Written by Bob Rodgers
one of her many grandchildren
Growing up in a small town there was a lot to be grateful for when I was a kid. Almost every house in the neighborhood had a family with children. Kids in the neighborhood all had different backgrounds, but since we were kids this really never mattered to us, we were all equals. We were too young to care about what was going on in the world, as kids we had other interests. We were involved with comic books, racecars, and loved to play kick ball whenever we had a chance. We all had paper routes which would give us money to help pay for our habits; pinball games, exotic pets (iguanas, monitors and cockatiels) and of course the weekly bike trip to Cream Land, so we could overdose on our favorite ice cream. For me, it was natural mint chocolate chip.
One person that will always stand out in my memory is my grandmother, otherwise known as "Gam". She was given the name when one of my older cousins was a toddler and he would pronounce grandmother "Gam". Since he was born way before myself and the other grandchildren, this would be the only name we would ever call her. She made a living running a coffee shop at the end of a bowling alley. Her soups were famous, for every one she made, was always made from scratch. Every person who walked through the doors of the Coffee Shop, and who had come to know her, would refer to her as "Mom". For the kids in our family, this was our hangout on Saturdays, for we all bowled in the morning league. Needless to say, this was the highlight of my week.
She was the cornerstone of the family, always there for anyone (family or friend) who might need a shoulder to lean on, for whatever the problem might be. Whenever life seemed too hard, you could always go down the street, turn into the driveway, slip past the holly trees and my grandfather's boat, up to my grandmother's house. As you walked into the kitchen, you'd have the scent of something cooking, maybe chili, chicken and dumplings, or Black Joe cake (my favorite). If you didn't find her in the kitchen, you could usually find her on the front porch overlooking Timber Creek. You could walk into her house with what seemed like the weight of the world on your shoulders, and leave feeling relieved. She taught me in my life what it was to be equal, always stressing the fact that no matter how much a person has in life, he is no better than the next person (wisdom I wish I could still believe in today).
Two of our family traditions would be for the whole family to come together at Gam's house during Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Thanksgiving Day, the family would come together for dinner. I always treasure this growing up, because I could hang out with my cousins whom, at the time, I idolized. With my mother preparing my grandfather's favorite cookies, and with Gam preparing the traditional Christmas deserts, it was impossible to escape that familiar smell of Christmas. You would never hear Gam complain about having to cook for so many people, for this was her time to have all of her children and grandchildren under one roof, her roof!
Spending time with the family, and enjoying their company was to me, an experience I will never forget. The few times a year when the family did come together, it was during these times I would feel a sense of belonging like no other. The family would interact with each other throughout the evening, enjoying each other's company. It was times like these that you could feel the warmth and love that only a family could bring. If only once or twice a year, it was a chance for Gam to prepare a feast for her family to enjoy. With Gam in her chair, the family would gather in the living room to open the presents. This was simply my grandmother’s greatest joy.
As we started to develop into young adults our lives changed, as did our perspectives on life. What was once a family tradition had slowly faded away. Once families had had their own holiday dinner, they would gather up the kids and head off to Gam's house to exchange and open presents in front of the Christmas tree. The family would talk over cake and coffee. Although I always wished for the family to spend the whole day together it was still very important to me, not because of the presents, but because the family would still come together in front of my grandmother. Watching the happiness on her face was better than any holiday, and that meant the most to me.
Gam passed away in July of nineteen ninety-eight. It was a sad day for the whole family. Although she had passed away, she will always be remembered in our hearts, for she gave us one last gift at her funeral. She gave us another family reunion that day, and reminded us where we came from, and that how to once again feel the warmth and love that we once felt a long time ago.
This page is dedicated to:
Merretta Gibson Cattell Weber.
'Gammy' 'Gam' 'Mom' 'Rett'
The Cattell Girls
Estella Harmer Gibson Cattell with her daughters left to right
Merretta, Hazel, and Evelyn
Jonas Cattell Route
to Fort Mercer at Red Bank
by Robert Allen
You are visitor