Grateful for the soft voice of my grandmother
Last updated 5/3/2022 at 4:06pm
I’m the midst of an ongoing excavation of decades of detritus in my home.
The best — and most priceless — treasure I have turned up so far surfaced on Sunday. It’s a small, dusty five-year diary bound in green leather with the name “Lucy B. Williamson” embossed in gold on the cover.
Better known in our family as “Ma,” Lucy Betty Williamson was my paternal grandmother.
I never knew Ma. She died more than a year before I was born. She exists in my imagination through old photos and the stories told by my older cousins and family friends who remember her. This peek into her life through a handful of diary entries is a treat.
From a handful of black and white images, I know Ma was always as thin as a rail.
In the diary, a present she said she received for Christmas of 1942, there is a page titled “Identification” in which she penciled in that she had blue eyes and gray hair, was 5-feet, 10 inches tall and weighed a scant 115 pounds.
Before finding this, I’ve always assumed that I was born missing the journal-keeping gene. I’ve tried and failed multiple times to keep five-year diaries or even a daily record jotted on a calendar.
Imagine my delight to thumb through these yellowed pages and find that Ma was just as bad at this as I am.
Most pages are blank; the ones with entries are a jumble of random dates. There are a few from 1942, more from later in the 1940s, and a smattering from the 1950s (well past the intended “five-year” span noted on the cover).
Although all the dates start with the pre-printed “19,” Ma rarely added the next two numbers to nail down the year. Even when she did, any given page might have entries from, say 1944, 1953, and 1948 … in that order.
Her observations range from the mundane: “Lora Belle came for the day … she and Jo ironed for both families” to the necessary: “Milk cow due to come fresh.”
Some are painfully familiar, like this one from the last day of May in 1946: “A terrible sandstorm. Whole county suffering for rain.” July 30 that same year she wrote: “No rain yet.” At the bottom of another page: “1953 rain: several showers … too late and too little.”
Happily, there are also entries like this one from May 30, 1957: “Last of May. Big rains all over our holdings. Water and mud bound.”
My grandparents were avid gardeners, and produced an Eden’s worth of fruit, vegetables, and flowers most years.
Recapping one growing season, Ma wrote: “Plums all ripe and gone last of July. The white tender grapes ripened last of July. Other grapes turning July 30. Worms in the apples. No good. Damsons ripened July 1. Good jelly and jam.”
She had a green thumb that puts mine to shame.
Take this garden report from May 29, 1959: “Green beans up, okra, onions big enough to eat; mustard, collards, Swiss chard up, also squash … little tomato vines 8 inches high … roses killed back but still blooming … glads a ft. high, dahlias 8 or 10 inches; phlox ready to bloom also; daisies in bloom.”
Ma’s stove is still in my house, hooked up to propane and fully functional. I don’t use it often, but if I happen to be without power, or have a large crowd to cook for, it fires right up.
Turns out that ol’ stove will celebrate its 80th birthday this summer, I learned in this entry from July 21, 1942: “Went to Portales with Asa” -- my grandfather -- “and Billy Cummings. Bought Roper range … $132.00.”
I might have to round up some squash and tomatoes and collard greens and okra and cook up a feast that day.
Maybe it’s asking a lot, but I’m also going to hope for “big rains all over our holdings.”
I’m grateful for the soft voice of my grandmother reminding me that it has happened before.
Betty Williamson loves rainy days and old journals. Reach her at: