22 August 2006

Louise's birthday

Today I have been in a rather pensive mood. It is my great-grandmother's birthday. Born in 1889, if she were still with us, she would be turning 117. I was in 5th grade when she crossed over at age 75. At that point she was the person I loved most in the world. I was named for her. She taught me to sew on her old treadle sewing machine (which I now have) when I was only 4 years old. I would sit on her lap and guide the fabric, while she worked the treadle. That was when I also got to start learning to make biscuits (a necessity in the south!) And I am the one who inherited her biscuit bowl. It is one of my greatest treasures.

My great-grandparents lived about 250 miles from us. The reason I was at her house learning to sew & cook when I was 4, was that she had come alone on the train to get me. I felt very important riding a train all day to get back to her house! It was only later, as an adult, that I realised what a big deal it was to her to come get me by herself on the train.

My great-grandmother's name was Louise. All the kids in the family called her that, even her own. All the kids in the town near where she lived called her Ms Louise. Louise fished, gardened, sewed, tended her milk cow, and cooked. Every Tuesday she baked bread that she took to town to sell for pin money. So many of my childhood memories revolve around her kitchen: churning butter, baking the lightest biscuits, rolling out pie dough to make blackberry cobbler from the berries she showed us to gather from the wild, eating homemade ice cream before we went to bed at night.

To me she represents the epitome of womanhood. Many of things I cook are recipes that were handed down from her. When I put together our family cookbook in 1996, it was dedicated to her. She gets complete credit for my love of homemaking skills. Here is a photo of our family as it was Thanksgiving 1956.

Louise is the second lady from the left on the sofa. I am the little girl sitting in her lap.

My birthday is next week. I was actually due on 20 August and heard stories all my life about how Louise wanted me to be born on her birthday. Even though I was late, we shared a very special bond that death has not broken.

Louise is my idol. Do you have one? I'd love to hear your stories about a special woman in your life. Or at least, I'd like you to think of that special person and acknowledge her influence.
Bookmark and Share

No comments: