It Takes Two

Grandpa LeClercq was not out on the farm by himself.  Grandma kept their home and provided farm-house meals.  Many of my memories from the farm include tables full of food… including a variety of homemade pies.  In the mid-fifties the farm-house did not have indoor plumbing other than a small hand pump in the kitchen… think chamber pots by night and out-house by day!

I have random memories of Grandma LeClercq and the farm…

  • Grandma pulling the chamber pot out from under the bed so that my sister and I could get to it at night.
  • A bowl of old fashioned Christmas candy set out where little hands could reach it.
  • Grandma and Mom with Judy and I in the kitchen with some kind of “curling iron” they heated up on the stove, fussing with our hair.
  • The central room of the house – the room in which Grandpa’s chair sat in the corner – with a long dining table down the center.  Most visiting took place around that table.
    Ok, it was at that table that one of my not-so-fond, but now very funny memories occurred!  I hated green peas, still do!  Back in the day of “you will eat some of everything,” I went to great lengths to figure out what to do about the peas!  One holiday meal at the farm, I left an inch or two of milk in my glass and spit all the peas into that milk.  “Mary, finish your milk!” Busted!  No pie for me!

Grandma was a good cook and great baker. It is interesting that Mom was a more ambivalent cook – she cooked out of necessity but never seemed to really enjoy it.  As soon as Judy was old enough she did much of the cooking and baking.

I will tell you about Grandma and Grandpa Bessler soon.  In contrast, they lived in the city of Chicago.  I loved visiting the farm – I was, and still am, more comfortable out in the country; and, despite the food-rules, it was a fun place to visit.

Here is Grandma’s recipe for Crumb Cake; Mom would make it as well.  We all loved it!

2 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
3/4 cup shortening (Grandma always used lard, Crisco works)
Mix into crumbs. Reserve a small cup of crumbs for the top.
To the remainder of the crumbs, add and cream together:
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
Bake in a “slow” oven.




War and Peace

child-with-family(This wonderful picture is my grandfather, mother, Aunt Evelyn, and grandmother.)

My sister recently had the ancestry DNA test – the results based on her DNA were:

52% Great Britain,
28% Eastern European,
7% Western European,
7% Scandinavian.

I don’t know about our Great Britain, Eastern European or Scandinavian ancestry; but that 7% Western European includes my grandparents.

The story I want to tell today is about my maternal grandfather. Grandpa LeClercq was from France and emigrated to the United States during the first World War as a young teenager. After losing her husband and another son in the war, his mother sent him to the United States with a friend.  Grandpa never saw his family or homeland again.

Grandpa was quiet, introspective, perhaps introverted – maybe homesick for France.  Mom was a lot like her father, keeping a lot of her deeply personal feelings inside.  Grandpa had an amazing “green thumb.”  He could grow anything.  During our childhood, Grandpa had a truck farm outside Chicago.  He grew corn, cabbage, tomatoes, and other vegetables… and hollyhocks for Grandma. He grew mountains of pumpkins every fall.

My memories include:

  • Going to visit the farm during the summer and fall. Dad helping in the fields.  Mom helping in the kitchen. Playing in the yard. Grandpa sending us home with bags of whatever veggies were in season.  Sweet corn being my favorite!
  • Getting to pick a pumpkin in the fall.
  • “Helping” whoever was working the roadside stand.
  • Loving the hollyhocks along the sides of the yard.

Grandpa trucked most of the veggies into stores in Chicago.  Grandpa also worked seasonally for the Cook County/Chicago parks as a landscaper.

When Grandpa wasn’t farming, he sat in his chair by the window smoking his pipe, looking out at the farm.  My most favorite memory is climbing up into his lap and sitting there quietly looking out the window with him.  Pipe smoke always makes me think of Grandpa.


I was in the fourth or fifth grade maybe when Grandpa was killed in a freak landscaping accident.  Soon after, the farm was sold and Grandma came to live with us.

Perhaps, Grandpa led me to eventually marry a man with a green-thumb whose idea of a garden is 150 tomato plants!

You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
– Desmond Tutu