Category Archives: Memories

Grandma Patrick’s Napkin Holder

I remember Grandma Patrick’s kitchen in her apartment. I remember the old-fashioned sink. I remember the sewing machine near the window. I remember the table with the gray-patterned cotton tablecloth. I remember her napkin holder that sat on the tablecloth on the table.

After my grandmother died I took a few things to remember her by. I took her aluminium stovetop coffee percolator, I took that gray-patterned cotton tablecloth and I took her napkin holder. Years later, after my mother died, I took the sewing machine too.

Most of these things created some points of contention between Dean and me, but the one that is still on-going is the napkin holder. It’s pure mid-century modern with its starburst pattern on one side (there was one on the other, but it fell off and according to Dean could not be soldered back on). I’d love to have it sit on the kitchen table holding our napkins — and it did for a while until I quit using paper napkins.

I’ve tried other uses for it. I hooked it on a nail in my office wall to hold cables. I used it to hold small notebooks on my desk. Both of those uses were short-lived because the napkin holder is just too light. It’s meant to hold paper napkins on a kitchen table.

I don’t know what to do with it other than put it in the kneewall with my other memories, but I feel that it can be used for something!

Unfinished Letter, Never Sent

I’d promised someone a letter several years ago and began one while visiting my parent’s vacation home. It was written on June 22, 2015 almost a year before my mother died.

Dear Name withheld,

As I write this I am sitting in my family’s lake house in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. Dean reads a book by an author whose name I cannot spell. It is our 30th anniversary. Dean is also cooking sausages for breakfast.

I awoke at 5:30 am and after a quick cup of tea did some birding. I also sat on the small dock and watched the mist-sprites dance across the lake.

To get here we drove the 750 miles from Bethesda to Ludington, Michigan where we spent a night with lovely couple in their B&B. In the morning we took the ferry to Wisconsin and drove 3 hours to Hazelhurst.

My nephew is living here for the summer and is glad for our company.

Yesterday I rode a bicycle for the first time in at least 10 years.

This house is owned by my mother — but she doesn’t like leaving her home anymore. It is supposed to go to my brother and me when my mom’s gone, but a few years ago, at Dean’s suggestion I told my brother he could have it. I told Mom and she was supposed to start the process of turning it over to my brother. I think she did — the financial advisor remembers knowing about it, but the process stopped when my dad died.

Anyway, the point is this — instead of making things better between my brother and me it has created more tension. I thought he’d be grateful to have the house — and he was — he now seems to resent having to feel grateful.

Mom is going to need expensive in-home care soon. I foresee some problems. Until today I felt a sweet nostalgia, listening to the the echoes of my past visits here. Today that is gone.

[End of letter]


I stopped writing this because I realized I was not writing to my friend but I was pouring my complaints about my relationship with my brother and my feelings about the lake house into what was supposed to be a light-hearted letter.

Re-reading it, maybe I should have finished it and sent it.

I still have ambivalent feelings about the situation, four and a half years later. It will never be the same. My brother and his wife moved to the house permanently a couple years after my mom died. It’s no longer the vacation house and never will be. For the most part I have let it go. I have many great memories of it and I am happy my brother is enjoying it. It was always his happy place.

The hair of the cat

Somewhere among my belongings, either in boxes from my mom’s house or in something I already had in Maryland I found a formerly white envelope with the words Cinder Patrick, 1 year written on the front in red or dark pink ink. Inside was a small thatch of black fur.

Cinder was my second cat — my father, a self-described cat-hater, brought her home to me when I was 13. She was a one-person cat and everyone else hated her. We loved each other.

She lived through three moves, from my parent’s house to my first apartment, to Pittsburgh with Dean and me and finally to Alexandria where she died at the ripe old age of 17.

Sorry, Cinder, but this memory is going in the trash — the fur might go in the garden though.