Mary, Artie, Louise, Roxsena and Joanne
children of Connie Granados McKnew
– “Her life was shaped by the years living at home caring for
her nine sisters and brothers. Her mother, a beautiful, gentle
Spanish daughter of privilege, was a maker of lace and an
accomplished pianist before moving to rural Maryland via Cuba and
Washington DC. Her
father taught the Spanish language to diplomats and lived away from
home most of the week. Momma was responsible for much of the
cleaning and cooking to be done in her parents’ house.
Because of this dependency by the family, Daddy asked her
father for permission to marry.
Momma said that her father did not bring her mother to their
wedding, for what reason I do not know. They were married just under
one year when I was born. Daddy and Momma lived in a tiny bungalow
in Bladensburg MD, which backed up to the B&O railroad freight
spur line. The thundering freight cars used to make Artie and I
scream in fright, so they moved.
Her mother, (Abuela) died of peritonitis (appendicitis) when
Artie and I were very small, leaving Uncle Tony, the youngest boy,
needing a stable home to care for him.
He lived with Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ramón until he was old
enough to make his own way. Abuelo
ran the house until his sudden death in the 30’s.
Visits to our grandfather were frequent. There were chicken
coops and rabbit hutches, and a huge vegetable garden which provided
meals for the table. He
also grew grapes for wine. Abuelo,
(“Way-lo”) had large barrels of wine fermenting in his basement.
One fall day, we found our Uncles Tony and Johnny stomping grapes in
a huge tub under the walnut tree.
They wouldn’t let us help! Another favorite treat at his
house were the ghost stories told best by Beano and Tony in a dark
closet, which left us wide eyed and scared.
would steam the then plentiful Blue Crabs. The families would gather
to eat them in the big kitchen. Once they turned the basket of live
crabs over to see us scramble screaming for the chairs. We also sat
with the family to eat Calentitos with sugar. What a treat THAT was!
the disturbing side, I remember the loud arguments between
“Wa-lo” and my mother. His
words were punctuated by a pounding fist on the table, which made
the coffee cups rattle. (Mediterranean men were raised to be in
total control of the lives of their children. Should they differ
with him, in any way, he would become the dictator demanding they
change their lives or leave. Young adult Spanish-Americans would not
tolerate this.) So our
mother was the mediator and protector of her brothers and sisters
when there were conflicts between them.
Great Depression caused a lack of jobs, forcing our parents to move
three or four times.
move from Riverdale to Branchville MD, found them trying to fit all
their furniture and beds into a four-room bungalow with a big fenced
yard. The three of us
children slept in one room. Louise,
Artie and I never knew cold or hunger or being deprived.
We knew we were loved, because we were disciplined quickly
when we needed it, mostly for quarreling among ourselves.
There was no permissive rearing in Momma’s family.
Depression years forced a mentality of “Do it yourself” when one
wanted an unaffordable goal. Momma
was resourceful. She
raised chickens for a meat and egg business, made candy, and sewed
our clothes as well as our own.
Daddy made screens and did any kind of work available until
he found work once again as an electrician.
Daddy and Momma experimented with bottling root beer.
Occasionally, they would hear corks pop and bottles break
during the fermenting process. Momma
would run down the basement screaming in frustration.
We knew money was scarce, we heard it all the time.
However, birthday gifts were still bestowed, although very
practical. She made our
Christmases magical, yet our presents were useful.
Socks, warm mittens and hats, pencil boxes, crayons, box
games were the usual gifts. For
entertainment, we visited friends and relatives and played while our
parents played cards and talked.
Birthday parties for cousins were a major picture-taking
event, bringing us second-generation Granados’s ever closer
On Saturday, Momma would drive with us into Washington to the
Farmers Market. Farmers,
fishermen, orchard owners called out their wares and prices. While
we experienced sights and smells of vegetables, fruits, live
chickens, turkeys, she got the best prices possible.
parents insisted on the best education available for us, which was
the Catholic elementary school, Holy Redeemer.
Some of our Granados cousins also attended there.
While we received a good education from the Sisters
Providence (discipline, too), Momma was an active part of the
Mothers Club. She and
the other mothers served monthly school luncheons for a brown-bag
student body. The savory
hot dogs on rolls, cakes, popcorn balls or candy apples on a stick
were a lot of work and so-o-o much enjoyment for the students.
