Dear Doodle,

March 04, 2020
Portrait of woman
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

Dear Doodle, 

 

Cause I love you a bushel and a peck, 

you bet your pretty neck I do,

doodle oodle oh,

You’re a chicken noodle,

Doodle oodle oodle oh. 

 

Sincerely,

Caroline 

xoxoxo


The barstools in the kitchen: those are reserved for eating toaster waffles topped with cinnamon sugar and butter. A very simple, hard-to-mess-up recipe some would say, but I am convinced nobody can make them as well as my grandmother. It was in this kitchen that I bestowed my grandmother with the nickname Doodle. I would sit on those barstools and watch her cook, singing “A Bushel and a Peck” under her breath. Cause I love you a bushel and a peck, you bet your pretty neck I do, doodle oodle oh. I joined in, despite not knowing the lyrics, with my own version of how the sound should end. You’re a chicken noodle Doodle. It was that day my childhood mind decided two things: 

1. That's how the song should end

2. My grandmother’s name was Doodle

I would like to believe that this a unique nickname, that there are no other Doodles in the world. If you are aware of another Doodle, please do not enlighten me to this fact because there is no other Doodle like my Doodle. If you ever meet her, I am sure you would agree and the chances you’ve crossed paths with her are surprisingly high. It’s a running joke in our family that she has never met a stranger because she makes friends everywhere she goes. Her boss would always say that he was going to have buttons made that read, “I don’t know June Gleadall,” since he would only need to get a handful made. It would be cheaper than buying one for everyone she’s befriended. She would talk to anyone and everyone that came through the building, chatted with all she shared an elevator with, and remembered every holiday, birthday, and anniversary. Hallmark should give her some kind of prize for the amount of hours she has spent walking the aisles of their greeting card section looking for the perfect card, the perfect sentiment.


 

page from old yearbook

My grandmother’s high school yearbook in which she was described as “naughty but nice”


Things I learned from my Doodle:

  1. Attitude is everything 
  2. You never get a second chance to make a first impression 
  3. Know everything you can about someone because there is always more to know
  4. Go with a winner (especially when it comes to believing in Santa Claus)
  5. Never order a crabcake outside of Maryland—not even if they say it's from Maryland
  6. There is nothing more important than family

On Monday, February 5, 1973 my grandmother was hit by a drunk driver while my mother and uncle were sitting in the front seat. The driver crossed over three lanes of traffic before colliding head-on with my grandmother’s Bonneville. My mother would have gone through the front windshield if it had not been for my uncle, who threw a teddy bear in front of her face, protecting her from the initial impact and glass. That teddy bear saved her life, and she survived with minor injuries. Decades later, that very same teddy bear still sits in my mother's bedroom after undergoing some emergency surgery. 

My mother’s luck did not extend to my grandmother, who sustained life-threatening injuries and had to be airlifted by helicopter to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma center. For a while it was unclear whether she would make it out of the hospital, but by the grace of God and many talented doctors, she pulled through. It took months and months of recovery before she was able to adjust back to life as normal, some of her injuries affecting her until this day. But my Doodle is strong, and she is resilient, and she does not go down without a fight. 

 

A sign that my mom and her siblings made for my grandmother when she came home from the hospital after the accident. 


Doodle’s Favorite Songs

  • “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters 
  • “Tenderly” by Nat King Cole
  • “Night and Day” by Frank Sinatra
  • “Route 66 (Get Your Kicks On)” by Nat King Cole
  • “I Miss You So” by Diana Krall 
  • “Dream” by Frank Sinatra

My grandmother working as a cigarette girl. 


When I came back to Grounds after Thanksgiving this past winter, I had a Facebook message waiting for me from my grandmother. We are still teaching Doodle all the ins and outs of social media, but she has mastered the skill of sharing photos she finds on Facebook. Her latest morsel of found wisdom: “Once the glue of the family passes away the holidays just aren't the same anymore.” 

