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My Mamaw….

July 6, 2010

When I was growing up, “The Waltons” and “Little House” were on every week during prime time. How I wished for that kind of life! I wanted a happy, tight-knit family group so much. But that’s not what I got. I had 2 grandparents and one great-grandma left. Papaw lived in Detroit (Dad’s dad) and Mamaw (Mom’s mom) and Granny (Mamaw’s mom) lived in SC. We lived in Illinois. Mamaw had 7 living children – Mom was the oldest and the youngest was (is) six months younger than me. So needless to say, I never had that idealized “Grandma” experience – visiting and baking cookies, being spoiled by her, etc. There were always kids in her house, mostly because my uncle & his wife moved back in and hatched their brood of three girls who had kids of their own when they were young.

My Mamaw was born in 1928. She was born into a family of tenant farmers, moving from place to place. There was never enough to eat – Mom says Granddaddy (Mamaw’s father) would only give Mamaw the neck of the chicken. At least two of her infant siblings died because they didn’t get enough milk. She had 2 brothers and three sisters who survived to adulthood. I think growing up so poor made her a saver. She saved everything. She reused Saran Wrap, had her own flock of chickens, was always gardening both food and flowers, and perpetually made things. I have a quilt and two afghans she made, as well as Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls. She made rugs and baskets from plastic grocery bags. She whittled her own crochet hook from wood in order to have one strong enough to crochet those bags together. She would collect walnuts and sell them. She married my granddaddy Robert and had my mom before she was 20. Granddaddy died in 1950 when Mom was 2 of an inoperable brain tumor. Her mother-in-law didn’t like her and took things from my Mamaw (such as furniture) when Granddaddy died. Mom says she remembers eating things like poke salad during that time. Mamaw met and married her second husband, Clarence, who became the father of the rest of the kids. He was a sweeper at one of the mills. Didn’t make much money, and I never saw much from him – he was quiet and very non-driven. His own kids made fun of him to his face – calling him “stupid old man” and other disrespectful things. He died in 1991. Mamaw carried on. She had a bad heart and had had a multi-valve replacement. She still worked her garden and made stuff. She yard saled – she actually had a shelter right off her driveway for her perpetual yard sale! Finally, one of those replacement valves failed. Mamaw went back into the hospital for another replacement. While on the table, she had a stroke, and her recovery was difficult. She never fully recovered. She couldn’t garden or get around any more. She was diabetic and on oxygen, although she was only in her early 70s. I think that’s what hurt her most, having to sit and not do. She finally succumbed to double pneumonia at the age of 75.

I was so fortunate to be able to tell her how I felt about her before she died. Quite a bit before she died, actually. I always picture her in Heaven (I know she loved Jesus!), in a huge flower garden with a big hat on her head. I told her when she was so weak that Jesus was going to have that huge flower garden for her.

In my back yard, I have a Rose of Sharon from Mamaw’s yard. Every summer it blooms, white with red centers. It blooms about the time of month she died. Each year, I am always surprised for some reason to see it blooming, but I remember her when I see it. It makes me remember how she was in church every time the doors were open if she was able. I never saw her without her Bible nearby (except in the garden!). She tithed first. She trusted God to cover her expenses after that. And He did. They always had clothes and food. Maybe nothing fancy, but they were provided for. It makes me remember how much of a Proverbs 31 woman she was. She was always busy providing for her family. She rarely sat still. Even though she only finished 8th grade, she was smart. She figured out ways to make money for her family. How to make things to sell. I think about how unlike her I am. How unfaithful I am. I want that faith so much, but it’s so hard for me to let go of my own pride and become the woman God wants me to be.

I still miss my Mamaw. She’s been in Heaven since 2004 and I know I’ll see her again. And every summer, when that Rose of Sharon blooms, I’ll stop and think of her.

aka "Rose of Sharon"

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