The Great Mother Made Peach Ice Cream

from “Like Mother, Like Daughter”

With the constant anguish of collective life from covid, climate change, racism, and war, I call on the Great Mother to be with me and comfort me. This week, she appeared–not as a winged Goddess from Greece, Sumeria, Europe, or Egypt, but in a dream-like memory of my Grandma Edna, a Missouri farm woman who died in the 1970s.

At the farm

When I was a child, Grandma baked bread, biscuits, and pies fit for the gods. When she wasn’t in the kitchen or garden, she wore her whale bone corset and pearls, played the piano and sang in a rich big voice. She demanded respect. My older brother was afraid of her and my mom kept her mother-in-law at a distance, but I loved Grandma’s ample body, big voice, and clear emotions. This sweltering week, I remember her love in the form of peach ice cream.

With my brother Jim

Grandpa hand milked their one cow and Grandma separated the cream. She picked, peeled, and chopped fresh ripe peaches dripping with sticky juice from her orchard. She mixed the peaches with sugar, a dash of vanilla, and heavy cream, giving me fragrant tastes as she mixed.

Grandma filled the quart-sized container in the middle of the wooden ice-cream churn with the fruity mix while Grandpa fetched ice from the ice house (pond ice harvested in winter and still hard and cold in mid summer). He surrounded the ice cream mixture with crushed ice, added rock salt, put on the lid, and cranked. Sometimes, my dad cranked, too. The whole family gathered outside in the shade of the old catalpa trees and drooled with anticipation

Grandma Edna, 1945 (the year I was born)

It was all in the service of Grandma’s Peach Ambrosia, a creamy celestial treat to feed her family with life’s sweetness.

I felt safe in my Grandma’s rural Missouri home. Instead of plumbing and running water, there was a pump in the yard for water and a well-maintained outhouse. Grandma magically transformed when she played classical music and show tunes on her well-tuned piano in the parlor when the temperature cooled. She was a classically trained pianist and contralto who met my granddad in Chicago, but that’s another story.

For this last post of the summer and as a memory of the Great Mother’s gifts, I’ll stick with peach ice cream.


Do you have a personal image or two from your childhood of someone who felt like a positive Great Mother or Matriarch? The memory of homemade peach ice cream is all I need.

For other posts about Grandma Edna, see Safe in the Great Mother’s Bed. For another post about my early girlhood on my grandparent’s farm and my deep love for Grandpa, see How I Learned to Trust a Man.

  1. Yay! It’s that second Tuesday and I was drooling with anticipation to read more of your delicious, sweet words Elaine, and boy I wasn’t disappointed today! This is such a tasty, lip-smacking post, especially that first photo and yum, another opportunity for me to dine on more scrumptious words from you! I think I love your grandma too, having read the other articles you link below about life with her and grandpa.

    Oh, and I love that you’ve positioned her dollies above your bed and that she evokes the Great Mother for you. What treasure in one’s life, especially one who made peach ice-cream! Oh yes! Lovely photos too, especially that sweet little one of you and your brother Jim.

    For two successive summers I remember staying at my grandmother’s house with a sister of mine and loved it. There was several fruit trees in her garden, which were perfect for climbing, alongside many outbuildings to play in. My grandfather grew lots of veg and was still working on the farm then so I only got to see him at the end of the day. He was a very tall and warm-hearted man who knew how difficult things were at home.

    Well, many thanks my dear friend for helping me relive those happy memories here on the last metrological day of summer. Only thing is now the aroma of apple pies seems to be drifting by on my memory breeze which means only one thing … it’s time to find me some sweetness in my favourite jar! Love and light, Deborah.

    • Dear Deborah,
      Sweet! Too sweet for my present tastes, but I enjoyed local peaches and Greek yogurt with a dash of honey and cinnamon and the memories came rushing in. My mom was on the frosty and lean side while Grandma Edna was a voluptuous feeling type–full out with loud laughter, music and baking. I loved sleeping next to her soft cushy body when I was a child. The farm years ended when my grandpa died of a stroke when I was 9. (Too much ice cream and butter?) Grandma moved to an apartment to town and I walked there after school where I could have as much Pepsi, as many cinnamon balls, and as much TV as I wanted–unlike my mom. As an adult, I’m grateful for my mom’s health consciousness. My bedroom is filled with family memories–the bed and dressers from my maternal grandparents, Grandma’s doilies, and a large portrait of my Grandpa’s little sister Eliza who died at 6 in a tornado.

