Bob was telling me stories of his misspent youth in Toronto yesterday. It was pretty scary. He told tales of explosions and harassment that made the little hairs on my neck stand up. It is surprising that he survived.
I, on the other hand, spent my childhood reading books and watching soap operas. Yup. Really. And get this; it was a black and white television. No shi*.
You thought I was a mere youngster, didn’t you? Go on, ‘fess up. There’s that word, fess, again. I do love that little Southern contraction.
Yes, my great-grandmother Sarah and I spent many a summer day watching soaps. ” As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light” were afternoon favorites. Sarah called them ‘her stories’. She tried not to miss them. When school was dismissed for the summer, I would spend the first week catching up on our stories. Who married who, who ran away, who was having an affair. They got a little steamier as time passed, new characters came and went, but the core family remained the same. It was something you could count on.
Sarah was my mother’s grandmother. She was born somewhere between 1888 and 1891. Off the top, I can’t recall the exact date. My grandmother, her middle child, was born in 1911. I’m dating her from there.
It seems utterly amazing to me that I had a relationship with someone born in the 19th century. She lived without electricity and running water until she came to live with us. I remember visiting her when I was but a wee thing. She rented a small house from my father’s sister. We read by kerosene lamp light, made biscuits in a wood burning stove, and peed in a chamber pot. There was an outhouse for other uses. Water was drawn from a well.
My father’s grandmother lived right across the road from Sarah. Mildred was in the same boat. No modern amenities were to be found in her log house. It was a dark cabin. The windows were tiny, there was a huge wood stove in the center of the front room. Rocking chairs were the preferred seating in there and on the porch. There was a pump on the kitchen sink and benches near the table. A curtain partitioned a small sleeping area. That’s where the chamber pot was located. In my little kid mind, it was scary, not nearly as light and bright as Sarah’s house. Mildred was blind. It didn’t need to be light and bright.
Most of the other houses along the highway had been somewhat modernized or built recently to embrace the use of the power and telephone lines that had been laid in the preceding decade. Those two remained fixed in another time.
Oddly enough, both my great-grandmothers had extraordinary impact on my parents. Sarah raised my mother. Grandma had only been married to my grandfather for a short time. She married a second time and moved to Little Rock, only a short drive away now the roads are much improved and cars are faster. She left my mom with Sarah. Sarah was ‘mama’. Grandma was referred to by her given name.
My father’s mother, Mabel, died when he was young. Mildred outlived her daughter and became the one he loved. There were only two occasions when I saw my father cry; one when his beloved grandmother died and the second time when he dropped me off at college.
It is a bit surreal to recall those two great-grandmothers. Their lives began in an era that was driven by horse and hard manual labor. They lived through an economic depression which barely touched them in rural Arkansas. Their lives were hard anyway. They farmed, growing most of what they ate, selling the remainder. They lost husbands and children. Their friends often buried babies.
I remember being at the hospital when Mildred died. I remember the tears shining on Daddy’s cheeks.
I remember that I was fifteen when Sarah died. She had so looked forward to my sixteenth birthday. I was to drive and we were to set out on adventures yet to be determined. My mother was distraught when Sarah left us.
I don’t have a clue as to why this particular topic surfaced for a Monday subject. If this keeps up we may have a standing title, Maudlin Mondays!
That won’t be necessary.
I’ll do my best to find my funny pants before it gets that bad.
Happy Tuesday. Still my pleasure.