Today would have been my Grandmother’s birthday. She passed away so long ago you would think she could not influence my life now, but she does. My grandmother was a very strict and rigid woman. I cannot imagine how hard her life must have been. The family story tells us that her father was ridden out of town on a rail. Now, for those of you who have no idea what that means, it isn’t pleasant. There are many connotations from back in Pilgrim times, to tarring and feathering. What I think it meant in my Great Grandfather’s time was that he was physically taken out of town in a very un-pleasant way and threatened not to come back. So, my Great-Grandmother raised a large family by herself. As a result, my Grandmother and her siblings were very close – as you can well understand – all they had was each other.
My grandmother was very religious and raised in a very strict household. I believe she almost persecuted herself in her life and if I were to dwell on that it might really drive me crazy and make me extremely sad. Today, I don’t want to dwell on that. I want to think about and celebrate the positive influence she was in my life.
My grandmother sang as she went about her household chores. I can always remember her singing ‘Peace in the Valley’ as she cleaned and cooked. She was a great cook and today I will still get extremely excited if ‘hotcakes’ are served with warm syrup. Just the way Mam-Maw made them. She raised her 4 grandchildren for a time. Being the age I am now, I understand all too well how hard that was. To cook, clean, and try to get us to behave, bathe, and do as we were told must have really been hard. And those of you that know us, we could possibly have been a bit of a handful.
Mam-Maw – forgive me for sharing this, but it really is a great memory for me. Mam-Maw used to bleach the hair on her upper lip. You see, there were times that I imagined doing that myself! It was the ultimate in being all grown up. Now that I have dark hair growing in odd places, it doesn’t seem so romantic! She had beautiful shoes and beautiful hats that she wore to church – and she had lots of pop-beads that we sometimes got to wear to church, too.
I also remember us sitting around the red recliner as she peeled apples (one long strip of peel with a paring knife – remarkable) into a pie-pan. We sat and ate piece after piece of fresh slices of apples. I remember her playing the ukulele and singing “Little Mohee”. I remember her sweeping away the snow under the forsythia bushes in the winter so she could feed the birds. I can also remember sitting at the dining room table with her staring outside at fresh fallen snow unscathed by human footprints – amazed when the cardinals were ablaze against a field of white.
Today I honor this woman of grace and faith and determination. I forgive the human side of her that struggled. I remember that Daddy always sent her roses on her birthday and had the florist type each of our names on a piece of paper and staple it to a rose (her name was Rose) – so she knew they were from each of us. I remember that she passed away on her birthday….
Mam-Maw – I love you. I did as a child and I do now. I respect you for the difficult life you had and for all the good things you taught me. I think of you at Christmas and every time I see a cardinal. I was about 8 or 10 when you passed away. I remember how heartbroken Daddy was and how hard he tried to get home to see you before you were gone. He didn’t make it. I smile to know that he sees you now and that you are together again. I remember the story about how you tried to get Ollie to let you ‘adopt’ Mary so ‘Little Jim’ would have a playmate – especially funny knowing that they eventually married each other later in their lives.
Today I am thankful for the life I led. For the memories and the difficult times. For the beauty of the place you settled and called home, for I got to grow up a little girl there. The Valley will always be home to me in so many ways, even though I have no physical home there any more. If you had not been the strong woman you were, faced with the challenges you had, I may not be here experiencing the joy that life has shed upon me. Happy Birthday Mam-Maw. Some 48 years later, I haven’t forgotten you. You still make me smile.