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By Lyn Hackley… As a young man my grandfather came from Denmark by way of California. I asked once why he did not come through New York City, but I cannot remember the answer. Now there is no one left to ask. He found his way to Watertown, Massachusetts (just outside Boston). I do not know where or when he met my grandmother. They had three daughters; my mother was the youngest.
I remember his English as being perfect except that he could never get the hang of the “th” sound and would say “ting” for thing. We called him Pop. I don’t remember him being very tall. He had a full head of snow white hair. We loved for him to play games with us. A favorite was when he would stop still and tell us he was stubborn and would not go another step. We would push him and pull him trying to make him go.
When my mother was young, my grandfather had a truck farm, which means he raised vegetables for market. I only remember when he raised carnations in a dozen or so greenhouses and one greenhouse of tomatoes. Oh how I loved to pick the tomatoes off the vine and eat them. There was also a packing house where the flowers were packed in huge, flat boxes for market.
When we visited, he would take me with him down to check the boiler house where steam was produced to heat the greenhouses. It was always so moist and earthy smelling inside the greenhouses. A sight to see when snow drifts were piled up outside. The fragrance from the carnations was wonderful, as you might expect. I know I went with him at least once to “Market” in Boston. We had to get up when it was still dark (and cold) to drive the big truck to deliver the flowers in their boxes. We used the tops of those boxes to slide down a small backyard hill when it snowed. It was such fun and they skimmed over the snow so fast. My grandmother could watch us from the kitchen window.
My grandfather’s office was in a closed in porch at the back of the house. It was a magical place to a kid. He had a big roll top desk, a big old oak chair with leather cushions and a big snake skin mounted above one of the windows. He smoked a pipe so the fragrance permeated the space. Doubtless he was banished there to smoke. He had some business machines that had lots of keys which were always intriguing.
My grandmother was much loved too. We called her Gramma and she came from Germany. Her maiden name was Mix and was related in some fashion to Tom Mix. Tom Mix was a cowboy in silent films for those of you who do not know the name. She cooked good things in the kitchen and taught us how to dry a glass until in gleamed! She had a wringer washer which was mesmerizing to watch and to see the clothes squeezed out between the rollers. Her hair was dark and had only a few gray hairs. She used to play magic tricks with us. We loved to play in her jewelry box. I remember, in particular, a string of large, milky yellow amber beads strung on a ribbon.
For the most part we lived in Connecticut, but we visited often. Both of my aunts, and thus my cousins, lived in Watertown also. At the edge of my grandparent’s property was Higgins Ice Cream. We visited there often too! My favorite was a chocolate ice cream cone. On the rare occasions when I could choose something else, it was orange sherbet. Such memories of summer.
My cousin and I used to play house in the lilac trees to the side of my grandparent’s house. The were very tall and had plenty of room for little girls to walk under them. We used to play house by marking off rooms with a stick in the dirt.
My grandparents also had a summer house on Cape Cod. I spent some lovely summers there. The house was three stories with porches on the front. Its siding was darkened by the years. They had an ice box for refrigeration and ice was actually delivered. The kitchen sink was made of slate. I remember the walk to the beach along a sandy path lined with wild roses and honeysuckle and the sweet scent of them. We dressed up for Fourth of July parades. My aunts used to stay up late and work puzzles. We were always surprised in the morning to see how much they had done. One of the games we played was to run around the house, one person going one way and the other person the opposite. When you passed on the back side, you could not tell who was going to win!
Thanks for sharing my memories.
August 5, 2006