Mary Lucile Crowe GallagherThere are always a few things that, no matter how much time has passed, remind you of someone special.  Q-tips, double-sided sticky tape, and thimbles.   Synchronized swimming, Charles’ Chips, jelly doughnuts, and “king-cross chickies.”  Those are all things that remind me of my grandmother.  And she’s been on my mind a lot over the past couple of days.  She has been ill for several years, and took a turn for the worse on Thursday.  She passed away peacefully this afternoon.

When I was young, my sister and I would spend summers at my grandparents’ house in Orlando, Florida.  Sure, Disneyworld and SeaWorld were practically in the back yard, but the main attractions for us were the swimming pool, the two girls who lived down the street, and bingo night.

The swimming pool was the stage many a synchronized swimming routine – every move carefully choreographed and rehearsed to perfection.  We always had an appreciative (albeit captive) audience in my grandparents.

The screened-in porch was actually police headquarters where we would don our paper police badges (secured with double-sided sticky tape, of course) and solve all the crimes in the back yard.  Grampa was a policeman in his younger days, so it was in our blood.  Our solve rate was 100%, in case you were wondering.

You would never believe how much fun can be had with a few children and a Q-tip.  The name of the game is Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.  One person “hides” the Q-tip so that at least part of it can be seen, the rest search the room and when they find it (and without giving away its location) they yell “Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!”  They get to hide it next.  Of course, there is the obligatory “you’re getting warmer/colder” announcements when the last person still hasn’t found it.  There were always good hiding places in Gramma’s living room.

Before she got sick, Gramma was a quilter.  I posted before about her beautiful quilts.  I will certainly cherish them now more than ever.  I remember that my Grampa built her a special wooden rack so she could work on her quilts, and I would always like to see what she had in progress when we visited.  I always remember she wore a thimble on her finger when she was quilting.  I never understood the purpose of a thimble … until I tried to sew.  Then it all made sense.

Nothing is more frustrating than having a comfy spot to sit and read or watch television and having that spot stolen when you get up to go to the bathroom or get something to drink.  Growing up, we were taught that you had to save your spot by using your finger to ‘mark’ it with an X and calling “king-cross chickies.”  Like magic, your seat was empty when you returned.

Back in those days, my grandmother always had a schedule.  Saturday evening mass, Tuesday night Hill Street Blues, and Friday night macaroni and cheese.  But on Wednesday nights we got crazy.  Bingo night at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church.  Gramma was one of the bingo “officials.”  She got to read out the numbers on the winning cards (we thought that was pretty cool).  She would take us with her and we would “help.”  We could get our own cards and play along, though we weren’t allowed to yell “BINGO!”  Apparently they frown on gambling by minors (go figure).  And there were doughnuts on the snack table. Jelly doughnuts.  Puffy, powdery, sticky jelly doughnuts.  And she let us eat them.  So we did.  A lot.

I can’t even see a can from Charles’ Chips (do they even exist anymore?) without thinking of my Grandmother.  She always had a can of plain and a can of BBQ in the front closet.  She wasn’t messing around either – they were the BIG cans.  And they delivered!  Best chips I ever had to this day.

And so it is with sadness, and a little relief, that I say goodbye to Gramma today.  She will be missed, but I know she is in a much happier place now.  And I’m pretty sure she already had king-cross chickies on the best seat in the house.


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Mary Lucile (Crowe) Gallagher (6 Nov 1925 – 20 Apr 2013) — 15 Comments

  1. What a nice tribute to your grandmother, Jenny. She gave you a place to create such happy memories! I’m sorry for your loss. Blessings to you and the rest of her family.

  2. Oh Jenny, so sorry to hear about this loss . I am still not recovered from living life without my Nana . Except for Bingo night , our grandmothers were carbon copies . I get under her quilt ( with the hand sewn label that says ” Made by Nana ” whenever I miss her .

    Love this memorial . And it looks like your ” detective ” genes are still at work .

  3. Charles’ Chips were the greatest! Thanks to you and your Grandma for reminding me. Apparently, they are recently back after years, and using the original recipes, and the original cans! They no longer deliver in vans, but online.

    Thank you for the lovely memories of your grandmother. I’m sorry you’ve lost her, but it sounds like she really *lived life* when she was here. That smile, and the light in the eyes…. Lovely woman.

  4. Jenny, I am so sorry about your loss, your grandmother sounds likes lot of grandmothers, which is to say, simply amazing. You have taken me back today to eating all of my tomato soup so I could see the man in the design at the bottom of the bowl, the sound of her shuffling cards on the metal TV tray, taking our shoes off on her tiled basement floor, which was so clean and shiny you could slide on it. What a blessing grandmas are, and how hard is it to see them unwell at the end.

  5. Jenny, that was beautiful. I’m really glad you have some good memories of happy times. Thank you for being so kind. Love you.

  6. All my sympathy and prayers, Jenny. I suspect your visits were as much a highlight for your grandparents as for you and your sister. Your memories sparked my own memories of summer visits. Very real moments that we hold onto forever.

  7. Thank you, Jen. That was so beautiful. I had forgotten about “king cross chickies” until I read your post. How much fun was that. And with your Jenny-ology, Magda was right. You really did get Grampa’s detective gene!

  8. Thank you for sharing such warm memories. All the details are different, but your memories brought back to me my memories of my father’s mother (the only grandmother I knew). My grandmother was also a quilter and I share with you my love for “grandma’s” quilts.
    Again, thank you for sharing your memories.

    Sue McCormick

  9. Oh Jenny, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother! What a beautiful post you’ve written to honor her, Condolences to you and to your family.

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