While on Friday I thought about the remarkable life of our friend Tasha Tudor, I also started thinking about all the remarkable women I have known. Did you?
First, there is my mother. Raised in a log cabin by parents who could neither read nor write, she defied her father and went to Charlotte (so far then!), worked at Our Sister's of Mercy Hospital and took three years of nurse's training. Every time the schedule of eight hours of work, eight of classes and eight for everything else got too much, my darling Grandmother would say to her, "Well, I am sure you can come to the factory to work. I'll speak to the Boss Man." Summer would come and Mother would work for the factory, pinning tags on socks. Her goal was a DOZEN GROSS a day. After three days, she was ready to return to school in August. She taught me to use all my silverware (she grew up with only a spoon), say, "yes, ma'am; yes, sir", and took me to church every time the door was opened. While I was an imperfect child and, to some degree, she was an imperfect mother, I always remember that we learned together to overcome those imperfections. She is my heroine.
Other remarkable women are:
My Grandmother Arrington (Mother's mother) who paired socks in a factory for 62 years, saved her money, praised God daily, and sang hymns when Grandpa made her angry. Her favorite? "When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there." Obviously she was counting on Grandpa NOT to be! She was pink and white and cuddly. A hug from her was like being wrapped in clouds and smelling Este Lauder to boot. She laughed easily and often and, even as she was dying, always had a dollar for my birthday always tucked in the special card just for me. I still miss her.
Grandmother Holder (Daddy's mother) kept children, gardened enough to feed her entire family and her neighbors, quilted until her dying day, and was, without a doubt, one of the meanest women I have ever known. But, perhaps, life made her mean, I don't know. But her talent to make life lovely in her own way makes her remarkable. She raised four children and all of them are wonderful, kind, and loving people. That alone is a remarkable legacy.
Ms. Evelyn taught me to weave and spin and was born in Wisconsin at a time when horse or train were the only modes of transportation. Evelyn has raised almonds in California, Arabians in Arizona, and learned the butcher trade in Virginia. Did I mention that she is a breast cancer survivor and is currently carrying her "pet" (an O2 tank) with her everywhere? And yet, she is a volunteer, works with numerous craft groups, and is a founding member of the "Round the Mountain" organization which is developing artist support in our region.
Miss Kathryn spent four years housebound with her husband as he was dying with COPD. She seldom left home for those years and few went to visit as her husband found any noise too upsetting. She taught herself to quilt (20 stitches to an inch! She counted and redid until it was just so), has gardens that rival the most professional, and can fire a gun so accurately that she has hit a target over 100 yards away right in the bull's eye. She once took a gun with us shopping in Winston-Salem. When I discovered the pistol in her bag, she quickly explained, "Well, you never know when you might need one."
Miss Madelyn is another remarkable woman who has only left our county twice, by ambulance and not at her request. She was a sharecropper's wife and still lives in a small, what most would call, shack that is wrapped in tar paper and has a tin roof. Yet, she laughs and sings and has a lovely vegetable garden that she shares with everyone who stops by. Her sense of humor and appreciation for the small things in life make her a ray of sunshine in life.
And last is Ms. Ruth who learned to paint at the tender age of 75. She is a sought after local artist, along the lines of Grandma Moses, and has enough work lined up that if she were to live to be 100, she would still be behind. Going to her house one finds candy in every dish and canvases drying in the front seat of her car (it is warmer there, she explains). She well remembers the time, when she had been diagnosed with diabetes at nine, that the entire church turned out to pray over her. She lay on the alter and people laid hands on her and prayed all day. When she returned to the doctor for a check up, her diabetes was gone and has stayed gone for more than 80 years. She sees angels and talks to the dead. Her house is never quiet or lonely for everyone loves "Ruth."
All these women are over 75 and all are remarkable for so many reasons. The one thing that strikes me is that each lived their bliss and their dreams. Each has a strong faith and each thinks of others. So this, my friends, is my question. Is a remarkable life, then, living OUR unique life and being pleased with it? What do you think?