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Grandma Ree’s 92nd Birthday

October 6, 2010

My paternal grandmother, Marie Rose McMahon, turned 92 on September 26, 2010. It was an emotional day, filled with joy, family, laughter, tears, good food, good fights–what else could you ask for from your New England Italian family? Not much more, except that God miraculously grant that the glue of this side of our family live forever. But alas, after 92 years, we are reminded that forever is a long time, and no matter how many more “bonus days” (as she calls them) she receives, she will live on in each of us in her own special way.

It is undoubtedly from my Grandma Ree (or “Grand Marie” as my mother-in-law calls her) that I have gained so much of who I am. By complete immersion, my grandmother instilled in my sister and I a deep love for cooking endlessly, scraping up whatever is in the fridge for soup, contemplating the value of a good red sauce, valuing beautiful dishes that are to be used (and of course, along the way, broken). She instilled in us that things are precious–not because of their inherent value, but because of the love in which they were received by others (which, to her, is a good enough reason to not buy as much for oneself…).

Grandma Ree spent her youth and young twenties as a buyer for her and her brother’s “curtains and cards” shop in Bristol, CT. She would take the train into New York City to go to the garment district to buy fine Italian linens for the shop or skip over to the jewelry district to supplement her display case. She describes those adventurous, independent outings as the “grand ol’ days, always with a fine meal and maybe a show.” Who knew I’d grow up to experience my twenties the way that Grand Marie did–in the Big Apple?

Photobooth picture at age 19, her handwriting, "Year 1937"

Going to Gram’s always brought a feeling of home for us kids..We were privileged to have lived with both of our Grandmas at one point (both Ree and Dee Dee…don’t ask about the names…my maternal grandmother’s first name is Gloria…), so no matter what escapade our parents had us on in our youth, going to Gram’s house was always a resting point. Characterized by intense smells (whether it be soup, stock, sauce or smoke) and intense noises (whether it be the piano, the accordion, yelling, or belly-laughing), there was nothing blahsay about being there, nothing quiet, nothing unmemorable.  Intense spirit, intense relationships, intense food has always filled that house and sat around that diningroom table.

This year, we celebrate 92 years of a strong, independent, resilient, ever-giving woman

who I am proud to say is my Grandmother.

Grandma on her 92nd Birthday

Some visual reflections on the day…


Her hands at 92

Her grandson, my brother Malcolm

Gram has set aside a china set for her daughter and each of her granddaughters--myself, my sister Jewells, and my cousin Jessica. Here is my set--Blue Syracuse China from her and her brother's gift shop. She sent me home with my set on her birthday.

Lighting Ninety-Two Candles

Jewells and Cake

Ninety-two Candle

Singing Happy Birthday

Singing Happy Birthday

Singing May the Dear Lord Bless You

Singing How Old Are You Now (while 92 candles disintigrate into miniature mountains of wax in her chocolate cake...)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Annika permalink
    October 9, 2010 10:49 am

    Harrigan, I’ma bit behind, but the photos on this post are so emotionally gripping. I am crying as I sift through photos from your heart. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life! Love you.

  2. Jewells permalink
    October 13, 2010 4:42 pm

    This made me cry. I was just thinking how these things remain…

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