Many of you know that I had the perfect mother. She was the perfect “Monnie.” Virginia Smith was the number one cheering section in my life, and in my children’s lives. She was legally blind for the last ten years of her life, but she had eighty-seven very productive years before that. She worked in Jewelry in Gadsden and Huntsville, Alabama, and in many of the established businesses on the Square in Marietta, Georgia. She was a familiar and friendly face, especially to brides in Fletcher’s Jewelry, and to the children in the Toy Store. Yes, we miss her every day! But what joy it must have been for her to wake and finally see the face of Jesus!
I have very special memories of both my grandmothers. I was blessed to know and love them and have that love returned. I remember with gratitude.
Mother’s Day in May every year encourages all of us to celebrate those special women in our lives. This month, I celebrate grandmothers, and preacher’s wives in particular. The first day of May was my Grandmother Smith’s birthday.
My Grandmother Smith was my dad’s mother. Born to Henrietta and Willis Gaither, Estelle Edmonia Gaither was one of three children, including an older sister and a younger brother, who died as a young adult.
I was young, but I remember being in my great-grandparents’ home in Alabama City, Alabama. I remember the smell of cornbread and coffee. Grandmother Gaither was a small, thin woman with round, wire-rimmed spectacles. I remember that my great-grandfather was a very tall man. Their house had a front porch with a swing, and I think that was where I spent most of my time when we visited. They lived next door to a florist, and the smell of flowers hung in the air. There was a little goldfish pond in their back yard where I sometimes fished for tadpoles.
Estelle was fifteen years old when she married Carl Gordon Smith. Granddaddy was a gospel preacher, a school teacher, and a general store merchant. They had two sons…my dad, Seldon, who was also a gospel preacher, singing teacher, jeweler, and golf champion; and my Uncle Grayson, who was a Retired Colonel in the US Army when he died. Golf was also one of his passions.
I was the only child from Seldon, but Uncle Grayson had five sons and one daughter. He passed his amazing example and accomplishments of military service and love of golf to his sons. My dear cousins are all still alive and well except for Mark, who died way too soon.
When I was sixteen years old, it seemed perfectly natural for me to marry a preacher, school teacher, singer, rocket scientist, and much more. At that time, Grandmother was a prim and proper preacher’s wife and full-time homemaker whose snow-white hair was never out of place; a woman who whistled while she worked. These days, when I look at myself in the mirror, I often think I see her.
On Mondays, she would knead a big bowl of biscuit dough, break off enough for breakfast, and refrigerate the rest to last all week. Each day made the biscuits better and better! Granddaddy loved biscuits with red-eye gravy and Log Cabin syrup for breakfast. I have her small biscuit cutter in my utensil drawer. She could also make amazing cornbread muffins. Their home always smelled of food cooking. I also have her cast-iron muffin pan.
There was never a speck of dust to be seen in their home. She washed and ironed their white ruffled organdy curtains six times a year. Beds were made every day, and you wouldn’t find dirty clothes anywhere!
My first two daughters have little-girl memories of Grandmother when they would spend a few hours each week with her while I volunteered service for the Red Cross at Huntsville Hospital. She adored them. And now that I am a grandmother and a great-grandmother, I understand more about how much she loved me and my cousins.
She played the banjo without music lessons. I have wondered how and when she got started with that talent. I wish I had asked her.
Maybe I inherited my love of writing from her. She kept little notebooks full of what today we would call blogs. Even in her Bible; things she saw and loved about her grandchildren…funny things they said and did. After Daddy passed away, and Granddaddy passed away, she moved to live with Uncle Grayson. She and I corresponded regularly until her writing was no longer legible, but I still have some of her notebooks, letters, and her Bible.
Dementia stole her from us. She didn’t know me the last time I saw her before she passed away. She wanted to show me pictures. So we looked at an old photo album and she pointed to the picture of a little girl and told me that was her granddaughter, Sandra. I said, “Grandmother, that picture is me. I’m all grown up now.” She looked at me, studying my face, and said, “Really?”
I recently ran across an article that reminded me of her. I want to share it with you.
God bless our mothers, greats, and grands, and wives of preachers everywhere!
This is precious. I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.
The principle use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a holder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken-coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that “old-time apron” that served so many purposes.
“Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.”
This May 2022 Bowl of Webstable Soup contains an excerpt from Webstable Soup Bowl July 2017. It also contains memories that will not matter to many outside my own family, but perhaps it will evoke good memories that are personal to you. And for those who read these words without good memories of childhood, mothers, and grandmothers, I pray that God blesses you with good memories of other special people in your life.
Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. In the United States, Mother’s Day 2022 will occur on Sunday, May 8. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards and other gifts.[i]