      I’m glad you had family who knew how hard things were for you at home, but they probably didn’t know the half of it. Blessings and healings for all your wounds and the loneliness of life.

      • Ha-Ha! A voluptuous feeling type eh?! Oh, I absolutely love this description, and although my body shape is not soft and cushiony, I can relate to that way of being emotionally, as this poet’s heart is indeed voluptuous, full and bursting with love and laughter, often!

        Thank you for the extra spoon of your peachy, sweet words. They taste so good! x

        • She had the best classical teachers in Chicago leading her to the opera stage–but then her parents died. She never lost that big presence. I love your voluptuous images. Yum!

  2. Wow, this is a classic! I love your Grandpa’s tie, and your stories of how they brought rich customs (and ice cream) into the 20th century.
    I often think of my grandmother, born in 1896, and how the stories she recounted of her own grandmother connected me to even earlier times in the 19th century.
    So, did you make that peach ice cream? My recent urge took the easy road – I didn’t milk the cow, cut and store the pond ice, turn the crank, no. It was a peach milkshake in the blender with vanilla ice cream. Yummy and quick, but no ritual or special anticipation of a rare, once-a-year treat!
    Bravo and thank you!
    p.s. Let’s hear how they met in Chicago when you have a chance.

    • Classic Grandma. I settled for local peaches, Greek yogurt, and a dash of David’s honey from North Carolina–and that set off my memories. I know how my grandparent’s met in Chicago, but a story for another time. She was a highly trained classical musician but both her parents died by the time she was 16, so that ended her planned career. Life had other things in store. Love to you in these wild times.

  3. What a rich memory – Grandma Edna’s huge heart, big voice, and ample body with hands that could play classical melodies AND turn the churn for peach ice cream. I too remember a similar churn and a “well-maintained outhouse” complete with a Sears & Roebuck catalog.

    Precious memories, how they linger. 🙂

    • Marian, I thought of you as I wrote this. My family was loosely Presbyterian, but other than that, I always resonate with your stories of family farm life. Yes, the Sears & Roebuck catalog on the bench next to the modern seat over the hole in the ground. When it was cold, I used a fancy chamber pot inside and Grandma emptied it. It was always clean. With memories of Missouri, now and in the past.

  4. Such a heart-warming recollection, Elaine! Thanks for sharing.

    • Grandmothers are so important. I’m watching many of our friends as they fall in love with their grandkids. Thanks for commenting, Peggy.

  5. Now I really want peach ice cream!!!

    • I wanted it yesterday, but the weather changed dramatically (again) to cold and wet and now I’d like a hot, just-out-of-the-oven peach cobbler with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m too far from the grocery to actualize this on a whim, so it will remain a fantasy.

  6. Love this. It brings up so many great memories. I had a grandmother like that too. She and Grandpa lived on a Michigan farm. When my mother was a child, there was just an outhouse, but Grandpa updated it by building on a bathroom that opened directly into the kitchen! He loved to make divinity and popcorn balls on weekends. Sone Saturday nights, he would cut off a chicken’s head on a wood stump with an axe, then bring it in to Grandma when it stopped running around. She’d wash it off in her kitchen sink — it had a pump just next to it that she’d have to prime to get the water to flow out –then she’d pluck it, carve it up, and let it sit in the icebox overnight. Next morning she’d cook it in her pressure cooker with vegetables added so it would be ready to have for lunch when we got home from church. She made great sugar cookies with icing tinted with food coloring. At night she’d lie in bed with us and tell us a story about gypsies and bandits or cowboys and Indians. It was a good place for a little girl to grow up in and a good way to feel loved. Thanks for the memories, Elaine.

    • I love your grandpa, Jeanie–and then there’s the chicken scene. The necessities of rural life. My grandma did that deed. I don’t know who killed the rabbits for dinner or how they did it. The pressure cookers that occasionally blow a lid!!! And oh so beautiful red food coloring. My grandma had a set of 4 colors. The lying in bed together was the best part for me. I loved cuddling with her cushioned body in her soft flannel nightgown. I love your memories. Thank you.