Will always be ecstatic to see all of you again. I think this quote refers to the passing of the one who really keeps a family together and close over the years. I definitely felt the void when my mother died so I tried to take up the role to stay close to my extended family. I’m happy to say that I still have a bond with my niece and nephews and their families. Regrettably we do not get together physically but do keep in touch via phone calls and FB. As you get older, you will begin to understand how important families are and the memories you keep of earlier times together and how they may have impacted your life. As I looked around the Thanksgiving table, I was struck by how I was somehow responsible for all the loved ones there and the comradery we shared. And to think it all started with me. Awesome! Hopefully when my time here is over, all of you will deem it important enough to keep up family traditions. Once they are lost, they usually are gone forever, and you and future heirs are robbed of an important part of their heritage.

I am still staying with your mom this week, and she will take me to Gigi’s on Saturday to enjoy the large holiday party she is hosting that night. There will be many friends and former neighbors we haven’t seen in a while along with new friends we will meet there. She and Adam have a lavish and varied menu planned so everyone will find something to their liking. In the past, parties and open-houses were the norm, and people would find any excuse to entertain. I often hosted a tree-trimming party or a get-together after midnight Church services on Christmas Eve (of course, that one was before there were children). In addition, homes were always open to drop-in visitors during the holidays with dining room tables laden with delicious snacks and desserts. It was truly a season of hospitality.

My grandmother has been the matriarch of the family for quite some time now, since my grandfather passed away in 2006. Through Christmas dinners and our July Birthday celebrations, she has always instilled the importance of family into all of her grandchildren. Also no elbows on the table. My cousins and I are starting to get to the age where we are spreading out across the country, from California, to Utah, to Philly, to New York City, to Charlottesville. I know that we love each other very much, but sometimes I fear we will lose touch as life and adulthood begin to get in the way. However, I still felt like I could count on Doodle to bring us all together.

That was until this past Christmas, when my grandmother unexpectedly had to be taken to the hospital. I knew that she was old. I knew that her condition was serious. Yet, when we went to visit her the first two things she mentioned were all the compliments her nails got, and how I needed to check out the attractive doctors in the ER as soon as possible. Even in her hospital gown, attached to tubes and monitors, what mattered to my grandmother was that her hair was combed. So I was not scared. I guess no matter how frail she may look, in my mind my grandmother has always been unbreakable with her pink nails and wispy white hair. She has overcome broken hips, cancer, a near-fatal car accident—how could a simple cold bring her down?


grandmother in her kitchen

recipe

Whenever my grandmother visits she makes her famous pasta meat sauce in bulk so that we can freeze it and store some for after she leaves. The funny thing is that she doesn't even like her sauce, and makes it purely for us. We are lucky that my grandmother is a meticulous filer and has written all her recipes down on index cards for future reference. However, some (as you can see) are a little bit worse for wear, and not even the best recipe can account for expertise. 


On February 14th my mother posted on Facebook asking for people to send Valentine’s wishes to my grandmother. Nearly 200 people commented.

When she realized the outpouring of love that my mom’s friends had for her, Doodle was taken aback by the kindness:

I hope I can reach all of you who sent me such cheery, loving get-well thoughts. Some of you I know from years gone by; some I know from Lawrenceville’s warm and friendly community that opened its arms to me and made me feel one of them; and now also know their children and am able to follow their progress in life. Others are friends of friends I do not know yet but certainly hope to meet you someday soon. To one and all who took the time to reach out to me, I appreciate your good wishes. Right now I don’t see much improvement, but I continue to adhere to my personal belief, “Attitude is everything!”


June Crofoot had two great loves, George Gleadall and Robert Murr. She raised three amazing children who have grown into compassionate, intelligent, and accomplished adults, one of whom I am lucky enough to call my mother. Her seven grandchildren call her by a variety of names, Grandma, Grandmom, and of course Doodle (my personal favorite), but we are all so lucky to have had her watch us grow over the years. She has come to soccer games, dance recitals, Easters, musical theater performance, graduations (eighth grade, high school, and college), birthday parties, Christmas Eves, and all the average days in between. Not only has she been a presence in the lives of her family, but she has touched the lives of so many strangers and passerbys, childhood friends, neighbors—whoever had the pleasure of getting to have a conversation with her. 

I have only shown you some snippets of who my Doodle is, because there are never enough words or time, but I hope you too feel as though you have learned something from this extraordinary woman. 

 

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