Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I see my grandmothers in me.

When I look in the mirror, when I cook, when I sew, when I eat certain foods, when I gravitate towards a certain color, or flower.

I see my grandmothers in me.

My father's mother was Mattie Mae Ernest Smith.

She was born in the late 1800's and lived her early years in the Sugar Grove area of Smyth County, Virginia. When she was still quite young, she worked as a seamstress in Bluefield, WV, where she met John Robert Smith. He worked for Norfolk and Western Railroad and they took a train trip to Bristol, VA for their marriage. They still lived in the Bluefield area when my father was born in March of 1915. He was one of, let's see .... Zelma, Fay, JT, Poss, Susie, Geraldine, Christine, Norman ... eight children.  The family moved to Richlands when my father was still quite young, and settled in a section of town known as Dalton Addition.

This picture was taken in the 1940's in my grandparents' living room. My father is second from the left, standing. 

Granny was kind, and gentle. She was the undisputed head of the family, the quintessential mother hen who always knew where her chicks were and if they needed her. She passed away when I was in the seventh grade. 

Until she passed away, I lived within walking distance of Granny. I visited with her and learned to weed flowers and enjoy sliced cucumbers and onions with a cup of hot tea in the afternoon. We were at Granny and Granddaddy's as often as we were at home it seemed, and many of my daily recollections of my early years involve one or both of them.

My mother's mother was Ethel Virginia Cundiff Slade.
She was born in the 1910's, one of ... Sam, Guy, Dave, Ethel, Ruby, Macie, Clara ... seven children if I am not forgetting anyone. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother remarried. She had a rough childhood, not from want of love, for her mother was very loving, but for the sparse nature of life both before and after Mr. Carter became her stepfather. She  met James Roy Slade while still in her teens and after they married they spent all of their married life  the in Bluefield Va  area. She had 4 children, Sonny, Elwood, Janet, and Jack. Sonny died before his first birthday, and she carried the weight of her sorrow from his early death all of her life. 

'Thursday Throwback - My maternal grandmother, age unknown. Ethel Virginia Cundiff Slade. She wore the sorrow of the loss of her firstborn, a son, in his infancy, as a heavy mantle her entire life.'

I am unsure as to when this picture was taken. It does capture her well. 

MawMaw was a farmwife, and she toiled hard. She baked amazing biscuits, and lived without hot water in her kitchen, or indoor plumbing, up until they sold the farm and moved into town around 1970. Her cooking was legendary, and there are several things I make today that are recipes from her collection. She also loved handwork, crocheting and embroidery. 

MawMaw passed away in 1986, the same year that we lost PawPaw, and Daddy. 1986 was a rough year for my mother.

I spent at least a week, sometimes more, with MawMaw and PawPaw every summer. It was at the farmhouse one wet summer that I discovered what a joy books could be, as I read novel after novel by Zane Gray and astounded my grandparents by reading the entirety of Gone With the Wind in 2 days. MawMaw taught me to embroider, and let me practice sewing on her Singer machine when I decided I wanted to learn to make my own clothing. 

The sorrows and triumphs, the laughs and tears, the food and family of these two women are woven so into the woman that I am today. They both lived close enough to me, and were patient enough to have small children around, to have opportunity to pass on knowledge and wisdom to me - even though I was unaware of it at the time. 

They both had birthdays in May, by the way. The eight and the eleventh. So today I honor these two women whose DNA I carry, and whose legacy I am a part of. 

No comments:

Post a Comment