Sunday, May 08, 2011

My mother's mother on Mother's Day

Women of a certain age (like in their early 60s) most likely were raised by women who in turn were raised by women who learned how to “make do” when times were hard.

I will pause a moment so you can get that worked out.

To make it easier, I am talking about our grandmothers, women who were young women in the early 1900s. And for younger women, that would be great-grandmothers.

On this Mother’s Day, I am thinking about my mother’s mother. Her name was Elsie. I called her “Mongie” because that’s what came out when I was learning to talk and tried to say “Grandmother.”

She died in March 1957, when she was 71 years old, and I was 8 (or maybe I was 7 and would have been 8 in October – I can’t figure it out).

I do remember her, but most of my memories of her are of stories that my mother has told me about her.

My mother had no explanation for why her mother was dressed this way, in her husband’s clothes, standing by the house on their ranch in Colorado.


I love this photograph of her. I have it on the wall.

Elsie married Walter in 1906, and I suspect she had not been married very long when this picture was taken. I suspect the great sorrows that followed this woman around had not yet come into her life.

In 1907 she gave birth to a boy, who died at 3 months.
In 1909 she gave birth to a girl, who died at 1 month.
In 1912 she gave birth to a boy, Ellis. He survived childhood and died in 1976.
In 1918 she gave birth to a boy, who lived 3 weeks.
In 1926 she gave birth to my mother. This will be my second Mother’s Day without my mom. I miss her so much.

Then, in 1936, when my mother was 9 years old, Walter was killed in an accident on the ranch. He took his gun and went off on the horse to do something – possibly to shoot coyotes or perhaps get a rabbit for dinner. They surmise that the horse stumbled and he dropped the gun. It went off and he was shot and he died.

So Elsie buried three children and her husband.

They ended up in Los Angeles when my mom began high school, and I think my favorite Grandmother story stems from that time. They did not have much food in the house, possibly not much more than a sack of potatoes and some tea bags and sugar. Elsie told my mother to invite a friend over. Elsie sliced the potatoes and fried them, and made hot tea, and they had a party with tea and potatoes and played games and had a great time.

I cherish the legacy this country woman instilled in my mother – the attitude of frugality and “making do” and learning to have a good time despite the circumstances.

6 comments:

Lo said...

Lovely, wonderful story.....wonderful Grandma.

I am lucky.......my Grandma was of the same generation. Forgive me if I say , "The hardly make 'em like that anymore."

Oklahoma Granny said...

What a wonderful story! Our grandmothers certainly didn't have easy lives.

Kathy said...

What an amzing story. It breaks my hear that women of this generation and earlier lost so many children. She looks like a woman of such spirit. This generation was made of tough stuff.

Have Myelin? said...

The more you talked about Elsie, the more I could feel her pain it seemed. Both of my grandmothers lost children. I love the name Elsie. My grandmothers have unusual names too. DeCinter and Myrtle. (after Myrtle Beach)

I love that picture...

I notice I am starting to remember a lot of things from my childhood... and thinking about them.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural said...

I love that photo! There's just something about it that seems so much more real than many photos I see of that era. You made me well up with the story of the potatoes and tea.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a wonderful photograph..my goodness your Grandmother must have been a strong woman to have suffered so many losses. One of my Grandmothers was named Elsie too..she was a good grandma to me. Yes they all made do with what they had and were still happy.
I bet you felt sad on Mothers Day..missing your Mom and missing your son..I am sending you a hug:)