Today would have been my grandmother’s 120th birthday. I think of her often but today almost slipped by without me acknowledging her. I have written about my grandparents and my parents many times in my other blog A Life Worth Living, but I do not like it when I get so busy I let days slip by.
What a grand lady she was. Very religious, very conscious of what everyone thought and very fastidious. (You can read more about her in the blog Happy Birthday Mam-Maw which I wrote in 2010.) I think she would have been very distraught living in 2018. Life has changed dramatically since she was born in 1897, but even more so since she passed away in 1969.
One of the memories I have of her was when I was seven or eight. I spent endless hours going through her jewelry box or spending time looking at old photos. One day I found a photo of her and some of her friends smoking a cigarette. Of course, me being me, I asked her about it and laughed because I believed I had ‘caught’ her smoking. The mood became very serious very fast. She explained that she and her friends were ‘pretending’ to smoke in the picture. She was ashamed of it now, some 30-40 years later. She told me she wished she had destroyed the photo so no one would ever see it.
So many people of that generation felt guilty about so much. It’s a shame really because young people should live a fun life. Whether she ever smoked or not, I didn’t care. I loved her just the same. As a matter of fact it made me more curious about her – she earned an air of mystique in my mind that day.
It reminds me of a great article I read in the Washington Post written by Christine Organ “Parents, Stop Micromanaging Kids’ Relationships with Grandparents“. It’s a great article about the relationship forged between grandparents and their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent – or a parent who now has their parents as grandparents to their children – I highly recommend the article.
My grandmother was not like the grandmother in the article, but I did like there was something about her I just didn’t know. Now that I am older and the pseudo-family genealogist, I am more interested in the small background stories of common every-day people than I am some glowing pedigree.
I found an old black and white negative of my grandmother back when I was first interested in photography. I took it to the lab and printed it. As the image slowly appeared, I saw a woman I had never ever seen before. My grandmother – with her hair cascading around her shoulders and jeans rolled up sitting on a rock. My grandmother as a young woman.
It would be the first photo I would hand-color. I look at it now and see how much detail was lost in the negative. But that’s the photographer and artist in me. The little girl in me sees her grandmother as beautiful as can be without a care in the world. I love that woman as much or more as the woman who helped raise me.
So, Happy Birthday Mam-Maw. I have never forgotten you. I have so many vivid memories of our time together. This little girl still misses her grandmother.
“Having a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grand-child’s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details.”