My Beautiful Wickedness


True things about my grandmother
June 4, 2007, 10:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today would have been my grandmother’s 114th birthday. She’s been dead for 24 years.

She had eyes the color of spring skies without clouds. She had fiery red hair. She was intelligent, quiet in her manner, serious from the cares of her life. She married her husband when she was 16 years old and in love, a scandal to her upwardly aspiring family as he was the illegitimate child of a dirt farmer and she was being reared for better things. The rest of her family looked down on her for the rest of her life. She had a proud streak herself.

My grandparents had their first argument on their wedding day. She waited all night for him to ask her to dance and he never got around to it. She never quite forgave him for that humiliation. It was a sign of things to come.

She bore 13 children in a little under thirty years. She spent half her life pregnant, nursing, or both. She raised all her kids to adulthood in a four-room log cabin buit in the 1790s. She and the girls ran a 175-acre farm while her husband and boys rode the bus to Armco or went to the track or played basketball. All her kids graduated from high school and the youngest went to college. Her sons were pretty much worthless around the farm. Her daughters are all hard working good women. She worked every inch of that property except the place where the Shawnee had buried their dead before our family had arrived. (Kentucky Gas got that when they dug the pipeline across the property, in case you’re wondering why I’m not doing something archaeological with that site right now.) Her cold cellar was always filled and swept clean. Her hogs, hens, cattle, and fields kept the entire holler fed during the Great Depression.

She was deeply Catholic in a Protestant region. When bigots burned down the local chapel for the third time, she walked her children every Sunday to the church in a town 16 miles away. She believed in the healing properties of holy water, but she also knew her roots and herbs. She was named for a healer and a witch in the family. (So am I.) She could keep a secret better and do more with a patch of ground than any person I ever met. Her favorite moon was the new moon.

Four sons served overseas in WWII; two were wounded, but none died. Two more worked in defense industries at home. 3 daughters were Rosies and built planes in Akron, Ohio.

She loved her husband with all her heart and suffered his flaws, mostly. She could not bear looking like a fool in public, though. As a young mother of three, she went abroad looking for him after he didn’t come home one night and a neighbor came by to nose and gloat. Acting on the tip, she caught her husband in bed with a local strumpet. She gave him a thirty-second head start to get his pants and grab his shoes and then she began shooting, taking shell after shell out of her apron pocket. The kids ran behind her, begging “don’t kill him, mommy, don’t kill him.” She didn’t stop firing until he was back on her porch. He was more discreet thereafter.

She was fixy. She wanted her hair blue-rinsed and her dresses pressed. She always wore stockings, even on the hottest days. She kept her skin covered under a hooded bonnet and long sleeves so she wouldn’t look common (being tanned meaning that you had to work in the fields…)

She was a quilter and a canner and a get stuff done-r. She had a stubborn practicality than found a way. Every grandchild she had (and there were over a hundred of us) was made to feel as though we were special to her. Not her favorite, as there were no favorites — but unique and good and loved for who were were.

I miss her.

Edited to add: Turns out that Sista also has a granny worth remembering. Hers was born in Adair Co., mine was born in Boyd Co., KY.

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2 Comments so far
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Absolutely beautiful.

You are giving me the courage to write about my weekend, which I think I’ll do tonight.

Regardless, I would have loved to have met your grandmother.

Comment by Slartibartfast

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. My grandmother (1874-1947) and yours would have gotten along, both strong women who could do what needed to be done. I’m sorry I never met mine.

Comment by listmaker




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