“I love your grandmother.”

DSCF4698 copy – Version 2Meeting the Lorings was serendipity.  The Wellesley Hills Historical Society holds several items that belonged to Emilie Loring, including her orange-blossom wedding veil and a fringed shawl.  When I told the director, Don Chaffee, that I was researching her life, he offered, “I went to high school with her granddaughter.  Would you like her phone number?”

I dialed right away, unsure of what I would say but unwilling to wait a moment longer to speak to Emilie’s descendant.  Eve’s voice answered, “Hello?” and I blurted, “Hello, this is Patti Bender.  You don’t know me, but I love your grandmother.”  We visited a long while, and soon thereafter, I received manila envelopes filled with photos, biographical summaries, and family information–an incredibly generous response that put so much more in motion.

I talked with all six grandchildren on the phone and then traveled to interview each in person.  They remembered a lot about “Grandmama” (accents on the first and third syllables), and as their stories tumbled out, I scrawled in the margin of my tablet, “Patti, get a recorder!”  Because that’s what we really want.  Beyond dates and places and accomplishments, what we really want to know are the stories–what a person was like, the life behind the accomplishments, the things you’d know, if you spent time with the person.

If you have siblings, you won’t be surprised that they remembered things differently.  I like this reminder:

“The fact is, that no man is the same under different aspects, and never the same to those who know him best and those who know him least.” (John Neal in Portland Illustrated, 1874.)

The eldest, Victor, said Emilie doted on him, “a nice grandmother… very nice, talkative,” while Valentine remembered her as “a little imperious,” not the sort who would hug a lot or have the grandchildren sit on her lap.  Linda called her a “livewire” and admired her courage in taking off across the continent on a trip to Alaska in the early 1900s, while Selden remembered her thoughtfulness in sending him a Chrysler brochure, because she knew he liked cars.  Sandy remembered looking at dresses in the Sears catalog with her, and Eve seconded, “She was always a good dresser.”  On that final point, they all agreed.

In their homes, I saw precious keepsakes:  Emilie’s monogrammed silver and linens, inscriptions in the books she gave to her sons, the lantern slides she took and developed herself on that trip to Alaska, her china teacup with a butterfly handle, an oil portrait of her mother, and a leather-encased miniature of Emilie herself.  Selden had a particular treasure:  a home movie shot at Blue Hill in 1928.  It was amazing to see the living Emilie–not a still photo or written description–talking at the kitchen table, descending a set of stone steps, adjusting her watch…

I felt that I knew Emilie Loring before I started to research her biography. Her books raised me in part, gave me a model of what a girl might do, what romance might be like, how important it was to have both an inner core of unshakeable character and a buoyant sense of humor.  I owed her this effort.  Now, I feel a responsibility to her grandchildren, too.  They have welcomed me into their homes for more than a decade, trusted me with their memories of “Grandmama,” and asked nothing but that I tell her story as I find it.  I had no idea any of this would happen when I first picked up the phone to call Eve.  I’ll let Emilie finish this one:

“You have come up against them, haven’t you? One of those moments upon which you look back, catch your breath and think, ‘Suppose I had let the chance pass? What rich experiences, what happiness, I would have missed.’”

Do you have Emilie Loring memorabilia?  Please write and share.

11 thoughts on ““I love your grandmother.”

  1. Visited a retirement home today and invited a former
    neighbour who is 93 yrs. young to our Emilie tea party.
    She remembers reading her novels as a girl and plans to
    attend. Some others have offered to make some of Emilie’s
    recipes. Our local author will pose as Emilie for the afternoon!
    Hope I can take the stress! hee! hee!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This may turn into a monster! The only “Fly in the Ointment” is I have
        been asked to teach VBS out of town from July 3rd to the 7th. I will have
        Emilie’s tea on Thursday, June 29th. You may not get any photos until midnight
        as I am a slow learner! All these gals want to nix the canapes and hit the sweets!
        Oh what a dilemma! Hope we find our vintage typewriter for Emilie by then!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Would it not be grand to designate a time this summer
    to have a cup of tea in our Emile gardens ( together
    in spirit) to remember this wonderful lady!
    I even have a teacup with a butterfly handle!
    Scones must be there as well don’t you agree?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed! When is good? May, for a first, inspiring flush? June, so plants can come into their own? Northern gardens may need extra time. Emilie used to go up to Blue Hill just after the Fourth of July.


      1. Hi! We may be in different time zones! 4pm is the usual English
        tea time and I believe that time is mentioned in some of her
        books. ( I could be wrong) June or July would probably work for
        the zone 5 ladies. You decide! Itching to get outside but we have
        flurries again! Spring Always Comes!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Perhaps 4 pm wherever we are is more practical than trying for actual simultaneity. We have readers in the UK and India! Emilie had her “at homes” on Thursdays, so how about July 6th, 4 pm? We can share photos to my contact email, and I’ll post. My daffodils are up, but yes, we have snow coming this weekend, too. I’ll look forward to Bright Skies!


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