance and security while in isolation. We worked on the book together, using Google Docs, so she could share her work with me, and we would discuss it for content and editing. She ultimately published the book professionally and had copies made for family, teachers, and her school and community libraries. I have grown so close to Ella over this past year and we have learned about each other in ways that I never knew my own grandmother. I hope she remembers these times.
My paternal grandma is Lee Curtiss. I call her Grammy. This is how it feels to be around my Grammy, Lee Curtiss.
As the mother of my father,
Grammy is the best.
Her unstoppable kindness,
Her everlasting smile.
She always is here for me.
We have so much fun
It almost feels like we are one.
We write together,
We read together,
We have fun together,
And we laugh together.
If you don’t know my Grammy,
You should really try to meet her.
I love talking to her,
She listens to anything I say.
Even while we were apart
We still got to talk.
It is pretty amazing that
Something as bad as covid,
Pushed us closer together
Even though we were farther apart.
I love my Grammy so dearly,
She loves me too and has done so much for me.