Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Chub’s Uncle Archie used to tell about th...

Chub’s Uncle Archie used to tell about the country girl who was propositioned on the streets of New York. “Oh, no!” she said, “Only for family and a few close friends but never for money.” That’s the answer I gave to a woman who wanted me to make tiles for a cabinet top in her new home: “... never for money.”

I never intended to make another tile after making more than a hundred for our daughter’s front entrance and hearth. I rolled, measured and cut strips of clay somewhat larger than my pattern and moved them to boards for slow drying. When the strips were “leather hard” I cut tiles to the exact size needed. Then began the “idiot work” -- endlessly turning them over and moving them to dry boards -- and drying boards in the sun.

However, Mallory Mayse didn’t give up. She had her heart set on handmade tiles and she offered to help make them. I liked this vivacious woman with a happy outlook on life. “OK,” I said. We’ll do them in spite of my policy of “never for money.” She was a delightful conversationalist and we made the monotonous chore bearable by chatting while we worked. One day Susie talked lovingly about her grandparents’ cottage on a lake in Michigan. “Mal and I spent our honeymoon there, and now our girls have happy childhood memories of the place,” she said.

I told her that I once spent two weeks at a lake cottage in Michigan with a school chum’s family. She asked where that was and I said, “Somewhere near Coldwater.”

“You’re kidding!” Susie said, “Our cottage is on a lake near Coldwater, Morrison lake.” Several MU professors who taught in summer school owned cottages where their wives took the children to escape Missouri’s heat. I said, “Betsy’s father was going to drive up for a short vacation and to close the cottage for winter. When Professor Kempster called...”

“Kempster!” Susie screamed. “Kempsters sold that cottage to my grandparents!” Tile drying stopped while we talked about that beautiful spot in this small world. Much later she told me how sad they all were; they were having to part with the Morrison Lake property. Each person would choose a memento, something to remember their happy times there. “One of our girls chose an old white table that was in the root cellar there, covered with years of mold.” Somehow it reminded her of special people and events.

“If there were just some way to keep a part of it -- the lake, I mean, and the beach...” Susie said plaintively. I consoled her, saying, “You could bring some sand. I’ll mix it with Missouri clay and make something for you.” Susie’s dark eyes danced. “And lake water! Could you use that, too?” Yes. “That would tie Michigan and Missouri together,” she said, somewhat relieved.

She brought two liters of Morrison Lake water and enough sand that we could sieve out the larger grains. That special clay is in my workshop, aged and ready to be made into pitchers. They’ll remind the Mayse girls of wonderful times at their grandparents’ cottage on the lake near Coldwater.

Recently Mal Mayse decided to clean up the old table. Written on the underneath side were the words “for KEMPSTER.” When I make the pitchers I’ll save some Michigan/Missouri clay, enough to make a tile: “In memory of Professor and Mrs. Harry L. Kempster and ‘Betsy,’ Morrison Lake, near Coldwater, Mi.”

That will remind me that at age 14 we stood around that very same old table and drank Postum with our peanut butter sandwiches.


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