Jonalyn's Watercolor Blog

A Tale of Two Grandmas

In my teenage years, my grandmothers lived on either sides of my home.

Mexican Grandma

Mama Grace’s kitchen was alive.

I visited last February and still found food soaking, drying, ripening in her kitchen. Under that paper towel were mung beans sprouting, her fridge was full of food I couldn’t recognize.

I only remember one time when I found Mama Grace reading a cookbook. She read it, vaguely curious and amused, as if watching a strange sociological custom of writing down a recipe. I am still trying to figure out her recipe for buckwheat pancakes to re-create the magic in those dark, spongy layers drizzled with real maple syrup.

I can see her husband, my Spanish-French grandfather, as he still lingers over her meals, sweeping his finger (even his tongue) to clean every last morsel. Her salsas of charred tomatillos blended with onions and garlic. Nopales (de-spined cactus) sautéed with onions and garlic, and the lechita that comforted my aching teenage heart: warm milk and molasses. She’d happily bust open her door, “Mi corazon”, her treasure, her heart.I would brave the teasing of my entire fourth grade class when I ate through the lunches she packed.

I don’t remember ever cooking with Mama Grace except when I implored her to teach me something. I simply watched how she moved in her kitchen.

Polish Grandma

With my Polish grandmother, Grandma Taylor, cooking started differently. It began with Bob’s Big Boy. I don’t remember the burger or fries, but afterwards she announced, “We can make better meals at home.” Better meals than Bob’s Big Boy became our new mission. I suppose it wasn’t that big of a challenge, but for me, I was intent upon proving myself. Grandma Taylor would tape a cooking show for us. I remember hand-whipping omelets like the French cooks. But, we didn’t have the copper bowls or the endurance, so after five minutes, the electric blender filled the gap.

The rare moments when Grandma Taylor felt affectionate, she’d called me her “Anne-girl”. This was during the Megan Follows era, when we were entranced by Anne of Green Gables and her romantic, full-hearted ways. Grandma Taylor knit me capes and sweaters to suit her fancy of how a young lady should dress. I suppose it showed my adoration of her that I wore them through high school. We wrote letters back-and-forth most of our lives. In college, she sent me her potato leek soup recipe. I still make it for my family.

Grandma Taylor passed away three month ago, February 25, 2024. We found my exuberant teenage scrawl in her few boxes of memories.

In Grandma Taylor’s kitchen, I had no doubt there was a right and a wrong way to cook. We pored over recipes and copiously followed the rules.

In mid-February, I visited my Los Angeles family. It had been eight years since Grandma Taylor and I had seen one another. Since my youngest son was born, my gifts and letters remained unopened. So three months ago, when she granted me a final audience, I brought a small bouquet of lavender delphinium and pink roses. Grandma Taylor wouldn’t let me touch her, but we got to laugh together and remember we were once very good friends.

Grandma Taylor taught me to hunt down the experts and follow them carefully. She prepared me to find the tools for some of the worst battles I would fight. She prepared me to stand up, even to her. In this painting, Grandma Taylor is wearing snow-white opaque stockings. If you’ve read my book Ruby Slippers, you may recall the scene when I was five and Grandma Taylor criticized my white tights for being dirty-kneed. She was always one of the great ones in my youth, one who moved with dignity and exquisite propriety.

Painting My Grandmothers

I find it particularly humorous that one of the few photos I have of my two grandmothers shows us all sitting on a bench. My grandmothers never sat still. They moved in their distinct worlds. And while Mama Grace still lives and cooks, Grandma Taylor no longer pores over her recipes. But, these grandmothers still influence and inspire me, their Anne-girl, their corazon.

“Mama Grace and Grandma Taylor” 11 x 15″


Two weeks before we fly to Cape Town, South Africa. Please enjoy some new pictures of our boat, Lady Grey, being prepared for us. We would value your prayers for good weather on June 17, safe passage through customs in Cape Town and gentleness and we adjust our family to a new life.


Polishing “Lady Grey” in South Africa


Lady Grey, April 2024, 80% complete, Knysna, South Africa



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