This is/was my grandmother, born 1894, died 1974. While researching Tiana Rogers’ story for Walk in My Soul, I learned that among the Cherokee people, “Grandmother” was a respectful way to address a woman. They even referred to the sun as “Grandmother.” In one of their stories, Grandmother Turtle brought mud up from the bottom of the ocean to create the world. In another tale, Grandmother Spider fetched the Sun to provide warmth and light. She also brought fire and taught the Real People (Ani-yun-wiya/Cherokees) the art of making pottery.
My guy, science fiction author Brian Daley, once said that dedications in books cost nothing, but can’t be bought at any price. When the time came to write the dedication for Walk in My Soul, the decision was easy.
My grandmother, Florence St. Clair Hazard Savage, was always a member of our immediate family. With our woolly monkey, Matilda, sitting on her lap she rode shotgun in Dad’s pick-up truck every day and helped him run Robson’s Garden and Pet Center. Dad called his mother-in-law by her usual nickname, Flossie. We kids called her Gram.
Gram is in the center of this photo in the kitchen, the heart of our house. She baked bodaciously delicious cookies there, laying them out in rows on brown paper to cool. My brother Mark’s former high school friends still talk about them. The kitchen table was where she played Solitaire. And it’s where she taught our student lodger Masaaki and his friend, Seiji, to play poker. Masaaki and Seiji were probably the only two Japanese citizens in Palm Beach County at that time.
Gram and my parents were proud to attend Masaaki’s graduation from college. Even now, in far-off Japan, Masaaki is still a member of the Robson family.
Growing up, we kids heard stories of Gram’s colorful past, like making bathtub gin in her apartment in Chicago during Prohibition. She lived for five years in Hollywood in the late 1920’s, and (or so the family legend goes) had a part as an extra in a silent movie. During the Depression, with $50 to spend, she traveled from California to Florida in a canary-yellow Packard roadster. She and her two kids slept in hobo camps along the way, with Mom and her brother occupying the roadster’s rumble seat.
The saddest family story happened in World War II. Gram’s son was twenty-two when his plane went down after the bombing raid over the Ploesti oilfields. We never knew our uncle Buddy, but he was always a presence in our house.
This is one of those stories from the “war years.” For over seven decades the newspaper article has resided in the large baby album my mother created for her first-born. Mom’s dear and talented friend, Theresa Arsenault painted cartoon figures on most of the pages. Yesterday, when I took the album out from the bottom of a storage trunk, I discovered that the pages were close to crumbling. Today I had copies made of this one.
I’ve read that the Cherokee think of history not as a time past and gone, but as a river flowing all around us. Only now as I write this piece, do I realize how much the Cherokees’ view of Ulisi, Grandmother, relates to Gram. And I stop to reflect on how much history, knowledge, love, and support she and my parents have given me.