Chicken and Dumplings

I never really knew my grandparents. My Grandma Lynette, the only grandparent alive when I was born, died when I was only four. My family has a canon of hilarious stories about Lynette, an intensely opinionated woman with four former husbands. But my foggy memories of her are merely the minty taste of Kellogg’s Grasshopper mint cookies (always stocked in a plastic jar on her counter), a glass cat statue with one missing beaded eye hat held her bedroom door open, and the chunky jewelry around her neck, which now clutters my own mother’s drawer.

And, so, instead of biological grandparents of my own, I had Margaret Garten.

“Margie” was an older woman from a coal-mining town in West Virginia, with a twangy accent and a genius for cooking up pots of hot, thick chicken and dumplings. She was my babysitter (and full-on grandmother) throughout my childhood.

She had escaped an abusive husband and fled to Chicago after raising her children. Babysitting the local children of our North Side neighborhood was both a supplementary income, and a way for her to connect with young families in our area.

Her apartment was about a block away, and everyone in the vicinity knew of her. We had Halloween parties at her house, and craft days, and homework-helping study sessions. She never even finished grade school, but my dad said she was the wisest person he knew.

Margie’s place in my life gave me a taste of just how special the relationship between children and grandparents (whether biological or not) can be.

ANNA J. WILLIAMS (22)
Chicago, IL

Photo Credit Eddie Welker on Flickr

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