My Late Grandmother’s Gin Glass

my late grandmother's gin glass
perfect margarita in my late grandma’s gin glass

As the story goes, when I was a very little girl, I marched over to grandmother as she relaxed in her easy chair, and lifted her water glass off the side table. I took a sloppy, toddler swig. And then my face scrunched up at the betrayal as I announced “This isn’t water!”. My late grandmother was an alcoholic and the glass she kept beside her held gin.

These days, I regularly sit in an online gathering with a bunch of really knowledgeable theologians and try to absorb concepts and re-familarize myself with the vocabulary of academia. Each week we start by sharing where we’re at and what we’re drinking. When it’s my turn, I hoist my late grandmother’s gin glass in a toast as I announce my beverage of choice. It may fizzy water or or ginger ale, Perhaps a really nice single malt scotch. Maybe throwback Rusty Nail or perfect margarita. No gin so far.

And it doesn’t matter, because my late grandmother’s gin glass holds more than just a beverage.

I sorted a houseful of my grandparent’s lives a few years back. Creditors were calling and time was short, the house had to be fixed and and sold as quickly as possible.

The kitchen cupboards held only a few glasses, mismatched remainders of the sets that had dropped and shattered on the linoleum over the years. I found my late grandmother’s gin glass hidden way in the back. Lots of grandma’s things had been pushed to the back corners in the years after her death. Granddad’s favorite items migrated to the front of cupboards, drawers and closets while the memory of her quietly disappeared.

I hardly knew any of my extended family when I was young – we moved to the other side of the country and rarely traveled or visited family. Back then long distance calls were charged by the minute. On holidays we’d assembly line call relatives. We literally stood in a line, oldest to youngest, fidgeting awkwardly near the kitchen wall phone.  The script never changed. “Hi, this is [insert name]  Happy [insert holiday]  Here’s [insert next child’s name] Bye.” When the kids were done, dad had a turn, and then mom would reclaim the handset and shoo us away while she finished the “conversation”. No time or money for news or small talk, that could go in a letter.

I wonder if it was as excruciating for our distant family then as the memory is for me now?

In my teens I moved a few time zones over, to the one where all my grandparents lived. There was nonni and grandpa, my Italian grandparents. And grandpop Harold, my dad’s father. And grandma Paula and step-granddad Glenn. And we all got to know each other and be family. For that alone, I consider myself the luckiest of all six of us kids.

I’m in a liminal space these days. (guess I am picking up a bit of that academic-speak!). Not just returning to school, but attending seminary, answering this call, planning beyond career and into vocation. And I’m moving a thousand or so miles to do so, disrupting the rhythm of our life and our retirement plans and our vacations and our future.

And it all comes together in my late grandmother’s gin glass. It collects and combines and contains, in twelve little ounces,just what matters.

That glass holds love and gratitude, fear and pain and tragedy. Alcoholism, despair, regret swirl around with hope and joy and and faith join to fill my late grandma’s gin glass to the brim.

And judgement leaks out.

The car may packed to the gills, but there’s a spot for my late grandmother’s gin glass.


I’m aware that the glass in question is a just a vintage old-fashioned glass. For decades she filled it with gin or vodka.  I prefer gin, so there you go.  Whatever I pour, I’ll be drinking it from my late grandmother’s gin glass.




More from Random Resolutions, The Genealogy Files

More from Random Resolutions, The Genealogy Files

1925 Adolfo Petteruti 7 - Version 2
Grandpa’s Vaudeville Days

I’ve been gathering my family genealogy information for about two decades now.  Pell-mell and random, but there must be some semblance of an accurate family history in there somewhere. Another Random Resolution – to organized my piles of paper and electronic genealogy files and to verify that they’re accurate.  I’m not going to hunt very many new leads until I get all of what I have in order.

Big plans for 2016! Wish me luck.

So this far-more-knowledgeable-than-I-am genealogist out of Australia posted 27 Golden Rules of Genealogy.  Here is the link: 27 Golden Rules of Genealogy  Below, I’ve copied some of the text and added comments from me, a long-time but still beginner very disorganized family historian.


  • Don’t expect to find your whole tree online.
    • If you do, it almost certainly has piles of inaccuracies.  I’m still trying to sort out the two nearly identical families of 11 or 12 kids, four generations back, that are apparently not actually the same families.  Wot?
  • In fact if you find information online, don’t assume it is accurate.
    • See above.  This is why I am going to go through all my stacks of paper and files.  I got caught up early on when all that great information became available online, and I accepted and downloaded way too many files without checking them.  My OCD self (CDO for those of you who get that) hates that my family history is probably riddled with errors and lovely stories that have no actual merit.  What?  I’m not the great-great-great grandchild of the lost czar?  How did that happen?
  • Don’t show living people in your online tree unless you have it hidden and Private.
    • Do I even have to say anything here?  Well, maybe that I can go back and make the people who’ve died visible now.
  • Don’t take information or photographs from others and not give anything back.
    • Common courtesy, right?  Such short supply of that, these days.
  • Don’t expect that you can do it ALL for free.
    • My Ancestry subscription has been worth every penny.
  • Don’t be a name-collector. Look for the stories that MAKE the people.
    • Just like world history, names and dates are just plain boring, if there isn’t some real life behind them.
  • Don’t believe everything on a Birth, Marriage or Death certificate.
    • Not everyone is honest when they fill out forms.   I found out not too long ago that the father on a birth certificate had actually adopted the baby, and had been nowhere in the vicinity when conception occurred.
  • Don’t give up if you hit a brickwall. Take a look at it from a different direction.
    • Yeah.  I’m so very guilty of that.  Perhaps this year I’ll find the tools I need to smash the biggest ones.
  • Don’t write on a chart in pen until you are 100% sure of the details.
    • Pen?  Are you kidding?  Hello, graphite!
  • Don’t assume that if you can’t find the data you’re looking for on a website, that it doesn’t exist. Especially if that website infers that it would be there. Not everything is indexed or digitised yet.
    • And check back again later.  I’ve found searches that turned up empty provide all kinds of stuff just a few months later.  Somebody somewhere is ensuring that everything ever printed will someday be digitized.  I suppose I should thank them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people willing to guide you on your genealogy journey.
    • I’ve been a loner all these years.  Time to start finding some communities.  Plus, best to get the stories from those remaining relatives before they’re gone.
  • Don’t forget to write your OWN history. Afterall you know your own life history better than anyone else.
    • Guilty.


