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Posted on 10. December 2010

Grandma Jo’s Candy Dish

By Tammie Allegro

My eyes welled up with tears the moment I saw it. It was smaller than I had remembered and the color was different, but it was definitely Grandma Joan’s candy dish. I remember it well, because growing up it got me into a lot of trouble. It was always there taunting me with all those sugary  sweet candies showing through the glass. In an instant, the flood gates were open. I couldn’t control it; tears just flowed. I was definitely a little embarrassed. The only thing that saved me was my ability to make a joke about it. As I called myself a sap and moved on, I couldn’t help but wish I had been alone with my thoughts.

For a brief time, I was back in her living room trying to sneak just one more piece of candy without her noticing. Had I been alone, something tells me the journey into the past would have continued for a very long time. Fortunately, for me, this flashback took place in front of a lot of my family members. Everyone who knew Joan Spivey loved her. It was natural to feel a little emotional, but to lose it like this was surprising. 

Most people think their grandmother was the best ever. The reality is they are wrong. In a contest for grandmother of the century, my grandmother would win hands down. Everything in her home was made from scratch. Not just baked goods, but noodles for soup and everything in between. She kept her cookie jars filled daily with fresh homemade cookies, and don’t forget the candy dish. Her unconditional love and grace disguised her immense strength, both physical and spiritual.  She was funny, smart and beautiful. If you were lucky enough to spend as much  time with her as I did, she would have taught  you everything she knew. I was her garden assistant and occasional junior baker. She tried to teach me to cook, but I was a lost cause.  She raised four wonderful and gentle sons who all cook and take care of their families.

Just because Grandma was nice, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t let you know when you did something wrong. She would make sure you knew she was disappointed. She didn’t have to do much; just that look, and you felt really bad. In  the same token, she always found a way to make everything better. I can remember so many times throughout my life just crying in her arms. She never made me feel bad for crying; instead, she would tell me why the other person was wrong for how they treated me.

When she got sick with cancer, the world stood still. Not just for me — for the entire family. She was our queen. In the beginning I think everyone thought she would be able to fight this and win. When we realized she wasn’t going to beat the cancer, we spent as much time with her as we could. Then on Valentine’s Day 1991, she passed away in the arms of one of her sons.

How can such deep emotions be attached to something as simple as an antique candy dish? For me, every childhood memory good and bad rushed through me in that instant. That object that had been locked in a shed for 20 years held my life story in it. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What will my children remember about me when I am gone? Will there be something that I had that made them instantly think of me?”

I want them to think of me as fondly as I think of my grandmother. I want to create sweet memories with my girls. Somehow through the years, I picked up on Grandma’s love for baking. Maybe that is the legacy that I can share with them that will give them that same rush of emotions one day.

What is your legacy?


Comments (2) -

2:06 PM on Friday, December 10, 2010

When my dad got ill with Alzheimer's he immediately lost his driver's license. When we finally made arrangements to sell his  car several years later I was surprised by all of the memories that came up for me. My dad had purchased his Caddy back in the day when it was a big deal to own that make and model. He was very proud of it and took great care of it. It was the car he drove me to college in, the car he drove filled with boxes when I moved into my first apartment, and the car he picked me up in at the airport when my new husband and I returned from our honeymoon. He drove it to the hospital to meet his first grandchild. And he got lost while driving it home one afternoon when the disease first started but before he was diagnosed. When my mom asked me to help her sell it, I thought it was one more thing on my "to do" list. When the time came to say goodbye to that white Caddilac with black leather seats and the Jesus statue on the dash, I cried my eyes out because it was like saying goodbye to my dad. He loved that car. By the time we sold it, he'd forgotten all about it. Thanks for a great blog and letting me share a memory.

4:51 AM on Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is great blog at Crhistmas time as that is when we are "flooded" with those memories- some great, some not so great but all part of our steps to adulthood.

What ever I will pass on has been handed to me by my own parents.

I think from my Mom - her strength in adversity- was passed on to me - by simple words- "Now Betty don't do that." when I would be overwhelmed with  this then still unknown disease I had. My only regret I was diagnosed 11 months after she passed- and she always knew there was something wrong but no MD would listen.

Christmas  Eve is one holiday I always will connect to her. She was from Italy and the "Vigilia" was always a part of our Christmas traditions.

From my Dad- the tinkerer- whenever I think I cannot fix something minor. I think of him- really not formally educated , but an electician, a musician who learned 3 instruments in his late teens, a carpenter,a plasterer- etc. even developed his own photos- and left many negatives we still have developed every now and then.

That "I can do it" mentality  they both had I hope I have passed on to my child and my grandkids. If they could do those  things  with no formal training- how much more can I do??

"Watch your step" was a phrase I heard many times growing up and passed on to my own grandkids- it is so applicable from learning to walk and not get hit by the screen door- to events in school- and that first date- and on and on and on....

So everyone "watch your step" , "you can do it" and have a happy holiday with all those memories. I can smell the Vigilia fish cooking now... Pass them on.................

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