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Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm An Ambassador To What?

Ninety-seven years ago today this lady was born:

Gorgeous, huh? That's my grandma in 1935 when she was twenty years old, living with her parents in Idaho in the middle of the Great Depression.

In 1937 she married this guy:
Who she described like this, "He had a Hitler mustache and wore shiny boots and riding britches. And when he would drive up in the big Chrysler Coupe, I thought he was really something."
"He had the biggest ego I had ever known anyone to have, and his mustache always smelled a little bad when I kissed him, but I decided I would marry him."

Clearly she was madly in love with him. But maybe not so much his mustache. Kinda reminds me of how I felt about my husband's sideburns before we got married. (You can take a gander at them here).

Today I took this picture of two of their seven kids with their spouses and some of their kids and grand kids:
Twenty-one of my grandma's eighty-six descendants are pictured here (my three aren't because there was just no reason to add three more kids to this mix at Disneyland. Talk about herding cats). And that number doesn't include all the in-laws -- most of whom have stuck around. Each one of us who had the privilege of knowing Grandma thinks she loved him or her best of all. It's what she told each of us. It's what her parents told each of their twelve children.

I got to thinking a lot about my grandma this week when I signed up to be a blog ambassador for the 1940 US Census. Why would I do that, you ask? Because one, I like history--especially the family kind. And two, sometimes I'm a little impulsive and sign up for things before I know what in the heck I'm doing. And three, I can tell people I'm an ambassador now. Which makes me sound important.

A census is pretty cool because it can tell you a lot about someone if you look at the right things. For example the 1940 US Census could tell you my grandparents lived in Helena, Montana where Grandpa was doing construction and mining for gold. It could tell you Grandpa was thirty-eight at the time, while Grandma was only twenty-five. It would also tell you they didn't have any kids.

What it wouldn't tell you is that they were living in a little trailer house, which wasn't very nice, but a vast improvement over the box tent they'd been living in on the Snake River while my grandpa built a dam. It also wouldn't tell you that my grandma wasn't one of those cookie making grandmas. She grew up so poor that her mom never had anything besides milk and flour to cook with, so my grandma never learned. Although she did become a pretty proficient shopper once she did have some money. I guess shopping held more interest for her than cooking.

The Census also won't tell you that Grandma was kind and generous. She worried a lot about appearances, but she never valued things over people. In fact, she saw the worth of everyone she met, whether that person recognized her own value or not. My grandma taught me how to shop, but she also taught me what charity really is.

A census can tell you about a person, but it can't tell you who a person is.

So why does it matter?

Because it can lead you to people who can tell you who a person is. Or was. People like my grandma's brother Dick who published a book all about my grandma's family that includes memories from my grandma herself. Memories she told me, but that I don't have written down anywhere. Memories she can't tell me anymore.

Grandma has been gone for six years now. Ten really, if you count the dementia years. But I still think about her all the time. I had forgotten, though, that today was her birthday until I started thinking about what I was going to say about her when I wrote this post. But now I know.

Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you best of all!


J.R., Amber, and Co. said...

I thought about grandma all day yesterday, too. I even had this fantastic idea of what to write about her on my blog. But you beat me to it. Guess I'll have to wait til next year. =) Or maybe next week. Aw heck, no one reads my blog anyway, so I might as well post it today.

Dixie said...

Haha Amber! I do! Is everyone in the family getting their stories ready for book number two? I just read Brittany likes history. And she seems to take to writing, and confesses to have some grammar pet peeves. So I nominate her. Anyone second the motion? I love having a bit of Kathryn and Otis progenitors share their faith building stories! I tell them to my kids And that's how the know family far away!

Thanks for the stories on Kathryn!