Monday, May 11, 2009

Thou art thy mother's glass...

Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee Calls back the lovely April of her prime. ~William Shakespeare

My grandmother with her mother (1937)..................... Me with Kieran (2005)

When my first son was born, I gave my mother a series of four photos. And for my first Mother's Day, she gave the same photos to me. They show
my great-grandmother with my Gran, my Gran with my mother, my mother with me, and me with my son. Photos taken almost 70 years apart, proving five generations of Momma's.

I know the names of ancestors going back several generations. "Ancestors" always seems like such a formal word to describe the people whose eyes, hair, freckles and mannerisms might explain me. So I'm thankful to have a photo of my great-grandmother Stella Frances holding my grandmother Helen Louise. Frances is young here and looks so much like my Gran
did as a teenager. Gran remembers very little of her mother, since Frances died of tuberculosis when Gran was only six. She told me once that she does remember running through the house and being told to be quiet, because her mother was sick. She remembers peeking into the room and seeing her mother in bed. I wish she had happy memories of her mother, or that I had the chance of ever knowing her either.

The candidness of this photo strikes me. My Gran so young.
Twenty, I think, with her new baby. My mother. The summer of 1956, soon after my mother learned to sit up. My
grandmother tells the story of giving birth to my mother at home during a harsh winter in the mountains of Tennessee. The doctor arrived late, after my mother was already born, and not having a scale to weigh her, he guessed that she weighed about the same as a five pound sack of sugar.

Seventeen years later, a few months after my mother and father married, Momma was helping cook supper in
the kitchen and told my Gran, "I think I'm pregnant." Gran stopped cooking, smiled big, turned to her and said, "I think I am, too." A couple of months later, my mother's sister Rhonda announced that she was pregnant, too, and the three of them were pregnant together. I was born in April of '74, my uncle John was born two weeks later, and my cousin Brian was born two months later. They raised us like little triplets. John was the seventh--and last--of Gran's children ;)

Here is my young Momma. In her short shorts and ponytail. Holding a very cute, fat, redheaded baby. Two years before, she and my dad dated and broke up. Then she and one of my uncles were in a terrible car wreck that almost killed her. As she woke in the hospital, she asked for my dad, so of course, they got back together ;) They married in June of 1973, and I was born the following April, so they didn't have much time to be newlyweds before they became "three of us." (Don't worry. I've done the math on that one, and it's all good. ;) What I love about this photo is my mother's sweet smile. I know that smile.

And if you look carefully on her right hand, she's holding my pacifier, or my "fooler" as my other Granny called it. Just a couple of months after this photo was taken, we moved to Germany. My family said goodbye to me and Momma at the airport, (Daddy had already shipped over) and after my mother boarded the plane with me, my Granny looked down and saw that she had my "fooler" on her finger. Granny cried all the way home, not knowing that Momma had another one on the plane.

And the lineage continued when I gave birth to Kieran. It's hard to describe how instantly I felt that I was doing something for my mother, my Gran, my Frances...and our many mothers before us. Not in honor of them, but for them. Something they started and that I was now continuing. I never anticipated that I would feel that way. That's the meaning of legacy, after all, right?
Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past. Now my journey, my adventure, my blessing is that each day, I shape what exactly I hand down. A sense of humor? Love of the grass under my feet? Stories of life in the country? Good looks? ;) A killer work ethic? Amazing recipes? ...I'm not always sure that I'm doing my job well (especially with the whole 'cooking' thing). But I'm so thankful to have the chance.

The boys are intrigued by these photos and aren't quite sure whether to believe me when I say that the babies are me, Ba and Gran. Connery shouted, "There's all the babies! And all the momma's."

All the momma's.
And I smile, looking a lot like my own Momma did when she held me in that rocking chair.


JennBeth said...

I am ALWAYS reminded of Kelly, when I see the picture of Rita Ba holding you. And, I must give her props for wearing short shorts so soon after birth----I had never realized that before!

Your story made my eyes drip. Thanks for sharing. I love you and your beautiful family!

Amy said...

This is so lovely! The pictures are wonderful.

Thanks for the comment on my post about Boomps. I appreciate it.