She helped with school bazaars, May Processions, and raffles,
whatever it took to assist the school.
Grandmother, Abuela, had been an accomplished pianist before she
married and moved to the United States.
Although we lived in a country village, our mother was
determined to educate us in the culture of a musical education,
because it was the RIGHT thing to do.
Somehow, Momma acquired an upright piano, then squeezed it
into our tiny living room. A
local piano teacher and our mother conspired to ruin much of our
playtime. Louise and I
hated practicing, hated the daily nagging, and the guilt trips for
wasting $2.00 a week! We battled with her for what seemed to be
years until finally she relented and we stopped.
Daddy played violin with his musician friends.
In those growing years, we often heard classical and
religious music in our house. Better
late than never, as adults, Artie, Louise and I have played guitar,
and piano. I sing in the
church choir. Louise
branched into organ and bell choir.
Daddy loved his violin! When he was a very sick old man, he
sold his treasured instrument in order to keep it from being set
aside in a closet somewhere as a revered memory and souvenir; maybe
even to keep us from fighting over it!
the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, Momma and Uncle Luis had
infrequent letters from Spain. This
caused a lot of anguish about the safety of their grandmother,
Chacha, our many cousins and aunts.
For the most part, her proud heritage was hidden away; and,
no Spanish was spoken at home. In
those years, the United States was not the multi-cultural society we
know now. No one wanted
to be different, because you were discriminated against.
learned more about Momma’s Spanish years during her nursing home
days. At that time in
her life the past was more real than the present.
She talked about the death of her baby sister, Angelina.
She resented the fact that her mother never was permitted to
return to Spain to see her mother again, although “We-lo” went
there often on business.”
-“I’m not sure what kind of a childhood Momma had.
She seldom spoke of her childhood.
I expect that Momma had to be there to help her mother raise
the younger children. Her
mother, she would tell us, would always know whose feast day it was
that day. Abuela would
talk to her about the saints and what they were noted for.”
–“Momma never went out of the house to go to work, although she
worked long and hard, sewing, washing, and cooking, to keep the
family clean and dressed. In
1941, when I graduated from Holy Redeemer Elementary School, we
moved to a very large house in East Riverdale.
one hundred-year-old house was intriguing, but it cost dearly to
school tuition, dental bills, and the cost of Daddy’s car often
had them making ‘Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’ choices.
Resourceful as always, Momma and Daddy rearranged our home to
make two bedrooms available for boarders. She provided them with a
private room and weekday dinners. We met teachers from Maryland, a
government clerk, and Italian bricklayers from New Jersey.
We learned quickly to knock on the one bathroom door and
– The big house on Riverdale Road was the center of our world as
we grew up with our dog, “Boy”, a black and white English
setter. I do not remember where he came from or what happened to him
but he was a good dog.”
– “World War II started and the house was opened up to boarders.
Jobs were plentiful and housing was scarce in Washington, DC.
Mr. Lee, the clerk, was a quiet, shy man.
We were cautioned not to irritate him.
He helped Artie with his reading. We helped Momma keep the
house clean and helped her with the dishes (no dishwashers in those
years). The one bathtub
in the house seemed always to have a grimy ring around the inside.
had chickens under the back porch until they got too smelly.
Then, she had Daddy and his carpenter friend build a chicken
house way back in the yard. Feeding
the chickens fell to us. Cousin
Bob and I used to go in the yard and hypnotize the chickens. We
would tip toe out of the yard and leave them there on the ground
mesmerized. We would
then pick up a rock and throw it in the yard; and, they would wake
up, squawking loudly and run around.
thought nothing of grabbing a chicken, slapping it on a board,
twisting a bent nail around its neck, chopping off its head and
tossing it over in the weeds. Then she would pour boiling water over
the feathers, pluck the chicken, clean and dress it for dinner.
loved her flower garden and spent a great deal of time out in the
yard. It was her
therapy. In the spring, she had a big semi-circle of daffodils
blooming. We all waited for them to come into bloom.
Later, she planted a rose garden with a Blessed Mother statue
those days, we had a “Victory” garden, canned tomatoes, and made
apple sauce from our apple trees. We always had summer tomatoes and
green beans. We picked
wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries from our yard.
