Chef, television personality and Alzheimer’s Association Celebrity Champion Carla Hall reflects on memories of her grandmother, and shares why her Granny’s beloved purse continues to be an important part of her legacy.
My grandmother, Freddie Mae Glover, was a fashion icon in my family. Her house was where we gathered for holiday dinners. Christmas, Thanksgiving, family reunions. She was our matriarch – the head of the table, who always brought the family together with her food, her fashion and her love.
Granny loved this purse. And now I carry it, with her initial on its side.
This purse signifies many important things about Granny. Granny and my grandfather traveled a lot, and Granny was also in a social club. This purse was one of the treasures she collected during her travels, well before my time.
The thing I remember most about this purse is a game my sister and I would play, called ‘Dearie.’ We would collect my grandmother's purses and put them in the crooks of our arms, playing pretend, dressing up and referring to each other as ‘Dearie.’ We would say: "Yes, Dearie!” or “Oh, no, Dearie!” or “Dearie, would you like to go to lunch?" As an adult, I’ve worn the purse to events, sometimes with a chiffon top that mimics the purse’s pearls: playing ‘Dearie’ in real life!
But what I love MOST about this purse were the sounds I would hear inside it when Granny took me to church! Whenever she opened up the purse, the crunching sound of candy wrappers emerged … I just loved that little sound so much. She would always have butterscotch candy, which I hated, but also candy sticks in flavors like lemon, peppermint, and clove. If I got a lemon candy from Granny’s purse, it would be a good day!
In addition to candy — good and bad! — Granny always had a handkerchief in the purse that smelled like her cologne. She also had her makeup: her beauty puff and lipstick for touch-ups. She was always fashionable and looking her best.
I’m often reminded of Granny’s many unique qualities, including her changing the spelling of her name, Freddie Mae. It was when my cousin retrieved her birth certificate that we learned that it actually was spelled M-A-E, although she always spelled it M-A-I. My mother said that Granny changed it because she wanted to be different, and that sums up my grandmother: a unique life, style, and personality all her own.
I knew there were signs of problems related to Alzheimer’s when my Granny, Freddie Mae Glover, began calling me and my sister by our cousins’ names. Then her recipes started changing: forgotten spices, new ingredients. When her disease progressed, and Granny moved into an assisted living community, we no longer had our matriarch at the head of the table, but we continued to celebrate the person who always brought the family together.
If you love someone living with Alzheimer’s, spend time with them, whether it is in-person or virtually. Look back at photographs, and appreciate the memories. Play music they love, make connections, and smile whenever you can … When I think of my Granny’s larger-than-life personality, I know I do.
About: Nashville, Tennessee native Carla Hall, star of “Top Chef” and “The Chew” is currently starring on the Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship.” Follow Carla on Instagram and Twitter to find out what she is up to next.
Around the Table