Monday, April 6, 2009

Remembering Cooking Grandma

When I got the call from my mom Friday night I thought I had more time. She told me Cookie Grandma was sick and in the hospital. She said Cookie was going to be released Monday for home hospice care. I said I'd book a flight and come out for a visit. She warned me that Cookie wouldn't be very good company, that she couldn't talk much but I didn't care. I didn't care if we just sat and stared at each other for hours. This was my Cookie Grandma.

Cookie Grandma, known by everyone else as Marian Strawn-Hurd, got her famous name because of the most wonderful cookies she makes. The peanut butter ones with the hershey kisses in them. She also makes the best damn strawberry jam I've ever tasted. She still makes me that jam. In fact its the contraband I've lugged from fridge to freezer, from state to state, adding 15 sometimes 20 pounds to my luggage after my holiday trips to southern California.

I never eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without it...the sandwich I'm eating right now is bursting at the seams with it. In fact, without that jam, I probably would have starved in my early years of being a reporter making slave labor wages, living on top ramen, tortillas, peanut butter and of course Grandma's jam. But Grandma always supported me in my career, lovingly sending me care packages of jam, a few $20 bills in holiday and birthday cards and words of encouragement to keep me going when I wanted to quit.

She always called me her #1 granddaughter. More about bragging rights it was also about heritage. I was the first grandchild, about a decade ahead of my siblings and cousins. Spoiled and loved, every year grandma would take me to the Lompoc Flower Festival. She would take me on the carnival rides, buy me whatever I wanted and show me off to all her friends as I proudly beamed as only the #1 grandchild could.

I remember her taking me to the Elks Lodge where she worked as a bartender and showing me off to her friends. I remember being so impressed with how many friends she had. I remember the lovely ladies at the salon where she got her hair done. I remember everyone knew my Grandma. I remember the apartment complex that she ran as the manager, how she knew every tenants name, how much they liked her and how much she cared for them.

When I think of all the thousands of people my Cookie Grandma came into contact with, her life intertwined with, who she helped and made laugh it amazes me she had any time at all to hop in the kitchen and bust out an amazing spread of tri-tip, deviled eggs, ham, baked beans and a host of other amazing goodies any time there was a family get together. But she did it with ease and with a smile on her face. All the while lovingly herding the pack of grandchildren that had come along in the 32 years since my birth.

She got remarried three years ago to a wonderful man named John Hurd. A few months after, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctor said she wouldn't last more than 12-18 months. This past Christmas she was still fighting and giving the cancer the ol' F-you...she could be a little feisty. We're like that in my family. So like I said I thought I had more time. I was wrong.

At 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon my step father called to tell me my Cookie Grandma had passed away...peacefully, holding my mothers hand. So I did the only thing I could do from several thousand miles away...I cried.

Its hard to believe as I book my flight for California there will be no jam to bring home on this trip.

Cookie Grandma RIP 6-19-1935 to 4-5-2009


  1. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  2. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  3. that was a nice blogpost to share :^\ My sympathies....

  4. Natalie, my fondest regards and most heart-felt of sympathies. I hope that you learned the cookie and strawberry jam recipes. Know that there are hundreds of us who love you in the best of ways and are here to share what we have with you. -- Carlos