Sometimes Momma came home with a bushel of peaches and we
would all have to help her can them in the summer heat of a steamy
kitchen. They tasted so good during the cold winter months.
those war years Aunt Beano came to live with us.
Uncle Johnny joined the Army and served in Africa in the
infantry that eventually took him through Italy.
Uncle Tony joined the Marines and got into pilot training.
He had the task of transporting fighter planes from one
location to the other. Whenever
he could, he would deviate from the flight plan, fly over our house
and buzz us. After a few
minutes of circling the house and hearing the low drone of the
plane, we would all scream at each other and run up the stairs, up
into the attic and up the ladder to the flat roof on the house,
grabbing something to wave on the way.
Tony would waggle the wings and fly off.
Easter, our Aunt Dorothy McKnew was given three baby ducks as a
gift. They came
immediately to live in our chicken house and grew into large white
ducks that would act as “watch ducks” whenever a car drove into
the yard. We had to feed and clean them, two died, but by
Thanksgiving the one remaining duck had become our “pet duck.”
Momma saw it as DINNER duck!!
Our pleadings fell on deaf ears; and, our pet met the same
fate as the chickens. The
baked duck sat there on our Thanksgiving table, but none of us would
eat it! He had been our
pet; and, it just didn’t seem right.
Momma got so mad, she said, “I’m never going to try to
fix a good duck dinner for any of us again!” But she did.
remember Momma always working, washing, cooking, cleaning, sewing,
and ironing. She seldom stopped. She raised six children in the old
Jefferson Avenue (renamed Riverdale Road) house and on occasion some
grandchildren. That house saw birthdays, weddings, Christmas and
– “When I was born in 1945, my mother and father already had
three children, half grown and a baby girl, Roseanne, 18-months old.
In 1948, when I was two years old, my brother Dickey was
born. As I remember, I
stayed outside a lot. In
the winter, we did not miss our nap and went to bed at 8:00.”
– “Dickey was the apple of their eyes.
He was the youngest son, born at a time in their lives when
they were older and secure in life.
He received their best as their youngest child and grew up
thinking the world was his for the taking.”
– “Thanksgiving was a wonderful time.
It was the time of the year that all the kids and
grandchildren shared the good times, watched with wonderment while
Daddy, on his birthday, said the grace and craved the turkey sipping
a glass of Sherry on the side. Each
year, we added another table, until we were around the corner of the
dining room and into the living room.
Christmas, when I was little, Momma would drag out the movie camera;
and, Daddy held the million-watt spotlight as we were called down to
open our presents. After
our eyes adjusted to the spotlight, we opened our presents.
Mom would be saying in the background, “Smile. What did
Santa bring you? Hold it
up for the camera!” This
was an extra special season in our house.
When we got older, there was Midnight Mass.
I remember, one year she made Roseanne and I Christmas skirts
that had decorations (tinsel, bells, holly, and little colored
showed his cowboy hat, outfit, and toy gun.
along with a number of other parishioners at Saint Bernards, was
instrumental in putting together a manger scene, made of mechanical
figures with angels signing “Panis Angelicus” in the background.
I remember how proud she was!
up, I remember when my sisters married.
Louise gave us all her stuff that she didn’t want.
I still have the wooden cedar box she gave me.
Our old house on Riverdale Road was a big house with a very
interesting attic. In
the winter, we played up there a lot and also in the basement, which
was an old-fashioned huge place with an oil- burning furnace.”
– (the house) “It was a haven for all of us, especially the ones
who had to come home to regroup.”
– “Daddy was so proud of a boat he built in the basement from a
kit. It took him a very
long time to finish. When
he finished the boat, it wouldn’t fit through the door to bring it
outside. Artie and Tim
had to dismantle the basement door to get the boat out.
was the boss, but Daddy was always on call and always right there
when she needed him. We
had a very large yard. He
cut the grass every week with a hand mower at first, then a gas
engine mower. He changed
the storm windows every season by himself and fixed all the small
appliances. He was a
parents were devout Catholics, brought us up in the church, sent us
to Catholic school, paid tuition for each of us, and, made sure we
went to Confession and Mass each Sunday.
