Thursday, February 26, 2015

Repeat of a Past Post

A couple of days ago I got a wonderful handwritten letter via snail mail from a cousin I hadn't heard from in a while.  In his letter he enclosed copies of some pictures he had come across from the childhood we shared.

One of the photos was a picture of my maternal grandparents' house.  J and I both spent our early years living there with our mothers when our fathers were in Europe involved in World War II.

Seeing that house I loved so much brought back memories of both my grandma and grandpa.  Following is a reprint of a post I wrote way back when I first started blogging.  I'm sure it will be new to most of you because I think I had a grand total of two readers back then.  Here it is.

My Grandma Maggie

I almost named my daughter McLean.  That was my grandma's middle name (it was pronounced "MacLain"), and I thought seriously of naming our daughter after her great-grandmother.  But I knew it would get shortened to Mac, and I wasn't crazy about that.

Grandma was born in Beith, Scotland, in 1893, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was fifteen years old.  She remembered whole winters in the Old Country when they had very little to eat but potatoes.  Hardy stock, but certainly not well-to-do in a financial sense by any means.  She met and married Grandpa when she was just sixteen years old (he was twenty-five), and they raised seven children, a boy born first and then six girls.  I remember being shocked when my mom told me Grandma had had so many miscarriages that she didn't actually remember how many.

Grandma was an excellent example of making do with what she had.  Grandpa kept a huge vegetable garden, and Grandma canned and preserved everything.  She cooked anything my grandpa brought home whether it be fur, fowl, or most of the time, fish.  When they were raising their family, what he brought home for the table constituted a large part of their diet.  Since he was such an avid fisherman, there was nearly always live bait in her refrigerator, sometimes not as contained as she would have liked it to be.

My mom worked outside the home, and Grandma took care of me and my brother during the day.  She came to our house each week day, cooked, cleaned and cared for us.  After that she went home and did her own housework, got a meal for herself and Grandpa, then a couple of nights a week, got "gussied up" (a favorite term of hers) to go out for the evening.  Most often these evenings were spent with other lady friends at the local bingo hall.  What fun they had for the price of a couple of dollars.  I know because she took me with her many nights, and the socialization involved a lot of chatter and much laughing.

She and Grandpa had a solid but teasing/bickering relationship.  He referred to her as "The Old Battle Axe," and she constantly complained about him spending too much time with his "girlfriends" in the neighborhood.  Grandpa retired from his blue collar job early because of health problems but was constantly on the go, if not working around their house and yard, then off somewhere doing good deeds for anyone who needed help.  Often the women Grandma jokingly referred to as his "girlfriends" were elderly widows, single mothers, or those whose husbands were too lazy to do maintenance around their house or yard.

I can vividly remember sitting in our old German doctor's waiting room (I was probably only six or seven) with my mom and Grandma after Grandpa had been brought in there to be checked over after he had fallen out of a neighbor's plum tree he was pruning.  I can still see Grandma sitting there turning the broken parts of his glasses over and over in her hands while muttering words about the stupidity of the old coot, and why couldn't he stay home rather than running all over town (he'd only been next door) risking life and limb falling out of a tree and landing on his head.

Grandma believed you should never go out in public without your spurs on (by this she meant make-up and hair done and in nice clothes) because you never knew when you might need them.  She was a petite, little woman and being short, she liked to wear high heels (she had really nice legs!), and she loved keeping polish on her pretty fingernails.  She had beautiful snow white hair from an early age, and it always looked nice although I doubt she ever saw the inside of a beauty parlor.

When Grandpa died, Grandma found she didn't like living alone.  Each of her children, to the last one, wanted her to come live with them. Grandma decided she would just float around for a while, a month here, a couple of months there, but always ended up spending the longest times at the house with the most or smallest children as she adored wee ones, and wanted to be kept busy and feel helpful.

She died one day shy of exactly two years after Grandpa did.  That was in 1965 when she was 72 years old.  Cause of death was listed as leukemia.  Not that it wouldn't have been possible, but no one else in our large family has ever had any form of cancer (for which we can be very, very thankful, needless to say) and I've always wondered if she missed Grandpa more than anyone realized.

I have a strong feeling that if I had been blessed with more children, there would have been a boy named McLean or a girl named Maggie.  With hindsight, I can now see that by giving a descendant an ancestor's name, it's not only a way of honoring that person but possibly even carrying on their spirit.

The end.

20 comments:

  1. How I would have loved a grandma like that! And I can see that you, you little apple, you, landed not far from that tree. After I read this, I had such pangs of nostalgia for simpler times. While I know that times will only get more complicated, it is so nice to be old enough to remember a kinder, simpler life.

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    1. Susan - Yes, yes, yes! That is what these memories are about . . . simpler (MUCH simpler) times! They are so hard to explain to the current generation that has never experienced such a time. Do you think our society will ever get back to those times??

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  2. What a nice post this is. I too miss both my grandma's. My grandpa's too. They were all so unique like yours.

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    1. Thank you, Kristina. Our grandparents were made out of a different cloth than people are today. But then, they lived in a very different world.

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  3. Lovely post, MPea. I feel fortunate that I, too, had a chance to hang out with my paternal grandma--in spite of our family travels. She lived in South Dakota and was well known for her delicious "prairie cooking" (lots of butter and lard, goose/duck fat, whole farm milk etc.) She met grandpa while cooking with the other eligible young belles at threshing bees. Farming and food was her whole world and Grandma always had a garden right up to the end of her life. She lived to be 84 and rarely saw a doctor. She also was way ahead of her time. In the 1960's, when Grandma started to warn people about eating store bought food, she would shake her finger and say,"You'll be embalmed before you're dead!" Yep, Grandma had a huge influence on who I am today. I miss her.-M

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    1. M - Bless your grandma! Yes, eating manufactured food that isn't really food that can nourish your body, combined with being pumped full of pharmaceuticals, WILL embalm you before you're dead! ;o]

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    1. The Weekend Homesteader - Thank you for saying so!

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  5. Great post, Mama Pea. I love hearing anyone's family stories about Grandparents and Great-Grandparents. Every one is unique, but so many share the common themes of starting out young, making due through the hardest times, raising strong families, and staying together for a long lifetime. I find them all kind of inspiring. Thank for sharing (or re-sharing) that one.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I often wonder if when our children (and grandchildren) tell the stories of OUR lives, they will seem as interesting . . . and admirable and inspiring. Hmmmm . . .

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  6. Oh Mama Pea, what wonderful memories. I never knew a grandpa from either my Mama or Daddy. Others in our family did & they were both crotchety old men. One a womanizer & the other a hard working sharecropper. My Grandma Miller basically raised me. She was always against all odds but I never felt anything but absolute love from her. She would put herself in front of anything that would cause those she loved harm. She died in 1980 & what I wouldn't give to have her here teaching me how to make her special apple pies.

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    1. DFW - Ah, hindsight. There is SO much I wish I had thought to ask my grandma and grandpa about. That opportunity is gone forever now. My daughter has been bugging me to write down my memories of my family (and same for her dad) and although I think it may be boring for you readers here on the blog, it seems the logical place for me to write it out.

      So glad you had your Grandma Miller to raise you with so much love. That counts for everything!

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  7. Mama Pea,

    A beautiful story, and memories of your Grand Parents, thank you for sharing. Your post put a smile on my face, and brought back so many memories of my Grand Parents.

    I wonder if our Grand children will look back at all the memories and times we spent together with them. Do you think they'll remember us when were gone?

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    1. Sandy - I think all ancestors get remembered when they are gone. Let's hope (in all of our cases) it's with fondness! ;o]

      Another person's memories do have a way of triggering our own, don't they? 'Tis a good thing. :o}

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  8. What a beautiful story. Both my kids were given a middle name from a family member.

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    1. Sparkless - Thank you. Very sweet of you to name your kids after a family member. Such a nice gesture.

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  9. Aw, that was beautiful. :) Thanks for sharing your memories. All the girls in my extended fam on my mom's side are either given the middle name Lynn or Louise to honor grandparents from way back. ;)

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    1. Amy - Yes, using ancestral names as a middle name is a good way to go. That way the child has his "own" first name, but the name of a relative (a connection, really) is part of it also.

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  10. Oh, I loved this post. And you are so right, I believe naming our babies after their ancestors does help them live on...through our memories of them. We have a tradition in my family that first born girls get the middle name of my mother. She is still alive, thank the Lord...but it will be a sweet tribute to her as this tradition gets passed down. Their are currently 4 girls in my immediate family sporting the middle name Ann. Thanks for sharing your memories.

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    1. Laurie - A very sweet tribute to your mom, indeed! Thanks for your kind words.

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