My father’s father was a charming, but irresponsible, Irish drunk and his mother, a heavy-set, jovial Prussian.
His mother had dark red hair that she always parted down the middle and pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck, old world style, and a ready laugh that filled the house. And, I’m told, she dearly loved her grandchildren and baseball, most of the time in that order! (Her idea of a perfect Saturday was to take all four of my siblings on the street car across town to watch the Kansas City Blues play.) She worked (at a time when very few mothers worked) because the money from my grandfather’s job on the railroad was spent mostly in bars. Daddy’s response to that was to become a non-drinking adult. His brother’s response was to become a drunk (until he married Aunt Hazel who helped him get sober).
Daddy’s mother died the year before I was born, but I have “known” her all my life through the wonderful stories my siblings tell about her. I look forward to one day meeting her in heaven. I hope when I meet her she will grab me and hug me tight, pounding me on the back, and telling me that she’s going to “squeeze me in two so that there will be two of me to love,” just like she told my siblings so many times. Oh, how they loved her.
She is actually the one who taught my mother to cook. Mama’s mother didn’t like to cook, so, of course, hadn’t taught Mama much. So, Daddy’s mother taught her. In fact, Grandma taught my mother many things, but most of all she gave Mama a wonderful example of how to be a grandma. My father’s sisters never completely accepted Mama, partially because they didn’t think she was good enough for their beloved brother, and partially because she adored (and was adored by) their mother.
My mother was the short, oldest daughter of the tallest, skinniest couple you have ever seen (She was 5’10”, he was 6’4″ — very tall for people born in the late 1800’s.) They looked a lot like the couple in the famous painting, American Gothic (you know, with the pitch fork), except her dad had a full head of snow white hair and a bushy mustache. Her father was a very nice but weak, Scottish dreamer. He loved his family but wasn’t a good provider. He believed the “grass is always greener” whenever someone promised it. He would uproot his family and move to a new “opportunity” on the slimmest of promises.
Her mother was a solemn woman who I don’t remember interacting with me very much. Apparently, when she first became a grandma, she didn’t like that title, so we called them “Mom and Dad B.”
Mama’s parents never owned a house, and, when their four children were little, walked away from all their possessions more than once in the middle of the night because the rent was due and they couldn’t pay it.
That kind of insecure childhood made Mama, as an adult, a collector and lover of “things.” She was a pretty organized person so her house wasn’t terribly “cluttered,” but she did have lots of “stuff” neatly tucked away. (After Daddy died, and we were helping her get rid of some of her “stuff” so that she could move into a senior’s complex, I had to realllly do some talking to get her to throw away my last pair of tap dancing shoes, that would have been, let’s see, about 30 years old!!)
But when these two people married, both having come from pretty insecure homes, they apparently decided that they were going to make a better home for their children than what they had had, and they did. They were truly two people who realized what they had missed, and made it their goal to make sure their children didn’t miss those things.
Our home life, of course, wasn’t perfect, but it was secure and stable. Daddy always held a job and provided well for us. Mama was always home to take care of us, and truly worked at making good memories for us, like taking me (and the others, when they were little) to parades. I can remember her carrying a step ladder to a parade route a block over so that I could sit on top of it and have a great view of the parade! (My little friend, Phoebe Ann’s father carried one over for her too, so that we could sit up in the “sky box” together!)
I am thankful for the vision my parents had for what kind of life they wanted to give their children — and the hard work they both put into accomplishing that for us.
I thank God for my parents, and all parents, who look at their children and ask themselves, “What kind of childhood do I want for my children?” and then set about providing it.