This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I found myself remembering my own mom, Matt’s mom, and other women who have inspired me. Most often, I found myself thinking about my grandmother — my father’s mother.
Grandma was the kind of woman who feminists today would probably scorn. Perhaps some of what I recall has been tainted by time and the inevitable softening of memory, but Grandma was special and if anyone really inspired me to explore my talents and use them — it was Lizzie Coral Blair Llewellyn.
Lizzie was 15 years old when a 19-year-old Earl was courting her older sister. As family lore has it, Earl asked Mr. Blair for permission to marry Lizzie’s sister. Mr. Blair said his daughter could speak for herself and she turned him down. But Lizzie, who had a crush on Earl, was stunned. She was even more stunned when Earl turned to her and said, “Well, then, I’ll take Betty instead.” A delighted “Betty” agreed. [Side note: my grandfather always called my grandmother “Betty” and we assumed her real name was Elizabeth. We didn’t find out her real name until she had passed away.]
You can see why I believe that today’s feminists would think my grandmother a fool. She was second choice, you see, and agreed willingly to marry a man she had reason to think didn’t love her, let alone who would allow her to explore her talents.
But, they had a long and happy life together. Lizzie had three children, my father, my aunt, and another child who died at age 7. We also didn’t find out about that child until my grandma died. No one ever spoke of him.
Again, probably strange by today’s standards, but to me it is yet another example of her perseverance. The pain of losing a child had to be nearly unbearable.
She saw her family through the Depression, stretching a pound of hamburger into a week’s worth of meals. Meals so good, in fact, that my father continued to ask my mom to make some of her recipes into the 1960s (meat gravy and mashed potatoes was a Thursday night tradition in our house!).
Grandma had an amazing right-brain. She baked everything from scratch and without a recipe — bread, cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies. Her house always smelled so good, yet her kitchen was immaculate.
She could draw a pattern on old newspaper, then create clothes from them. She made all my clothes until I was nine years old, and would make doll clothes out of the scraps so that my dolls and I matched.
My parents and two brothers lived with my grandparents for 12 years, so I know she was the quiet matriarch of the family. Some might think this life was restrictive, but she used her skills and talents to create a haven for her husband, her children, and her grandchildren. To me, she didn’t “settle” for second best — she pursued the life she wanted and made her dreams come true. Fifty years later, she’s still my personal hero. Who’s yours?
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.