Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday puppy blogging

My grandmother Melanie loved animals. Cats, dogs, puppies, kittens -- I always remember her with some kind of animal in her arms or next to her. She also had a lot of children in her life: my mother and her four sibling plus hundreds of campers and former campers from the summer camp she and my grandfather founded in 1927 in Vermont. It was all boys at first and became the first private interracial camp in New England, if not the U.S. (the data are a little foggy). The camp became co-ed around the time of World War II. All of us, even my brother and I who lived overseas and couldn't come every summer, were campers and then counselors there.

I think this photo is from the 1950s, but I am not 100% sure. This is one of the ways I remember my grandmother -- full of life and with a puppy in her hands! In the later 1950s, when I first came to Vermont as a very little girl, there were two St. Bernards at camp; their names were Jack and Jill.

When my mother and her sibs were growing up, my grandmother tended to give the dogs names out of classical philosophy and mythology, e.g. Plato and Psyche.

Not sure whether this is a St. Bernard puppy; maybe one of you dog experts can tell me. Most of the other dogs in the family were smaller breeds. The cats were of all types. Most of us grandchildren, interestingly, have become cat people -- but this may have something to do with the fact that we are mostly urban, though maybe not, because one of my urban cat-people cousins has adopted a dog this last year, in middle age (he's middle aged, not the dog) and in Manhattan. Anyway, although I was terrified of dogs all through childhood and adolescence (except for the St. Bernards, who were sweet and placid) and developed allergies to cats (eventually just to some, not others, which is why Maya Pavlova and I get along fine - she is one of the others), you can see why both +Maya and I are multi-species-friendly.

And now you know where I get the dark eyes and eyebrows and prematurely white hair!

(Well, prematurely some years ago. Not any more since I am no longer pre-mature.)

My grandmother died during my first year in college, in March 1970, ten years to the day after my grandfather.

The photo was clearly taken up at camp during the summer. That's the huge camp dining hall behind my grandmother, and that's an Adirondack chair she's sitting in, wearing shorts and a summer top. I was one of the few 1950s and 1960s kids I knew who had a grandmother who wore shorts. (She also is the person who gave me my first Beatles record -- an LP from England on the Parlophone label.) During the year, my grandparents lived in Brooklyn, New York (this is why P.J. and I are sort of related), which according to my mother was almost rural during her childhood in the 1920s and 1930s. She remembers a dairy farm up the road! Times have changed. By the time I first visited Brooklyn in 1957 and then 1960, it was a big city, and as a little girl from Paris I thought it very strange. But that is a story for another day.


+clumber said...

Aw, cute puppy! Grandma looks like she was nice too...

Grandmère Mimi said...

A lovely lady, Jane. The dark eyes and eyebrows and the white hair are a nice contrast.

I began to go gray in my twenties, as opposed to my maternal grandmother, who kept her auburn hair into her seventies. One of her nephews teased her mercilessly. Each time he called her, he asked, "Tante Mémé, what are you doing? Dying your hair?" His mother, my grandmother's sister, turned white at a rather early age.

it's margaret said...

What a great picture!

I cannot tell what that puppy's parents might have been...but they weren't little! That's a big puppy!

And come to think of it--no! I never saw my grandmother in shorts! Even when we were deep in the woods in a cabin, she wore little cotton shirt-maker dresses... and a very silly hat.

From Paris to Brookln to the Adirondacks --you had a blessed childhood.

Paul said...

What a wonderful tribute.

FranIAm said...

I love the thought of you as a little girl from Paris...

This is a beautiful post Jane, I loved reading every word of it.

pj said...

What a cool, lovely Grandma. Thank you for this moving post. (((Hane))).

And of course we're related, homegirl. My own Grandma used to leave Brooklyn to get her farm-fresh produce in Flushing, Queens, and the whole family stayed in a "country" cottage at Rockaway Beach in the summer.

You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can't take Brooklyn out of the girl. Not even after a few generations. :)

Jane R said...


I actually had two grandmothers in Brooklyn. The one in this picture was "Grammy" and the other one, who had come over as an immigrant at age 13, was "Grandma." Very different stories, each amazing, and both families ended up in Brooklyn. Which is where my parents met, in high school.

Grandma of course started out on the Lower East Side, which is where my father was born. Then the Bronx. Then Brooklyn. Sometimes people did Brooklyn first, then the Bronx.

Grammy started out I'm not sure where, but probably not on the Lower East Side since the family was already settled. So I think they had a longer time in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn-Vermont combo was unusual at the time. They did also go "to the shore" and I'm trying to remember where. I'll ask my mother.

pj said...

All four of my grands were immigrants; all four ended up in Brooklyn. And my parents met there. And my immediate family lived there until the 1950's. We were already "out on the island" by the time I came along, though. Then I thoroughly distressed my mom by moving back to a Very Different Brooklyn in 1990. :)

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Wonderful post; wonderful stories.

Hey, Mimi, I didn't know you were in the prematurely gray crowd! I got my first white hair at age 26, and they've been multiplying ever since...