My paternal grandmother, Grandma James, was a strong woman.

Due to her mother’s debilitating illness, Grandma, at the age of 10, assumed the role of homemaker for her household.

She raised her own eight children during the Great Depression.

My dad said that without her, his family would have starved.

Those eight children didn’t include her twin babies. Born prematurely, they were buried in tiny boxes in unmarked graves.

Hardship and loss were her companions through much of her life.

Grandma was resourceful and wasted nothing.

She planted and tended a huge garden and canned vegetables and fruit for her family to eat during the winter.

Half-rotted and bird-pecked peaches might have been thrown out by some homemakers. But Grandma salvaged every edible scrap and canned or dried them.

She canned more than just what her garden and orchard produced though. When she had an excess of eggs, she boiled and canned them. She canned fish and other meats.

She made clothes for herself and her children. With the scraps of fabric, she made quilts.

She did her laundry, winter and summer, using a wringer-style washing machine and a clothesline.

On washdays, she had her laundry hung on the line before she made breakfast for her family.

That breakfast was cooked on a cast iron, wood-burning stove.

She mended and ironed her family’s clothes, and she gave to other people in the community who had less.

When my sister and I were little girls, Grandma made dresses for our dolls.

Her yard was filled with beautiful flowers, watered with the rinse water from her weekly laundry.

She took in more than one aging relative and cared for them in her home.

Grandma was not a big talker. She enjoyed visiting with relatives and friends, but she didn’t gossip. Prolonged pauses in conversations did not bother her.

If someone did an odd thing, such as naming a new baby Crystalline, Grandma said of the event, “Well, that’s hers fer it.”

By this she meant the new mother could name her baby whatever she chose.

Sometimes Grandma told funny stories, often about her chickens.

As she told the story, she rocked harder in her chair, laughed, and said, “Law, law! You should’ve seen that old hen take off after that hawk!”

I am certain Grandma didn’t graduate from high school. She may not have finished the eighth grade.

But she knew much that I’ll never learn.

I loved my grandma and miss her. I have a taped recording of her voice, but I can’t listen to it.

People who are born into abundance may become strong.

People who are born into scarcity become strong or die.

My love for Grandma includes a deep respect for a woman who did what she had to do.

Pondering the unfairness of life would have used up time she didn’t have to spare.


24 thoughts on “STRENGTH”

  1. What a marvelous story. Life was so different for our grandparents. My grandparents lived in Chicago during the depression. Other relatives moved into their home. Everyone pooled their resources just to survive that time.

    1. I want to become strong like our ancestors. I just don’t want to endure what they endured in order to gain that kind of strength.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Wow. All she accomplished and the tremendous character behind it…! You come from some hardy stock, Mrs. Debbie, and I’d be right proud if I were you! Puts me to shame just reading all she did. The value of adversity…

    1. True, Pearl. But I know of another strong woman who inspires me today with her faith and endurance.

      I hope you are doing well.

      James 1:2: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

  3. All this reminds me of both of my grandmas, raising their large families during the great depression. Sometimes I even shudder when certain memories come to my mind, what all they endured and how hard they worked, never complaining. No wonder their own children came to be called the greatest generation. A wonderful tribute, Debbie!

  4. Love your quote, “People who are born into scarcity become strong or die.” Thank God your grandma did what needed to be done to ensure others survived. She has my admiration.

  5. You have brought some wonderful memories to mind this morning. I too miss my grandmas. Thank you for sharing your stories. Love you.

  6. I just had to comment on this story! Brought tears to my eyes as I read this. Grandma was amazing! She could make anything grow and make something amazing to eat or wear out of something others would throw away. Thank you for reminding me! I loved this!

    1. Thanks, Diane. I think, sometimes, that “older” grandkids like us had a longer time to spend with our grandparents than the younger grandkids. Any time spent with either of our grandmothers was special!

  7. Loved this so much! Grandma James certainly was an inspiration to many. I loved her so much, and she loved me. And the knowledge of her love for me made my life better. Her children (and grandchildren) “stand and bless her.” Thank you for your tribute to that good, godly woman. Her influence lives on through those of us who knew her and loved her. ❤️

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