  • Always start from yourself and work backwards.
    • Okay, I did do that.
  • Get organised: both on your computer and your paperwork.
    • Did I mention this is my goal for 2016?  I’ve found some resources that I sincerely hope will keep e on track.
  • Join a genealogy group or society. The more you mingle with other researchers the more you’ll learn.
    • Perhaps if I can find the time.  I know there is a group that meets here in town once a month.
  • Do your homework and learn the social history of the area your ancestors came from.
    • Fascinating the things you can find out.  I’ve known the names of the (former) villages my Italian relatives came from since I was a little girl.  I only learned, accidentally that they’re all on the edge of the Pompeii crater.  Seems kind of a fascinating thing to have overlooked.
  • Honour family members wishes when they give you (or let you copy) photos, stories and other information. Not everyone is happy for it to be online.
    • Ummm… back to that common courtesy thing, right?
  • Learn to expect name and date variants. EVERY family has name variants.
    • Boy Howdy, this is true!
  • When filling in a pedigree chart, the male line is always on the top with his wife’s details in the box below.
    • Okay, I could step up to the sexism soapbox, but it has to be one or the other, so why get worked up over it?
  • Be consistent in the way you record your data.
    • Yup – that is back to the whole Big Organization of 2016.  When I started it was paper and pencil and postage stamps.  Now all is digital.  Lets get this stuff integrated.
  • Verify everything with at least two separate sources for each piece of information.
    • Did I mention something about a big project this year?  This is a key component.
  • Back up your files at least once a month and have a copy OFF of your computer, and preferrably a copy at a different location.
    • I’ve got backups that are as old as my last entries.  And my computer has redundant backups on hard drives and in a cloud or two.  But not everything is on paper.  Man, better invest in a few ink cartridges.
  • Expect surprises. It is truly amazing what you’ll find out about your family.
    • The guy who supposedly died, but then (maybe) turned up a few miles away with a different wife and family?  I kid you not, these little gems are so much fun to chew on.  That one is going to be fun.
  • Use ethics when you do find out shocking tales about a family member. Not all stories need to be aired to everyone.
    • Very possibly applicable to the item directly before this one.  But we’ll have to see… if true, a couple of generations are already dead and maybe I have some really cool cousins.
  • Visit as many living relatives as possible to get their stories now. Often family stories have some truth in them. But don’t believe them till verified.
    • I used to get so frustrated when relatives didn’t want to share.  They came here to escape hard things and who wants to talk about that?  But every now and then I’ll find a subject that sparks stories.  Don’t waste your time on this one -people pass away and take all kinds of wonderful antectdotes with them.  I didn’t know my grandma was called “Sarge” (long story) until a family gathering at her funeral.  Oh, what I would give to hear her side of the story!
  • If a document exists, read it. Every detail that is written on it.
    • You’d be amazed at the connections you might find.
  • Learn to record your sources of where (or who) you obtained information from. The sooner you start doing this, the better. And later you’ll be thankful that you took the time to note it now.
    • Then you won’t be going through this massive fix-my-past-mistakes project like me.




That Birthday Last Month

That Birthday Last Month

So, for Bea’s 75th, we got together and created a memory book for her – you can see it here: Bea’s Birthday Book. That book has photos that span about a hundred or so years, and pages about all the places Bea’s lived, and even some pages dedicated to pets. Every photo was handpicked to represent something meaningful, and I’ve heard the book was appreciated. I love that almost all the surviving children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews and siblings got involved. What a joy to work together to create something meaningful for someone we love.

The Arrington kids made some fun tees and a really cool giant birthday card. Some of us sent personalized family t-shirts, because Bea loves her t-shirts, and they might as well give her a chance to brag about her family. And while Kim and Jozi presented all the gifts in person, the rest of us joined in the fun via video chat. Andrea and Kevin even had a cake out in Las Vegas. This birthday was celebrated across the country – from New Hampshire to Texas to Colorado to California. What fun!

mom's birthday dinner
mom’s birthday dinner

Additionally, back in New Hampshire, a celebratory birthday dinner at a lovely Indian Restaurant was enjoyed by Bea, Jozi, Kim and Freya. Our hope was that it would be a birthday to remember, and I like to think we pulled it off.

Birthday blessings, Mom! Your journey has taken you across thousands of miles and probably through thousands of diapers. You’ve seen your children grow up, move on, raise children of their own. You’ve raised two of your grandchildren and buried a husband and a child. And the adventure continues…