My great grandmother’s name. She left a lasting imprint on my soul. I still have the letters she wrote me until her death in 1979. I was nine when she died. She embodied someone that I admired and yet didn’t want to be. She had six children who survived. If I’m not mistaken, she had thirteen pregnancies. It was a different time but she was a formidable force in a world that I will never truly understand.
I’ve always known the world to be a place where women could be anything they wanted. I couldn’t see myself being a housewife unlike my ancestors. From all the stories that I remember my dad telling me, she loved her children, but she was tough, she had to be. When the grandkids came along, she had softened towards them but my father saw sides of her that not everyone got to see. He loved her because she would call someone out quick for their wrongdoings. In some ways, I’m a lot like that. I call it like I see it. Sometimes it’s a blessing and other times it’s a curse.
Out of the great grand kids, I think I was one of the lucky ones. I had a chance to get to know her. I still have a blanket that she made out of macrame. Her letters told me of her struggles in life. She told me to allow myself to dream and to keep a loving heart. I always wondered what she was like when she was young.
When we’re kids, we see people who are old and it doesn’t register that they were once young, vital and full of energy. Instead we see folks who are struggling to hold a fork to eat, struggling to walk or to stand. Their joints and bones are tired. Their eyes are not as good as they used to be, or they may not be able to hear. All we see is what we perceive. The older I get, the more I begin to understand that everything we experience in our lifetime, seniors have experienced as well. There’s a reason they make it to senior status. Some folks are forever young. Others are not. But the way we treat each other is firmly cemented in our actions. Laura knew this. She taught her kids to respect their elders. Be honest, take pride in the work they do and to treat people well. It was hard for her kids. They didn’t have all the technological advances that make our lives and day to day ventures easier. Her kids worked in a variety of different jobs. My grandmother worked for a local JCPenny for over 50 years. It used to frustrate my grandmother when she would take me shopping with her and I didn’t want to dress like a girl. I was a pure tomboy, full of adventure and spirit and didn’t want to be too girly. I had no use for boyfriends until I got older. Laura would say that I was independent.
For reasons that I choose to keep to myself, I won’t mention her last name. In this day and age of identity theft, it’s getting to be more and more imperative that we keep things as close to the vest as we can. But I will tell you that my entire family has a very eclectic mix about them. My dad’s side is mostly mountain folk. There’s a lot of us out there. I prefer the mountains to the beach because it’s in my blood but I love the beach because of the ocean. I could go fish for hours and not have a care in the world. I love hiking in the mountains and I can tell you if it will rain or not just because I can smell it in the air. The mountains bring the senses alive and if you let your senses be alert, you can almost hear the flowers and trees mystifying you with a call to the mountains themselves. Many plants and trees are more robust in certain areas. Laura knew this. She always used to tell me that the land held secrets that were yet to be revealed. All I had to do was look. Sometimes I understand exactly what she meant and then other times I’m so dense that I wonder how I ever came from her gene pool.
Several years after Laura died, I had a really strange dream. I couldn’t have been more than 13 when I dreamed it but I dreamed that there was a coffin that all I had to do was knock on the coffin. When the coffin opened, there was Laura, watching tv with a full spread in front of her. She asked me to watch tv with her and I did. We talked and laughed for hours until I realized that I had to get up and get ready for school. As I got ready to leave her, she looked at me and said “Come back anytime. I’ll always be here if you need me.” I’ve never had another dream since about her but I know that she is there in my heart.
I will never know the skills that Laura truly possessed or what made her laugh, what happened in her marriage to my great grandfather. They were married until his death but I don’t know if he was a control freak or if it was a marriage of a volatile nature or if it was just a strong union. I know he was much older than she was and I also know that her faith was solid. When she was in the nursing home, I remember seeing her with her bible. She would read devotions and passages that would give her comfort. She had really thick hair, mostly dark and gray hair. Her glasses were similar to the Coke glasses that would become popular in later years. I never saw her stand because every time I saw her she was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t tell you if she was tall or short. I can only tell you that she was sharp witted, kind to me, and reminds me even to this day that at some point, we all get older unless something prevents this from happening.
All of us have people in our lives that touched us in our childhood that are no longer on this earth. Each of you have your own Laura that made an impression of some sort. I hope that you find ways of preserving those memories so that other generations can get to know them even if they are no longer here. Don’t be afraid to share those memories. After all, they’re yours. I have several cousins who never got to know her. They were either not born or too young to remember her. I hope that someday I can see who she was from her youth and not in her older years. The older I get the fuzzier the memories become. I know she had a difficult time hearing but I am grateful for the lessons she gave me and the advice that she helped me with. I just hope that I can her continue her legacy of strength, grace, honor, and kindness. Those are the best gifts she could have equipped me with. If you have a Laura type of person in your life, cherish them. With Mother’s Day coming around the corner, it’s an incredible reminder of the simple things in our lives that mean the most. Happy Mother’s Day weekend everyone.