Mary Ellen ‘Mamie’ (Linnane) and James ‘Jim’ O’Connor
I have just a few memories of my paternal grandparents living on their legendary Kaukauna, Wisconsin family farm because they moved into ‘town’ when I was pretty young. I remember Grandma’s huge molasses cookies (at least they seemed huge in my little hands) and the array of wild farm cats that she kept well supplied with bowls of milk – depicted at her place setting. She’s sharing the radio with Joel’s Grandma Ada, since they no doubt listened to the Cubs’ games simultaneously in their respective locales. The crystal cream and sugar dish, the book of Bryant’s poems, and the gorgeous art-deco silk napkin are treasures from those farm days.
I was definitely around my grandparents more in their later years when they lived in the city near us. You’ll see a photo of me in my first communion dress at the side of my Grandpa’s rocking chair. He was most often sitting there smoking his pipe, watching us all come and go. My most vivid memory of him is when my grandmother died. I stood by his wheelchair at the funeral home with my cousin, Mark, and he told us how wonderful his Mamie had been while he cried, wiping away tears with his bandana handkerchief. “Children, our Mamie is gone now and we’re never going to be the same.” So sad and sweet for a 12-year-old girl to witness.
The small picture atop those of my grandparents is my great-grandmother Ellen (Guhin) Linnane (1849-1929). I never met this white-haired, very Irish woman, but the first time I saw a photo of her and heard her name (mine too!) I wished I had known her. She was a tough woman who raised a whole slew of boys and one girl (my grandma) as a single mother after her husband died. I like that I have a bit of her in my DNA!