1 post tagged sheldon potter
Portrait of Gima’s husband Sheldon F. Potter by Alex Fine.
Sheldon Potter IV is the towheaded little boy that Gima writes about in At Home on the Range and in her cooking columns for the Sunday Star. His hair is now pure white, yet still full. He spent a large chunk of his early years with Gima and her husband, Gia, and hopes to redeem his beloved grandfather a bit. Liz gave him a thorough and deserved scourging as a husband, but he was an adored grandfather with a penchant for plaid. —Alexa Potter
My father was a career naval officer. He tried being a “civilian”—a stockbroker in fact—between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean War. But it didn’t take, and he returned to the Navy. So we moved a lot, and I had been in fifteen different schools by the time I was fifteen. As a result, my memories of Gia and Gima are fragmented.
My earliest memories of my grandparents go all the way back to Salisbury, Maryland, when Gia was a ship inspector during the war. Mother and I lived with them for a while, and I didn’t meet Dad until he returned home from the war in 1946. From then until the early ’50s, Mother and I spent our summers with Gia and Gima in Rehoboth Beach in the house on Field’s End Road. Dad would visit on the weekends and help Gia with things like drywall while I acted as “go-fer” for them.
Gia was still practicing law off and on in Philadelphia; my mother was a hostess at Rehoboth’s Corner Cupboard Inn; Gima took care of me. I learned all about boiling the piss out of kidneys for kidney stew and how to wash calves’ brains and lightly dredge them in flour prior to sautéing them, delicately, in butter. I got to play with sweetbreads too. I remember my yellow vinyl stool in the kitchen; it was mine because I was the “stirrer” and I needed to stand on it to do my job. Gima bought me my first fishing rod and used to take me to “Treasure Beach” to search for old coins from a post-Revolutionary War wreck called the De Braak. I actually found one! Many years later Gia told me Gima had planted the coin and led me to it. That’s my Gima!
The family moved from Alexandria to San Francisco and on to Seattle around 1953; Gima passed away in 1955. I moved back to Philadelphia to live with Nana and Pa (my mother’s parents) in the fall of that year while the rest of the family moved to Erie, PA, which was Dad’s final duty station. I never got to see my Gima again after we went to the West Coast. In fact I didn’t see much of Gia either, except the occasional holiday. He was always fun, but got fatter and drank more without Gima in his life.
In 1961 Gia went to England to visit his distant cousin, Marie Hillyer, whom he would eventually marry. I was almost an adult; Marie was very “British” (although born in Philadelphia and distantly related to the Potter family), smoked a pipe, and never boiled the piss out of kidneys for her kidney stew. She was as unique as Gima in her own way. She also saved Gia from self-destruction, limiting his intake of both alcohol and fatty foods, though she was no more successful than Gima in getting him to eat his vegetables.
Gia was an essential part of my childhood, imparting the skills and knowledge that Dad wasn’t around to give. Dad was a known wood butcher, whereas Gia was a talented carpenter. He taught me how to use woodworking tools while he was building the house in Henlopen Acres, where Gima wrote At Home on the Range. I built my first drafting table when I was twelve, living in Seattle, and would go on to a career building locomotives. He was my guide in all things mechanical and precise—at thirteen I can remember carving ham, as taught by Gia, “so thin you could read a newspaper through the slice by moonlight.”
I still miss them all—Gima, Gia, and Marie.