Growing up, I was a tomboy. My Canadian grandmother would have said, a terrible tomboy. Grammie was born at the turn of the last century. In memory, she reminds me a lot of Maggie Smith’s character Violet Crowley, in fact, she came from a world much like Downton Abbey.
And, I think she feared I’d never grow up to appreciate anything remotely ladylike. I didn’t play with dolls, and I hated dresses, despite the fact she made many for me, along with matching outfits for a Madame Alexandra doll she had given me for my sixth birthday. No. I was not into girly things. My best friends were boys. I loved sports, and I was more at home in a pair of ratty blue jeans and tree forts than I ever would have been at a tea party for little girls.
As a young girl, my grandmother and my granddad would come for frequent visits to our home in Phoenix, Arizona. In my memory, these visits were not so much social as they were instructional. I was taught how to drink tea, how to engage in polite conversation, and those necessary domestic skills I’m sure she feared I might never learn. One of which was how to set a table, fit for formal dining. Years later, my sisters and I would laugh at scenes from Downton Abbey where the butler would painstakingly measure the distance between settings with a yardstick, making certain the silver was just so. My grandmother, not unlike the Dowager Countess, knew exactly how far from the edge of the table the utensils for each setting needed to be. One knuckle’s worth. Napkins to the left of the forks. Plates in the center. Knives and spoons to the right.
I once asked, “But what if I forget the butter knife or we don’t need all those silver pieces?” To which she replied, much like I believe the Dowager herself, might have, “It’s awfully easy to slip, my dear.”
I still laugh at her expressions today. My grandmother had a long and very interesting life. She was above all, smart, sassy and fearless. She lived through two world wars, became an American citizen as a young woman, and graduated Berkeley in 1922. She was no one’s fool. A bright, articulate modern woman. The first of her generation to vote.
I’ve lots of memories of my grandmother, but the gift she left me–that that I treasure most–was her ability to turn a phrase. And she had a few. One of which was, You Can’t Afford the Power of Negative Thought. Another, When in Doubt, Don’t, was the inspiration for my Carol Childs Mysteries, with Henery Press. I wish I had followed her advice when it came to that particular piece of advice. But if I had, I might not have had some of the experiences that have so shaped me and helped to make Carol Childs that fearless sleuth she is on the pages.
(Photo: my grandmother with my mother as an infant.)
Today I keep a short list of mantras, hers included, on my desk. In fact, after I started writing this blog I decided to ask my Facebook friends for their input. When presented with a tough assignment what was their mantra? The response has been great. One Step at a Time. Put the Kettle On. Just Do It!
How about you? Do you have a favorite mantra?
Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. In 2001, Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction full time. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014. The second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. And the third, Without A Doubt, July 2016. Silverman also has written a number of short stories, many of them influenced by her experiences growing up in the Arizona desert. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com