Even though the money was very tight, Momma stayed at home,
raised her six children and helped Louise raise her children.
They, as well as several of our aunts and uncles, were very
active in St. Bernard’s Parish.
At that time, we knew almost everyone in the parish.
My father and most of the men in the parish used their skills
to build the church and the school for their children.
These buildings are still standing today (50 years later).
With her movie camera, my mother photographed the
parishioners building the church.
This was her way of preserving the history of Saint Bernards.
Her film is preserved to this day in the archives of the
important part of what made our mother special was her Spanish
upbringing. After she
had made several trips back to Sevilla, Spain, her birthplace, she
spoke often of the customs there and played the music of her country
in our house. This
became her passion. She
instilled in all of us her love for her family through her love for
her dear homeland.”
–“As the result of one trip to Spain, her cousin, Paco, allowed
one of his daughters, Lili, to live with them, attend school, become
a Girl Scout and generally become an American girl. When the time
came for Lili to return to the Spain, she had a difficult time
becoming, once again, the submissive Spanish daughter.
In later years, Lili majored in English literature and is
presently a professor in the English Department with the University
of Sevilla, Spain.
–“In the 1960’s, Momma and Daddy sold the house in Riverdale
and moved to a brand new house in College Park Estates”.
– “A developer wanted the land to build apartments.
By that time, Riverdale Road had become very noisy and
– “We came back sadly one day when the fire department, in a
training exercise, burned down the empty house.
It was old, we had moved on with our lives.
Momma would not go.”
– “…we felt that we had to be there to give homage to a house
that had been a home to so many of us.”
– “They were aging and things changed somewhat.
I was older, attending Catholic high school.
I didn’t interact with Momma or Daddy much, because I was
mostly making my own path in the world.
Momma also had changed her interests somewhat and accepted an
offer to work at one of the local libraries.
She learned from Aunt Lola how to make beaded flowers and
made flower arrangements and sold them for many years.”
(formerly Roseanne) “Our mother’s life was an expression of
family values, as well as love and respect for tradition.
She was the ultimate Grandma.
However, she also had the drive and determination to strike
out on her own. When it
was evident that there would not be enough money for their
retirement, mother found a job in the DC school system.
She moved on to become a popular employee at the Public
Library in Hyattsville.”
–“Momma continued to show maternal concern for her sisters and
brothers throughout her life. She hosted and attended wedding and
baby showers, birthday parties, and grieved with them when tragedy
marked their lives. In
her last years, she prayed with their families at their funerals and
when her mind became confused and memory was erratic, her sisters
and brothers faces were always recognized.
She was so glad to see them.”
– “ Daddy’s health was not that good.
He retired and created a few hobbies of his own.
They eventually sold that house and moved to old Greenbelt
until his death. She
later moved into an apartment at Green Ridge House in Greenbelt,
where she was highly respected by the other senior citizens in her
building. When you walked into her apartment, you could see all the
love she had for her dearest things.
She loved her pictures of the family, her Spanish statues,
her Spanish paintings and her African violets.
I will never forget, whenever we visited Momma, the loving
look she gave you when you came in the door.
She never let on how her poor back felt. She enjoyed
immensely her collection of Spanish folk song tapes and opera music,
even old lullabies and Spanish poetry.
She sent birthday cards to each child, grandchild, and great
grandchild like clockwork. Momma’s later years were lonely, but
she did not let that stop her from keeping busy.
She suffered in silence with the loss of Daddy and my brother
Dickey, which affected her deeply when he died suddenly at 39 years
– “Dickey’s drive and intelligence made him a competent and
highly regarded electrician. He was always looking for other
challenges. Momma and
Daddy were frequently dismayed at his escapades.
He gave Momma three fine grandsons of whom she was very
– Dick was a very smart electrician and was quite good at
articulating the details of electrical power systems to our
customers. I wish I had spent more time with him.
– “Dick cared for all of his children.
