Grandmothers. I had 4.
Come Mother’s Day, you realize how may women you actually came from, what they brought to your life, how they are all part of the river that flows through your heart.
Ressie Belle Anderson Moslander Baker
This is the grandma whose personality I may most likely have. Choleric and able, a little bossy and pretty strong. She is the one I lived near and saw most often in my early years. She is my dad’s mom, a hard-working farm girl from the mid-west whose first husband was killed in a car crash leaving her with 2 baby girls and 6 months pregnant with her son, my dad.
She was not a “gooey-warm” grandmother, necessarily, but maybe a little ornery. She was sensible and busy, opinionated and strong and protective when Grandpa’s teasing went a little far. She lived down the street and I could go see her anytime. And she was always working hard, the house getting an entire “spring cleaning,” every single week of the year (that part of her, no, I did not get).
She gave me gifts, which I thoroughly now suspect were her love language. Not often, not even regularly on gift-type occasions, but when she gifted, they impacted me. A large clear jar with yellow flowers on it, filled with Minuet in E toilette water. A red plaid-skirted outfit, double-knit with matching red tights. A set of used Cherry Ames Nurse books and Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, a book I love to this day.
She also bequeathed to me, because I loved music and sang along to anything I could get my hands on for my little blue record player, a large selection of 78s and 45s from Disney and old radio shows. “Here is something I thought you might like,” she’d say, handing me a brown paper bag. And she was always right.
She gardened for food and potted plants for joy. She had a cactus collection I could never resist touching, yet always regretted, and several cages with brightly colored parakeets as pets, but also as business. She raised and sold hundreds from her basement, as it happens.
She was strong-willed and smart, very entrepreneurial (if they needed money, she would figure out how to make it happen and it was done) and the glue that kept the family together. Her house was the center of my extended family universe. And when she died at at the age of 57, when I was just 11, I was at her house, on her giant round ottoman, in her tangerine-colored living room (she loved bold color, too) and time stood a little still and things were never the same. Carefree childhood, life as we’d always known it, a little less so.
Berniece Quick Hallet
She is my mom’s mom. She was gentle and tender and misunderstood and lived quietly with a broken heart. From the stories I have heard, most from her, even in childhood she was a misfit of sorts. Very young, she married my mom’s dad and they had 2 daughters together before the marriage broke up. And she never quite rebounded. Court proceedings and custody battles led her in to a second marriage merely to provide a stable home environment for her daughters. Her second husband loved her fiercely and treated her daughters well and fathered her next child, another daughter, but she never really gave her heart again, it seems.
“Nervous breakdowns” and “mental illness” were used to describe her at times. She attempted suicide on more than one occasion, my poor mama finding her once on the kitchen floor as she came in from high school. My earliest memories of my Grandma Hallet were when my mom dressed me up and we drove to see her at a state mental hospital, a green and rolling-hilled compound that seemed lovely to me. My mom wore a leopard print dress. I was three and very excited to be visiting her, no comprehension at all of why she was there, so far away from home.
But with me, towards me, she was a kind, loving woman, cheering me on and encouraging my efforts. On our birthdays, or anytime she could muster up money, she would give us $1.11. Yes. Exactly $1.11. Why? Because the dollar was our spending money, but to teach us tithing, she’d throw in the dime so we could have the whole dollar. But then you havd to pay tithes on the dime, right? Thus the extra penny. One-dollar and eleven-cents.
By the time I was 7 or 8, she didn’t live alone again, but stayed with my Aunt Helen’s family and would visit us for extended times. She lived from a brown paper bag between houses. And she slept in a bed with my sister and me and always prayed with us for the whole family. She smiled really big and crinkled her eyes. Sometimes when I see pictures of myself laughing unabashedly, I think I see her there. She loved to clean the house and put away dinner and claimed to adore doing dishes (I did not get this from her at all). Or at least she said she did. Sometimes now I think she was just trying to pay her way, trying to prove she had value. This, I probably did get from her – the need to prove my value, earn my way all of the time.
And I hate that she didn’t know she did have such value in our lives. And that she saw herself as an embarrassment and as weak, and so did others because of her tender heart. She never wanted to be a bother. I have always been opposed to the thought of being less-able-to-handle-thingslike her, or forgetful like she was, and sometimes I have looked at broken heartedness in others as a fault, as if you can avoid it in a life where you love deeply. And I think of 1 Corinthians 12 and now understand how she should have been handled:
And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.
Grandma died that week between Christmas and New Years when so many lonely people do. She was alone, at her state care facility. Only 68. Now I know she wasn’t weak, not unable, but just unjaded, un-harshened as a true-heart response. Her heart was still flesh. And it was still pure white as her hair had become. And I think that if my grandkids at all remember me with any gentle kindness, praying for them, cheering them on and gently, but always, in their corner, than I shall be glad to have been compared to her.
Opal Wright Allison
This is my Grandma Allison. While my Grandpa was exuberant and boisterous in his love and affection, while he would loudly proclaim his enthusiasm and love for us and make such a big deal of our presence, Grandma was this classic beauty. She was serene and graceful, even-tempered and kind. I always found her fascinatingly beautiful. I can remember so far back as to include gloves and hats and leopard-print high heels, a size 5 for her tiny feet.
She spoke to me. I wasn’t just a kid in the room to her. I was a person to talk to with graciousness and kindness.
The last time I got to spend time with her, I sat at a piano and played and songs as she picked them. I was surprised to learn how much she loved music and how she played and sang herself, though not for us. She picked her favorite just before we had to leave. And she held the music open while I did her favorite, Amy Grant’s, “El Shaddai.”
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God who really sees,
And by Your might,
You set Your children free.
She loved that, for reasons I don’t really know, as far as my Grandma was concerned. But I love it because knowing He sees me is setting me free. I love that we shared that worship that day.
We will praise and lift You high, El Shaddai
Looking forward to singing and worshipping with her again soon.
I guess she wasn’t my “real” grandma as grandmas go, but she was to me and her impact on my family and me is undeniable.
She was my mom’s pastor’s wife, the one who nurtured my mom in her baby-Christian days. My mom, raised in an unchurched home, had made a decision to follow Jesus as a young teen and this godly woman saw something in her and poured in to my mom, and discipled her and walked the Christian walk with her.
When my mom was carrying me, LaVeta Davis asked, “Can your baby call me Grandma?” And I always did. All the kids did. And she brought me “grown-up” books about sewing and flower arranging. And she brought us paper for creating and card-making supplies and all things creative. We always knew after she visited, that there would be fun things to make.
She gave us, when I was very young, a set of old 1940s Pictorial Encyclopedias. I doubt she knew how much I would love those things. For when I was 5, my dad ridded our home of the television set in favor of more time for prayer and study. And as a little girl, for entertainment, I read the encyclopedia. For hours I would sit at the base of the shelves in the formal dining room reading and learning and discovering, all in black and white. I couldn’t wish better times on my grandbebes if I tried.
These are some of my most unforgettable, most influential women.
Yes. I come from strong, loving, godly women. They taught me to be resourceful, tender, strong, sassy, opinionated, gentle, creative, gracious, intelligent, passionate, long suffering, loving, discerning, well-doing, forgiving, hard-working, giving and so much more. If I haven’t turned out right, it is not the fault of these women. They were amazing all.