Sunday, November 08, 2015

One Hundred Years of Blessing

Dorothy Mildred Evans Christmas, my maternal grandmother, was born a century ago plus one day, on November 7, 1915.  Yesterday would have been her hundredth birthday.

I've written about her before. In case you want to read more about her, you can look at all these posts, and you'll see what I mean when I say how beautiful she was, both from the photos and from the way she wrote letters, gave gifts, and--well, I think you can just see that she was a beautiful person. You can see some of her Christmas decorations and the candle she put on the big dining room table where we always gathered for holidays, birthdays, and other special meals. You can see her Bible and the "Power for Today" devotional booklet she kept rubber-banded together with it, which she read or had one of us read each day. You can see her sturdy old deep freeze and some of the things that came from it, and you can imagine the hospitality that made possible.  You can see a rosebush that came from the rosebush in her garden, and pictures of the garage it was near.

And more.

Yesterday, in honor of her birthday, we ate grapefruit (something I did only at her house) from the green and white bowls that were hers. And used her grapefruit knife. And grapefruit spoons, too--not pictured, but made with pointy ends, just for eating grapefruit.

And I used her spoons while measuring baking soda and cream of tartar for biscuits . . .

and we set the table with her plates for biscuits and scarmbled eggs. My mom told me these were the first dishes my grandparents had, so I guess they are themselves now about eighty years old.

It was a lovely way to start the day.

And although it wasn't done intentionally in her honor, I think she would have been happy that later in the day I took a shoe to the shoe repair shop to have some velcro replaced, rather than giving up on the shoes.

Today I was able to spend a little time looking through pictures. Since she died in 2003, pre-digital cameras, and Granddaddy died in 1989, I don't have as many pictures of them as I feel like I ought to have. But a few minutes' searching turned up some that I hadn't seen in a long time.

What I haven't mentioned, something that strikes me each year as I turn the calendar to November, is that my granddaddy died on November 6, the day before her birthday. I wonder what the odds of that happening are. It's a strange coincidence. I was living in Italy when Granddaddy died. He had been ill for some time, and it was hard knowing whether to buy an extra ticket and come back to see, or to wait a few more weeks when I already would be coming back for Christmas. I took the chance (greatly influenced by not having money for another ticket)--and I didn't see him again. I haven't written so much about him; I hope to remedy that eventually.

For today, I found this picture of Granddaddy, one I was given in a bundle of pictures from the wife of one of my second cousins. I don't know for sure when it was taken, but I am guessing it was the sixties, judging by his apparent age. And I believe this may have been taken in the room that was once a screened-in porch, but before it was redecorated. I could be completely wrong, but that is my guess.

People who knew Granddaddy mention how he liked nice clothes and liked to dress up. So it was fun to find this picture of him with a bowtie and even a handkerchief in his pocket. I wonder what the occasion was, to call for a bowtie and a photo?

Recently I was at a farmers market here in the city. I saw a stall with a lot of pansies for sale. I had not yet bought pansies and was trying to decide whether to get them then and there, or to wait and buy them at one of the large stores where they would almost certainly cost less.

The man running the stall arrived from some errand, and I asked him where his flowers came from. He replied, "Brownsville," and that settled that. Brownsville is where my grandparents lived, and I knew that Grandmother used to buy plants at the small farm there, Willow Oaks Flower Farm. The man I was talking with turned out to be David Levy, the owner, and I learned that at one time he and his wife had lived across the street from my grandparents' house. He spoke fondly of Grandmother and used the word "character" referring to Granddaddy--which fit him, as I think anyone would say. As in "he was a real character." We talked for a nice little while, and I went home with plenty of pansies.

And as pansy comes from the word for "thoughts," it was fitting that I also went home with a lot of happy thoughts  and memories to savor.

Here is a picture of Grandmother from 1998, when she was in rehab after breaking her hip. This is not how I generally remember her. She looks tired. She was in good spirits that day, I do remember that; but perhaps she was in pain, too. At any rate, I like this picture because it reminds me of what determination she had--and I think it really brings out her Cherokee and Choctaw heritage.

The next two photos are from around the same time, but I can't be sure whether they are before or after the broken hip. She broke both hips in her life, and recovered from both and returned back home to live both times. Her habit of daily walks surely had a lot to do with that.

These are photos of photos, so forgive the quality of the image. But this is how I generally remember our beautiful Grandmother. She was a serious woman who read the newspaper, had quite a lot of books in her house, and cared deeply for people. She also tended to smile easily, and smiled a lot when surrounded by her large extended family, as she was in these two settings. I think both are from Christmas holiday gatherings.

In the one below, she is holding up a large Tennessee flag someone had given her.  This is why people who didn't even know her that well will tell you she was beautiful. Those of us who knew her well know that her beauty went way below skin deep.

It's hard to believe she's been gone twelve years. And that she was born 100 years ago.

What an amazing thing it is to be alive. And to realize that your being here is completely dependent on the lives of those who went before you. As the letter to the Corinthians puts it, "what do you have that you did not receive?" I'm thankful my life is connected to the lives of Charlie and Mildred Christmas. The longer I live, the more grateful I am for what I received from them. Their blessings continue to this day.

Happy birthday, our beautiful Grandmother.