Having a granny old time

Apparently all the travel I did this spring has aged me, because this summer I’ve been occupied with all kinds of old-lady diversions, like canning jam, watching Downton Abbey, and obsessing over ancient family history. Okay, maybe a couple of those things have been appropriated by the young hipstersnappers of today, but if I’m supposed to feel cool poking jar lids and analyzing Lady Edith’s love life, it’s not working.

So far I’ve put up two batches of strawberry jam that just might be botulism-free! I’ve wanted to try canning for a few years now, even before I embarked on my various Little House lifestyle experiments, and then after I helped make some pickles and apple butter with some friends a couple years ago I really dug it. I think this wound up being the year to finally do it on my own because 1.) I churned a lot of useless for-demonstration-only butter at my book events this spring and it made me want to do something actually halfway practical for a change 2.) Reading all those wedding style blogs last summer gave me a weird fetish for mason jars that our not-very-DIY and decidedly unPinteresting wedding could not indulge. Anyway, I’m acting on these urges until I run out of lids or patience.

Chris and I are almost done with Season Two of Downton, which is getting so soapy (the soap being a fine sort of Yardley of London lavender stuff, obviously) that we will be pretty disappointed if no evil twins show up by the finale. Seriously, think of all the shit that could be started by a new, evil, mustachioed head butler named “Larson.” And how is it that seven years have gone by in series time and yet all three daughters are still somehow between the ages of eighteenish and not-quite-spinsterish? Not that it matters.

And then, in my oldish age, I’ve guess I’ve gone and started a family history blog. I know, your eyes are glazing over now, but this past winter while visiting my dad I somehow managed to open this crazy King Tut vault of old photos, letters, and scrapbooks leading me to things that I never really knew about my mother’s family, like the fact that I had two great-great-grandfathers who worked and lived at a Texas insane asylum and a great-great-uncle who was on Dark Shadows. It turns out I need an outlet for all this, a place to put these sepia photos of dead people whose faces I’m learning to know; a reason to go find the places where they used to live.

I suppose that after tracing the steps of the Ingalls family for so long it was time I did the same with my actual family, which is how I wound up walking around in the rain for two hours in New York last month trying to find places in the backgrounds of photos like this one:

That’s my great-grandmother, sometime in the late 1930s, and the building—I found it!—is in Brooklyn Heights. I barely know anything about her, and I suppose that’s why I felt I had to find the location.

Anyway, that’s the new obsession, and no, I don’t know quite what I’m doing with it yet.

*   *  *

I’m headed off later this week to Minnesota, which will include a couple days in Minneapolis visiting a friend and a couple of days at LauraPalooza 2012, where I’ll be signing books Thursday night. If you’ll be there, please say hello and allow me to draw you a dorky Hollie Hobbie picture in a copy of my book.

If you couldn’t get to an event this spring I have a couple of audio souvenirs from the Wilder Life paperback tour: first, the amazingly fun Live Wire episode I taped in Portland, and then a piece for the Writer’s Block podcast that I recorded at KQED in San Francisco. In both instances I read parts from the book that I don’t usually perform otherwise, so check them out.


  1. says

    Hey, the butler’s name is CARSON. I’m a teacher and since this is summer, I’m catching up on all I’ve missed including “Downton Abbey.” I made the mistake of referring to my husband (who’s a devil in the kitchen) as Carson the other day – don’t think I’ll ever get away with THAT again.

  2. says

    Ha! I’m with you. My boyfriend has recently gotten me into playing bridge. I can things all summer. This week I’m teaching a friend how to make pickles. And I knit. I’m the most elderly person in their early 30s that I know. I agree though, Downton got super soapy during the second season.

  3. Wendy says

    Jan: Ha! Yes, I know: CARSON. Which is why his evil twin would be Larson, and would have a mustache!

  4. says

    Is your signing at LauraPalooza only for those registered for the conference? And, if not, when and where is it? For the love of Holly Hobbie, let me sneak in!

  5. Sheila says

    Is that the St. George Hotel your grandma is standing in front of? I lived right around the corner for years!

  6. says

    Wendy, I swear we were separated, if not at birth, then at some other formative point in time. I started down the family history path a few years ago, to forge better relationships and experiences with my relatives. Asking about family history rather than getting the same stories about my stepdad’s cronies at the American Legion is infinitely preferable. I so wish I was hitting Laurapalooza. My mom made me a sweet-ass Holly Hobbie cake for my 8th birthday. I still have my Holly Hobbie lunch box. And riddle me this: I’ve always wondered why it’s not HobbY to match HollY. Who was the ad wizard who came up with Holly HobbIE?

  7. Wendy says

    Rebekah: I don’t know if the author reception is an open event! You could try calling the university and asking, and I’ll try to find out, too.

    Shelia: Yes, it’s right by there! I think the St. George is a shorter building but the one in the picture is right across on Clark Street. It’s such a great neighborhood.

    Jen: I totally know the deal—Holly Hobbie is an actual person, the name of woman who drew those sunbonnet girls. She’s still around—she does some seriously cute picture books—and apparently is very nice and doesn’t mind that people think she’s named after a doll.