He took care of his young son, Matthew, when his first
CINDY MCKNEW BEAKES
(Dickie’s first wife, mother of Matthew) - “We
married in July of 1971 after a whirlwind courtship. In that time
period I had the wonderful privilege of getting to know Dickie’s
family. I came from a very small family so it was quite a shock to
me to be surrounded with so many people. It was difficult to put
names with faces, but the one thing that was not difficult was to
receive all the love that was given to me, especially by Connie and
During the time we lived in
College Park, I was indoctrinated into the rich Spanish culture that
Connie was raised in. She showed me home movies of her trips to
Spain. She fixed the most wonderful food I think I have ever eaten.
She gave me the most beautiful lace scarf that I wore at our
wedding. I met many of the Granados clan at the reunions and again
had trouble remembering all the names and faces, but I always felt
warmly loved and accepted into the family. The next chapter was the
birth of our son, Matthew. They were so proud and were doting
Sadly, our marriage was short
lived and we divorced about 1975, a very sad time. Connie and
Arthur although very disappointed were supportive and loving
throughout this difficult time. They had moved to Greenbelt and I
had my own apartment there, just about a block away from each other.
I would often visit them and continued to do so after Connie moved
to Green Ridge House.
In 1987 when Dickie died, it was
such a shock even though we were divorced. We had forged a
friendship and respect for each other. I cannot even begin to
imagine what it did to Connie to lose her youngest son, and felt sad
for her and the rest of the family. Blessedly, she had her deep
faith and the love and support of all her children to help her
through it. Her faith was such an inspiration to me.
Years later when she left to
move closer to Mary, I remember something that she did for me. It so
touched me and epitomized her loving spirit and loyalty to family.
During the time Dickie and I lived with them, she spend her evenings
making beautiful beaded flower arrangements. I marveled at her
patience and skill. Connie asked that an arrangement of beaded
daisies and cattails in a beautiful green glass vase be given to me.
When Joanne brought them, I sat down with those flowers and cried.
It touched me so deeply that she would do this and did not surprise
me at all. That was all she did, give of herself to others and love
to her family. Those flowers sit on a dresser in my bedroom to this
day, reminding me of her so I am thankful for the precious days with
her. She taught me the wonderful gift of faith that those who pass
on share in the lives of loved ones.”
(oldest son of Dickey) - "Where
shall I start? My greatest memories of “Grandma Connie” were all
so wonderful. I remember
going to visit her and
Greenbelt, playing with her dog “Toby”. She was always cooking
something and you could bet that if there was something cooking in
her kitchen it was going to be good. She was always there for us
(Scott, Chris, and myself), when Scott was born she came and stayed
at our home in Cheverly to help out while his mother recovered in
I really began to get to know her when she was living at
Green Ridge House in Greenbelt. When I would visit, she would take
me out to the garden there and put me to work. There was always a
reward after work, some Gazpacho soup, Tomatoes and Peppers, or if I
was lucky some Paella.
She was fair to all
of us and always stressed that we do well in school.
“Make sure you keep those marks up” she would say,
‘Without an education you won’t be able to get a good job.’ If
I had only listened to her!”
- “I can say now that I didn’t get to know my mother until I got
married and came back home to visit.
We seemed to get along well and, for the first time, I
didn’t feel like I was in the way or making her mad.
This was because I never really got to know her.
We never talked together much up till then.
I know how she felt and could almost predict what she was
going to say. All
through her life, she had a good sense of humor when things
irritated her or went wrong.”
–“Momma loved all of us with a kind of ‘bound-up love.’
It wasn’t expressed in words or hugs, but we knew she loved
us. She was an
independent woman who loved to sew, read, and made the best of her
failing health when her eyes and arms weakened and she could no
longer do the things she enjoyed. When life dealt her lemons, Momma
“From her beginnings in poverty, she was able to leave her
children a generous spiritual, as well as financial, legacy.”
– “Our mother was a special lady. She was from the old school
who taught her children how to be successful the old fashioned way.
We were showed that a job well done can be very rewarding both
economically and psychologically. This was not always my opinion. I
can remember as a captive audience, her saying that my standards of
excellence were far below what she expected. I told her, “If you
were my boss in the working world, I would quit!” Momma was the
heart and soul and chief motivator of the McKnew family. It was only
through the example of loving parents that we acquired the tools
that we needed to raise our own families.
– “In closing, I truly believed that she loved her life every
second of the day and was truly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary
up till her death. We will all miss this woman, whom we call