Mammy's Lamp

Mammy’s Lamp

A few days before Christmas, we had quite a lot of snow and a couple of blizzards here in the Colorado mountains.  One night, the electric went off around 12:30 a.m., so within an hour, we decided to get up and light our woodstove for heat, since the furnace was also off.  It’s a good thing we did, because it didn’t come on again until 5:00 a.m.   I have two kerosene lamps we use when the electric goes off because they provide adequate light.  One of them belonged to my mother and the other belonged to my paternal great-grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Cochran Hale, mother of my Taylor grandma.

My paternal great-grandparents owned and operated the only general store within miles of the nearest town, for many years.  Therefore, she was known far and wide as Aunt Nanny.  But to my Grandma Taylor and to me and my brother, she was simply Mammy.  Sadly, she died in April 1963 and my Aunt Fan (her daughter) gave me one of Mammy’s lamps. It is a treasure to me that will be handed down to my kids and grandkids one day, God willing it remains intact.

When we tried to light it during the recent blizzard, it wouldn’t burn.  So, today we got it down and tried to figure out the problem and it seems the top metal part that holds the chimney and has the wick up through it, simply gave up the ghost.  I was lucky enough to find both a new brass fixture and new wicks for it on-line today.  Pondering how long those fixtures had been around on Mammy’s lamp, I was stunned to realize I have owned it for 51 years now and they’ve never been changed during that time.  I don’t know how many years it had been, or even if they had ever been changed, when she had it.  She had electricity for many years before her death, so it had become a mere decoration.

Stopping to remember back when I was a kid and that lamp was actually lit and burning regularly at night, it stirred up a lot of wonderful memories with people in my family who are all now gone, including my brother and only sibling.  The two of us spent all of our childhood summers with our paternal grandparents, who lived close to Mammy, and we’d walk down to her house almost every day and back before dinner.  Therefore, I knew her well.  She was a quiet woman with a heart of gold and a large, happy family.  Nobody entered her house without being warmly welcomed to the enormous dining  table piled high with food and encouraged to eat, no matter which meal of the day was being served.

Perhaps she is sending me a message through that beautiful lamp, at this time of year, which seems to be both happy and sad.  That message might be to treasure those you love and let them know that you do because one day they will no longer be around.  Some insignificant item they once owned will be the thing that you remember them by when you take the time to actually look at it…and truly see it…and remember the good times.

Happy New Year!  May Your Memories All Be Happy!


About jtzortman

Author of "WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW" - A Grandparent's Journey Through Grief, first place award winning novel "FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST" and award-winning novel "SNOW ANGEL". Contributing author to anthologies "Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides", "American Blue", "Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook" and "The Centennial Book of The National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865". Numerous articles, poems and short stories published since 1990. Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Winner of ten writing awards. I live in a quaint Colorado mountain tourist town with my husband and Siamese cat. When deeps snows blanket the terrain and spectacular views from my windows, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.
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18 Responses to MAMMY’S LAMP

  1. mmgornell says:

    Oh, Jackie, your lovely post brought a tear to my eye at the end. I have a modest collection of oil lamps, and we get power outages out here, and lighting the lamps is the only fun part of the no-electricity experience! I love them, and their glow. And when they’re on, I sometimes think about the people they’ve been with, whose touch came with them to me, the homes they lighted and the stories within–and the memories. The stuff of story telling…

    Happy 2015-may it be a good one.



  2. jtzortman says:

    You made my day, Madeline. Thank you for the wonderful comments. We seem to share the love of several things and now can add kerosene lamps to the mix. I’m so glad you stopped by. Happy New Year!


  3. connectdd says:

    What a wonderful memento from this loving woman I your family. Thanks for the post, it brought back some warm memories of my childhood spending time at the grandparents’ cottage in the UP of Michigan. Happy New Year to you and yours!


    • jtzortman says:

      It’s amazing how many of us enjoyed these wonderful lamps back when we were kids. My youngest grandson (age 21) has a house on Michigan’s U.P. I didn’t realize they’d used kerosene lamps there, but it’s logical, now that you mention it. His house is in Lake Linden. His father is a native there. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. Happy 2015 to you and your family, too!


