Tuesday, July 9, 2013

century before last

It blows my mind that all my grandparents were born in the 1800's - the century BEFORE last! My paternal grandmother was born 118 years ago today in White County, Arkansas. Ona Kate Lanier, the 10th of 12 children born to John and Martha Lanier, grew up in Searcy, Arkansas and carved a career for herself.

My grandmother married a widower with two sons and had just one child, my father. She became a teacher, then a school principal and a stern one at that. From early on, I heard rumors that Ona Kate Lanier was as tough as they came in the world of school authorities. This knowledge put in me a little fear of my grandmother. That, added to her business-like nature, and I never felt a closeness to her.

But now I wish I'd asked "Memaw" about her young years in Arkansas. What she did for fun. How it was with so many siblings. What country life was like without cars, televisions, and electricity. How did she decide to go to college, and how did she afford it?

I know Memaw put a high value on education and was a great fan of  Mark Twain and Robert Frost. Once when she visited us in Connecticut, we took her to tour Mark Twain's home in Hartford. How that fascinated her. Perhaps it is from her that I  inherited a love of all things literary.

Memaw might have been stern, and undoubtedly applied firm discipline to my father, but lately he's been asking about his "mama," a term I never heard him use.

Happy birthday, Memaw. If only you could meet your great great-grandchildren via Skype!

Memaw with my son Dan in 1987.
She died a couple months later at age 91.

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