The first Jennie

My parents stopped through last week for a short but lovely visit. This was the first time I saw my parents this year and it’s likely I won’t see them again until Christmas, but that’s how it is when the family is spread out. Every visit, even the short ones, are important.

Mom and Dad in August 2015

Per usual, my mother had things to share with me – heirloom things, nostalgic things – but this time the things belonged to her grandmother, my great-grandmother, the woman after whom I was named.

Carl Jennie wedding

Wisconsin native Jennie Wensink Wehrwein was born in August – like I was – and married in October – like I was – and was creatively inclined. I’ll claim that one too. (The above photo was taken on her wedding day in 1926.) My only memories of my Great-Grandmother include a nursing home visit and then her funeral. I was finishing up eighth grade when she passed.

Below, Jennie is the shorter lady in shades. The beautiful woman in the pink dress looking at the camera is my grandmother, Jennie’s only child:

Grandma with her parents

While there were some very personal items in my Mom’s collection, like identification cards –

old bank account card

– the bulk of the things she brought were Great-Grandma’s cookbooks and old magazines, mostly holiday issues of Better Homes and Gardens from the late 1950s and early 1960s. (If anything, they prove the accuracy of Mad Men’s costume and set design.)

Great-Grandma was a recipe gatherer and, according to my mother, a fabulous cook. Her in-home entertaining must have been on point too because she certainly had enough guidelines and helpful hints to follow.

Cookbook for her

cut recipes

Great Grandma's cookbook

Wisconsin apples

Check out those fancy appetizers!

Shrimp in beer

Let us pause briefly to consider what the Spanish Vegetable Mold might taste like…

Spanish Vegetable Mold

…and wonder what was so fabulous about molded foods in the first place. Aspic Ring Salad anyone?

Jello molds

Of course I wish I could’ve known her better, if only to recall a shared moment of enjoying one another’s name. In lieu of that memory, I’ve been gifted nearly everything that has her monogram, from engraved items to hand-stitched fabrics, as well as a gold-plated necklace that spells out our name in big, bold letters. It really needs a good cleaning.

Though I usually balk at the keeping of things (clutter!), I’m glad these cookbooks are still around. It’s the only real glimpse I have into what Jennie would’ve been like as a wife and mother, and although the duties put upon a wife and mother in the 30s, 40s, and 50s are much different from what they are today, she and I are connected through these roles.

P.S. A few of you might be interested to know that Jennie’s middle name was Leona. 

(Thank you, Grandpa, for your diligent record-keeping of our genealogy.)

One Reply to “The first Jennie”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *