Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My grandmother's lessons: In good times and bad times, live with joy

I've recently completed the painting, above, of my deceased grandmother. It's a gift for my grandmother's daughter, my mother. I hope she will be pleased with it. I'm delivering this large painting, about 29x32, this weekend to hang above the hutch in the dining room of her new apartment.

While I was painting, I kept thinking what a remarkable woman my grandmother was. I would guess that she was considered "poor" all of her life. Her own mother died when she was nine and her father did not remarry. Like many children of that era, she took on responsibilities that now we would consider burdens, an interruption of childhood. Still, it doesn't explain to me just how she grew up so capable with so much knowledge. My husband believes that little girls of her era had, by nine, learned all they needed to know to run a home.

My grandmother, Mama to all, married young and had seven children. She was an extremely devout Christian, of Pentecost faith, and strictly adhered to the teachings of her faith. She covered her arms, never cut her hair, never wore jewelry or make-up. She was completely without artifice in her grooming and personality. Mama was exactly as you found her - always Mama. If you were at Mama's any Wednesday evening, Sunday morning or Sunday night - you were scrubbed and off to church with her. If there was a revival going on, you attended those as well.

Mama sewed most of her children's clothing, including sweetly embroidered layettes for her sons and daughters and first grandchildren. She was one of many women who delighted when feed sacks began to be printed with small calico designs and made good use of them.

Her beds were spread with wringer-machine washed hand-ironed sheets and quilts stitched with her fingers. Mama was up early to milk the cows, gather the eggs and cook a huge breakfast for her large family and any of the grandchildren or friends of the family who might be visiting. She planted, worked and harvested a huge garden each year (a man-sized garden) and "put-up" the bounty, canning for the winter.

Mama was also the most wanted midwife in the country and pulled a many a calf. Honest, she was a marvel and all of her children just took it for granted that there was nothing she couldn't do and do well.

I painted her on the porch, trying hard to catch the radiance of this good woman, the twinkle in her eye, her relaxed, welcoming posture, her love of flowers, and her beautiful smile. The okra in her lap represents the fact that I don't ever remember her without work in her hands.

How I wish I had asked her where she learned to do so much. The lessons I learned from my grandmother, I hope, have carried over into my life to be passed on to my children and they to theirs - Live, Love, Work & Pray with Joy.

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