My grandmother passed away last March; she of the world’s most perfect(ly strange) mid-century modern house. Going back to Texas was an odd thing for me because I have probably been home only a dozen times since I left to go to school in Chicago in 1990. While I was home listening to the great reminiscing about my Grandmother, I realized that I, and I think my entire family, have always romanticized my grandparents, especially since my Grandfather passed at a fairly young age and my Grandmother never dated or married for the next 20 years. I like to think it was a great love, scored to a soundtrack of Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughn, and maybe it was. It was also most likely a product of unwavering Catholicism and an era where women didn’t get divorced because women didn’t work. I know they had the same ups and the same downs as every married couple, including myself with one not-so-successful marriage under my belt. So I admire them for that.
Through the lens of our time, they drank too much, smoked too much, ate too many animal products and fat. (Though Michael Pollan would approve of their diet because none of it was processed and it was always home-made by my grandmother, cabbage rolls and beef and noodles and a pot roast every Sunday night.) They lived within their income (sizeable at times) and never used credit cards that weren’t paid off every month. They dressed for occasions in clothes that cost more than we could imagine and didn’t come from Forever 21. They believed in the American dream and frankly lived it.
There is a famous story in our family that personifies their marriage, in fact my mother mentioned it in my Grandmother’s eulogy. My Grandmother and Grandfather always had a toddy (what a benign word for bourbon and water) together in the evening when he would come home from work. He would sit at the end of the sofa with his stocking feet on the ottoman and she would sit next to him in her rocking chair, which she pulled over from its regular spot about five feet away to be closer to him. When they had finished, she would trot off to the kitchen to finish supper and he would finish his drink. When he wanted more, he would lift his glass and shake it, rattling the ice, to get her attention to bring him another. This horrifies many people, myself included in my younger years. However now, I see it as something that worked for them and that works for me. (Reminder: this was not only the 60s but it was also the the South people.)
But I also know they had a hell of a lot of fun. When sorting through my grandmother’s belongings, we found boxes of old photos. The series below makes me smile and says mid-century madness better than any words I could ever conjure. Thanks to my sister for sending them to me. I think this was some kind of 40s Flapper party (at least I hope so.) They make my day because they were the original Mad (as in crazy) Men. How else does one describe a bunch of people in bed at the end of the night and my grandfather reclining and lovingly holding two booze bottles? Those were the days.