Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grandma Moore, Banana Pudding, and the Telephone: An Evening of Terror

Grandma with Uncle Neil

Randy Seaver’s genea-fun for this weekend is the following:

1. What is one of your most vivid childhood memories? Was it family, friends, places, events, or just plain fun?

2) Tell us about it in a comment to this post, a Comment or Note on Facebook, or in a blog post of your own.

One evening when I was about four years old, my parents went out to see a show with my Uncle Neil and Aunt Ina. They left me with my mother’s mother, Grandma Moore, to babysit me for the evening. I think we had had a big dinner that was finished off with banana pudding. I remember that evening well, because it was filled with terror.

Grandma Moore had a real sweet tooth, and for the sake of her health (she may have had geriatric diabetes), her children strictly rationed the sweets she could eat. She was somewhere around her mid-70s at this time and could still get around fairly well and cook for herself, but if her kids found out that she had baked any desserts, they would tell her, “Now Mama, you know you can’t eat all of that; now let’s just put the rest of it up.”

And that’s what happened with the banana pudding. We finished up our meal and the leftovers went into the refrigerator. Off went my parents and aunt and uncle, and Grandma and I sat down to watch TV. Or at least I did. As I sat hypnotized by the TV program, Grandma must have sneaked off to eat more of the pudding. I didn’t notice anything wrong for quite a while, but at some point I heard my grandmother moaning. This was scary. Then Grandma called out to me, “Call the doctor.” I sat there, frozen. “Call the doctor; the number is by the phone.” I got up, walked over to the phone, and stared at it. The number was right there. I was four years old, but I knew my numbers. I did not, however, have much of an idea of how to use a telephone. I don’t know if I was more frightened by what might happen to my grandmother or by the prospect of being punished for not doing what she told me to do. I couldn’t say anything or move from the spot where I stood. Each time she moaned or told me to call the doctor, my fear jumped up a couple of notches.

Finally my parents and Neil and Ina returned. They realized right away that something was wrong and must have called the doctor (I was so numb with fright that I don’t remember much of what happened at this point). No one yelled at me.

I have never been much of a telephone conversationalist. When calling friends or acquaintances, I am always certain that I am calling at an inconvenient time, and always try to time my calls perfectly so that they do not interfere with meals or other relaxation time. Even calls to make appointments are something I tend to put off. It’s not that I don’t enjoy speaking to people over the phone once the conversation gets under way, and I have even been involved in the so-called “Texas telephone call.” That’s when you get a wrong number, but you both realize that the other person is from Texas, and two hours later, after exchanging names, family information, and life histories, you finally hang up. Well, okay, it was not a wrong number, but rather (and this is actually genealogy-related) a telephone conversation with a person in Texas who has a distant connection to me by marriage (he is descended from the wife of a great-uncle by a different husband).

This aversion to the telephone was worse when I was young and shy, but now that I am older and pretty impervious to intimidation, I think it’s just not a habit that I ever developed. And it just may have something to do what that long-ago Evening of Terror.


  1. I have a similar memory but I was much older, 7 or 8, and remember running back and forth between Grandma and the door watching out for the doctor to arrive. Unlike you I did get yelled at because it never occurred to me to call my mother to come. I also hate to use the phone but I think that has more to do with the time in which I was raised. Phone calls cost money so you didn't just call someone up willy nilly!

  2. I can't remember any night of terror or being yelled at for not calling someone but I too hate to use the phone. I have been known to talk for LONG periods of time but I will put off making a call. I guess I always thought it was because I was so shy as a child, I wouldn't talk to people and was so afraid of talking on the phone.

  3. That was quite an experience for a little four year old.

    I too don't like to make phone calls. I think it goes back to when I was a young girl and was invited to a birthday party on the telephone. I knew it was a friend named Cathy but I didn't catch which one. We drove to several places trying to find the party.

  4. Wow that would have been scary for one so little. I had a similar experience-but I was grown-I needed to call someone for help-and I just could not make my fingers dial the number. When I finally did-I couldn't say anything but the man's name. He knew immediately we needed help and came to the rescue-but I hate that I reacted so poorly to a medical emergency! At least you had a good excuse being so little : )

  5. Hey Greta! Congrats on your top 40 nomination & good luck in the voting, you've got my vote! - cindy

  6. Apple - I think these kinds of things are terrifying for kids; you just feel so helpless when an adult gets sick and you don't know what to do.

    Harriet - Sounds like we have exactly the same attitude toward the phone - love to talk but hate to call. And I was also extremely shy when I was little.

    Janet - This actually sounds like something that would happen to our family even today. Somebody zones out and doesn't get all the information and then we end up driving to the wrong place (we looked for the address for a birthday party in an old school directory and ended up (after getting lost) at the old address of the family, which was much farther away than the house they had moved to).

    Tipper - I've had the frozen hand/frozen mouth syndrome, though usually not both at once; it's as though something just shuts down.

    Cindy - You're kidding, right?! I'll have to go look! Thank you so much! (I feel like such a bozo - I only got part of my nominations in because I was rushing around getting ready for a business trip - speaking of brain shutting down).

  7. Great story - Poor Grandma! Gotta feed that sweet tooth, I can relate! So she came out of it okay? Did you stay with her again after that? I would imagine for a four year old, it would be a very scary experience!