Claiming My Lineage – Grandma Prudie

Remembering Grandma

Remembering Grandma © 2013 Bo Mackison

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend. ~ Author Unknown

*** In Jen Louden’s TeachNow course, each participant is “invited to become a story gatherer and story creator,”  and to “claim and own our authority and lineage” in order to better step into the teacher we are (or are becoming). In order to claim my lineage, I recalled past teachers in my life – childhood, youth, student, adult – and identified those people, places, books, experiences — positive and negative — that were influential in shaping the person I am today.

This post is the second in a series on gathering stories and claiming my lineage.

I rocked hard in Grandpa’s rocker as I watched the kitchen clock. The minute hand barely moved. I’d waited nearly an hour. My Great Grandma Prudie had promised we’d pull taffy that morning, but the day was half over. Prudie kept her promises, so I practiced an uneasy patience.

We had watched The Lawrence Welk Show the night before – Prudie, Grandma, Grandpa, Dad and Mom and me. After the show, Prudie had looked at me with her trademark pixie grin nearly hidden in her wrinkled face.

“Bo, let’s go in the kitchen and check out the pantry. Let’s cook tomorrow.” I was always game when Prudie began a kitchen project which mostly involved satisfying her occasional sweet tooth. Prudie at eighty-one no longer cooked the family meals. After 60+ years of kitchen responsibility, she’d handed her apron over to her daughter, grand-daughter and great-granddaughters. But she occasionally enjoyed a kitchen adventure with me.

My unusual family living arrangement was one of my childhood blessings, and surely is a part of my creative lineage. Prudie was my mother’s mother’s mom. She lived in the first floor apartment with my Grandpa and Grandma, although her bedroom was in the back of my family’s upstairs apartment. My mother, father and I lived in an apartment on the second floor, and my bedroom was carved out of an attic space on the third floor. The spaces were a mix and match affair, few doors, no locks. I wandered freely from adult to adult, and learned by watching and doing the things they were doing — sewing, gardening, knitting, woodworking, cooking and baking. It was an endless potpourri of activity.

Prudie was a storyteller, and as long as my mother and grandmother were out of earshot, Prudie discussed any subject that came to her mind.  My mom and grandmother often forbade me to listen to Prudie’s tales, but Prudie only waved her hand at them in dismissal. “Pshaw!” she’d mutter, and then laugh.

Prudie thought children should learn about “real living.” She talked about life, even when life didn’t include Princesses and Prince Charmings.  Especially then.

She told me about marriages that were not the “happily ever after” kind. When Prudie was only nineteen, she’d married a railroad man. It was 1900. My grandmother was born a year later. When baby Pearl was a week shy of her first birthday, her father left for work, saying he’d be gone a fortnight, but he never returned. Family life wasn’t what he’d envisioned.

So Prudie and Pearl temporarily moved in with family while my great grandma took a practical nurse’s course by mail. She memorized two medical texts and some practical nursing books. Then she worked as a licensed practical nurse, caring for people in their homes, until she met the man she married when my grandmother was in high school.

The medical textbooks she studied from in 1902 lined the shelf of her bedside table throughout my childhood. Prudie let me page through the books whenever I wanted, never censoring the content. We would page through her Human Anatomy book as casually as we paged through my Little Golden books. The diagram of the body’s circulatory system in red and blue ink was equally as interesting as Brer Rabbit’s adventures.

“A child’s curiosity is a good thing,” she would say. “Children should be exposed to ideas, even ideas that are out of the ordinary or strange. Life is strange.”

We discussed women’s rights in detail. (“Women are just as smart as men, we can do anything with our minds they can do. You remember that. You wait and see. Your world will look a lot different from the world I grew up in.”)

We discussed education. (“You keep to your studies. That’s your ticket to the big world. No one’s ever gone to college in our families, but that’s no reason to stop you from stretching your wings. You go to college. Learn something you really want to learn.”)

We discussed relationships. (“Don’t ever stay with someone who doesn’t respect you, who doesn’t treat you as an equal. There is no shame is leaving a marriage if it’s not a good marriage. No shame at all. Better yet, marry a man who respects you. A good marriage is more precious than a pile of money.”)

We discussed beauty and art as she arranged garden flowers in vases or copied drawings from the Garden Extension pamphlets onto the backs of envelopes or brown paper bags that she then pinned around the hallway mirror. We kept warm under quilts that she pieced and sewed by hand and she taught me to crochet doilies by the dozens. (“There isn’t any excuse for a home not to have a bit of finery. It makes a person’s heart glad.”)

We discussed the importance of play and friendships and she allowed me to enter the world of her grown-up playtime, if only to serve the cake and pour the coffee. (“If I didn’t have the ladies over to play Pokeno and brag on my cake once a month, I’d grow up to be a cranky old woman.”)

I no longer have any interest in crocheting doilies or piecing quilts by hand, but I o remember the nuggets of wisdom my great-grandmother freely dispensed. I learned to value her opinions on women’s equality, education, relationships, and the arts. I learned to model her love for head-on living.

And I am grateful that she thought it only natural to feed a child’s insatiable curiosity with knowledge and hands-on experience.

———————

Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is exploring her lineage with Jen Louden and other TeachNow participants.  Memories of Bo’s grandparents are in her thoughts often; she mentions them frequently in her gratitude journal.

 

 

 

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.

Comments

  1. Gandalf says:

    Awesome memories

  2. Absolutely loved this post. I was completely mesmerized by your storytelling! Looking forward to the possibility of more.

  3. She sure left you a legacy!

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