Tag Archives: Mentors

Great Content For A Memoir: Lessons From Grandparents

Nana Adored My Dog

Throughout my life, from one decade to the next, I’ve always been fortunate to have by my side either a grandparent or someone much older than me- a mentor, guide, confidante, and friend offering the perspective and wisdom that only comes with age.

There’s something so healing about being in the company of an elder–someone who has seen life and understands all its challenges and rewards, a subject I wrote about a few days ago in a Blog about my remarkable friend Bud.

And the one person who started it all for me is my maternal grandmother, Essie, known in our family as Nana.

There was nothing old-fashioned about this energetic dynamo–who was physically robust, articulate, and up to date on everything, including movies, music, and fashion. Charismatic and fun to be with, she tended to me and my two sisters with incredible devotion–taking care of us together with my Mom, picking us up at school, helping us with our homework, cooking and baking (her signature crumb cake with yellow raisens being one of my favorites), carting me to piano lessons, sunday school, you name it.

My Favorite Picture of Us At My First Book Launch

Her arrival at our house was always cause for great excitement. As I write in my upcoming book:

I became jubilant whenever I saw her car pulling up into our driveway, her yellow tortoise-shell purse catching the light.

Sometimes we’d sit at the kitchen table, laughing for hours as Nana quizzed me on American history, afterwards treating me to her fantastic crumb cake or signature Cream of Wheat.

She also played the piano—usually “The Skating Song,” a popular tune in the silent movie days. But mostly, she’d sit on the bench next to me, encouraging my efforts at the keyboard, (and years later, attending all my piano recitals.)

When I was hospitalized in my 20’s for a stomach ailment, there she was, nursing me back to health; a few years later, when my first book was published, she was next to me at Barnes & Noble, smartly dressed, as I signed copies.

And five years after that, we marketed Nana’s shortbread meringue cookies, dubbed “Essie’s Crumby Dessert Squares…The CrumbiestYou Ever Had.” Katharine Hepburn, Peter Jennings, Nancy Reagan, Calvin Klein, and Paul Newman all raved about them, giving her endorsements. They were sold at Bloomingdale’s and led to such newspaper headlines as: “Top Stars Clamoring for More Of Buffalo Grandma’s Cookies.” And: “Cookies Turning A Grandmother Into Rising Star.” There was Nana being interviewed on television and signing autographs! (Just click on the picture that says “Cookie Maker To The Stars” to see my grandmother’s famous fans!)

NanaLionel

Backstage with superstar Lionel Richie, who remarked of her cookies: “I can’t believe these things….they’re scrumptious! Will you send me more?”

In short, Nana was remarkable in every way—and with me, every step of the way. Like any great grandparent–she was a protective guide, loving us unconditionally and

teaching us about what was right and what was wrong–how to behave, and what to be careful about.

I’m sure you’ve had a grandparent who you were especially close to, who influenced your life profoundly, and whom you miss. If you’re considering writing your life story, no doubt, one potential source of rich content can be the relationship you’ve had with either your grandparents or others who have been supportive and loving, offering their wisdom and advice.

Years after I’d left home and moved to New York, when my grandmother was in her final years and ailing, she was still no less interested or central in my life. 

 

At The Piano, Having One of my grandmother’s famous cookies!

Family Fun: My Mom, Katie, my sister Debby,

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since Nana died, because it seems like just yesterday we were all laughing on the phone, having dinner together, and savoring my grandmother’s famous cookies!

So tell me about YOUR grandmother or grandfather or aunt or uncle, or the mentor  who made all the difference.  How did they enrich your life and what are your favorite memories? I can promise you that this can be an important part of your memoir, one that will instantly grab readers, for they, too, have such memories.