  7. What lovely memories Elaine! The Crone is so important in a young child’s life when s/he is a beneficial and loving presence. I have only vague memories of my grandmothers, both of whom lived with our family at various stages. My paternal grandmother I remember as being dark and brooding as per her Norwegian make up and my maternal Scots grandmother I can barely remember, only that she was fair and blue eyed. I don’t recall treats from them! I surely would have had we received them. Maybe this helps me to realise to be a loving presence in my son and daughter-in-law’s lives when their baby is born. Yes, I’ve heard that the grandparents fall in love all over again with their grandchildren. My parents were very sweet and kind to my sons when they were small so I could be witness to the positive effect of grandparents .. thank you, this was a lovely, delicious and charming post.

    • Thank you, Susan. I agree you have an opportunity to be a huge positive force in your grandson’s life. My grandma expressed herself through music and food, but I also had a Great Aunt Grace who read me stories and made special food treats. I loved her and felt loved, plus she introduced me to terrific books. Aren’t you already in love with this baby and want to know about his kicks? I’m in love with you from afar. Blessings in the midst of and despite the chaos.

  8. Wow! That’s surely a wonderful memory. I wish I could see my grandparents; they were passed away as I was born. But I can remember the shop with its old barrel with which the shop owner made the ice cream. I will never forget the smell of this delicious product when I used to pass by the shop. Thank you, dear Elaine, for sharing such beautiful memory.

    • I’m sorry you never met your grandparents, Aladin. You had a rough childhood in so many ways. I’m fortunate I knew all four and they were loving. Still, you can taste Great Mother in that delicious ice cream. I haven’t had many dreams lately and wondered, “Where is the Great Mother?” All I had to do was remember visiting my grandma on the farm. She was a power woman and Great Mother.

  9. Your post is a delight in so many ways, Elaine. The photo of your Grandma and Grandpa standing next to each other at the farm has me smiling from ear to ear, and the memory of homemade peach ice cream has me both salivating and traveling down memory lane. Actually, my first memory was not of homemade ice cream but of hearing the sound of the ice cream truck jingle (I have learned that the one from my era has racist origins) and running towards it with my short 3 year-old legs and my fist clenched tightly around a nickel.

    I only knew one of my grandparents, and unfortunately she had lived a life deprived of love, which did not allow her to feel and express love. There is a strange synchronicity in that, on the day you posted your piece, I was writing with my writing partner on the topic of family secrets. Unexpectedly, what came out was my terror as a young child at seeing a knife peek out from under my grandmother’s pillow when we were visiting and I was sharing her bed. At the time, there was nowhere I knew to seek comfort.

    Reading your post has me searching for someone from my childhood who felt like a positive Great Mother. In particular, there was a lovely woman named Pat who was a friend of my parents, and even though I did not get to see her often, I vividly remember the feeling of safety being in her presence. Thanks to you, I am going to choose for my writing topic this week the ways that the Great Mother has shown up in my life. Love, Anne

    • Anne, the ice cream truck jingle was in town where I lived with my brother and parents, 10 miles from the farm. My mom often said No! about ice cream. My grandma always said Yes. That knife is a scary image–why did she have a knife under her pillow and what did she plan to do with it? Of course you’ll never know and she wouldn’t have said. I have a few Great Mother figures, but both my grandmothers qualify. My maternal grandmother was quiet and sweet, but loving. All four of my grandparents were loving. We lived in Michigan when my dad died, so my maternal grandparents showed up most weekends that year. Grandma Margaret (my middle name) often brought a homemade pie. Her cooking was bland, but it was homemade and by then my mom was a devotee of TV dinners and chicken pot pies. I had to learn to cook in self-defense.

      It feels important to remember the feminine influences in our life since the masculine influences were often so dominating. My maternal grandmother was so loved by my grandfather. She was about 5 feet tall and he was over 6 feet. I remember his hand caressing her wrinkled cheek in the sweetest way. I was fortunate to be exposed to many loving marriages as a kid. Great Mother, hold us in your lap now. Love from here.

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