  4. Ramona Armstrong says:

    Hi Jackie,love the story of Mammy’s lamp as i knew her as a child. We called herAunt Nan. Also reminds me of my own grandmother and her Aladdins lamp which she cherished.It was handed down to mom and then me. I also have two other oil lamps,one was Mom’s and the other my Grandma Vanoy.Brings back precious memories of my chidhood when we used them, and how I always loved the warm glow they gave out . Mom ritual was to clean the chimney’s trim the wick fill with oil,then light the lamps. We sat around the fire in the winter and read by those old lamps.
    Wonderful memories,that bring a warmthto my heart and a tear to my eye.

    Thanks Jackie,and a wonderful blessed ,Happy New Year to you and Richard. Mona


    • jtzortman says:

      Mona – I feel pretty much the same way about sitting around the fire “down home” and doing whatever we were doing by the light of those old kerosene lamps. My grandparents had Aladdin lamps, too, and I guess my aunt inherited them, then my cousin. I loved those, as well. My grandparents didn’t use them as much as these kerosene jobs, though. You were just up the road from where I enjoyed these lamps back when we were kids. Who knew? Happy New Year!


  5. Linda says:

    What a wonderful memory! I remember the shadows cast by the lamplight when I was a child. My mother was a Texan, and when she and my dad moved back to Kentucky (his home) in 1939, she was amazed to see folks carrying their lamps out into the yard. It was much too windy in Texas to do that! I have many ‘coal-oil’ lamps and cannot bear to part with them. I only wish one of them carried the memories yours does. Our house burned, so I have no hand-me-downs from family. I do have a large stainless cook spoon that my mother used, and every day when I use it, I think of her. You never imagine the memories connected to a small inanimate object.


    • jtzortman says:

      Hi Linda – That’s funny about how folks in Texas never took their lamps outside. Mother once told me that her father didn’t have a lantern and when she and her brother had to go to the barn in the early morning darkness (when they were kids), she carried a kerosene lamp to light their way. My lamps both came from Kentucky, as you probably have already surmised. Thanks for leaving a comment. Happy New Year!


  6. Barbara Cummins Shepperson says:

    Love the blog, Jackie, as I do all of them. I must say this one left me with happy memories, as well!


    • jtzortman says:

      Thank you, Barbara. Yes, I know you share similar memories of those lamps “down home” when we were kids. I appreciate your visit and sweet comments. Love you!


  7. Olivia Milton says:

    Reading about the lamp made me look at the one that I inherited from John’s mother, Nellie E. Bauers, who inherited it from her mother,Edith Bauers…I’ve had it about 43 years. I can’t imagine how many different hands have touched it over the years. I use it mostly for decoration, although it could be used for lighting if the need arose. I replaced the wick several years ago so it is ready to use. Mine does not have the metal chimney inside the globe as it appears that yours does so I am sure there were many models to chose from, even ‘back’ then……


    • jtzortman says:

      Olivia – There’s no metal chimney inside of Mammy’s lamp. That’s the place where the sliding window behind it joins panels. Glad you have one of these from John’s grandmother. Your kids/grandkids will treasure that one day, should you choose to pass it on down. Love you. Hope you are feeling better today.


  8. Olivia Milton says:

    I just looked at the photo again of your lamp and see what I thought was a metal chimney within the globe is actually something behind it! Silly me…..


  9. Precious memories of her and that special lamp.


  10. jtzortman says:

    Thank you, John. Happy New Year to you and family.


  11. It’s a wonderful thing to have treasures around you to evoke these warm feelings. I have several items like that: a Fiestaware mixing bowl that I remember my Grandma making waffle batter in. For years, I moved it around with me from house to house. Finally, several years ago, my hubby said, “Let’s just use it.” So we have been. It’s just so special to cook with it and remember my very special Grandma.


  12. jtzortman says:

    Hi Thonie. Yes, you reminded me that I have a Fiestaware pitcher that Richard’s mother had for years and we never use it. I rarely have use for a pitcher, but should do something with it. Maybe give it to Rick, our son. I also have a mixing bowl that was my grandmother’s and never use it. It’s one of those thick green jobs that everyone seemed to use when I was a kid. Thanks for reminding me of it and for sharing your special memories with me. Glad you stopped by my blog and left a comment, too. Happy New Year to you and your hubby and family.


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