But, I thought I would write about two other women. They were most likely invisible in the world because of the times they lived in.
My paternal grandmother was one of seven children of first generation Polish immigrants. She married my grandfather when she was 17 and had 4 children in the next 8 years. My father was the oldest.
She worked in a factory as a seamstress until she retired. I admit to having disappointed her greatly when she tried to teach me to sew when I was in Girl Scouts and earning a badge. I was not only horrible at it, but to this day remain terrified of sewing machines. She was so proud of being part of the union and made sure everyone knew it.
Growing up poor, she wanted to give her granddaughters a gift that she never had. Every year she purchased one pearl for each of us and when we were 16, she gave us a pearl necklace. The patience and ability to work towards a goal which was so huge–my aunt had 13 children and over half were girls–and I admired her tenacity.
Also, my grandfather was her life. She fussed over him and when he died, the entire family expected her to soon follow. Her parents had died within 6 months of each other. But did she? Nope. She figured out how to get around by bus since she had never learned to drive and lived another 10 years. She adapted to a new life and lived to see great grandchildren. She was a strong woman.
My maternal grandmother had the opposite life. She was born to an older man who had bought and sold several stores before he married a “spinster” schoolteacher and they had my grandmother and a younger son. They were financially secure, but my great uncle was born with Down’s Syndrome. In those days it was a mark of shame and it destroyed my great grandmother. My grandmother, however, loved her brother and was devastated when he died at 20.
Her uncle had purchased a farm that was in foreclosure and he left it to my grandmother when he died. She grew up in a world, while not wealthy, where she did not want for anything. When she met my grandfather and they married, he moved into “her” house and it remained hers until she sold it after his death. He ran the farm, then a gravel pit off the property as well as camp houses similar to the Dirty Dancing movie.
My grandmother had 4 children who did the work around the house. Why? She absolutely hated housework. The woman would rather buy new sheets and towels than go to the laundromat. I remember visiting as a child and one morning was always spent cleaning out the refrigerator with all of the science experiments that were in there.
So why do I admire her? She sounds so privileged and spoiled. And she was. But, she was also one of the most generous people I ever knew. She was always willing to give money to people in need. She was on many grand juries because she knew they needed people and she had the time. She always viewed people as meaning well even if they were cheating her.
And after my grandfather left her a widow in her mid 60s, she kept going. She decided against “shacking up” with a man and married him. They only had two years together and a lot of that was her taking care of him. But she never saw it as anything but good because she had someone to love. Her ability to adapt and her generosity of spirit were amazing.
So, Charmer has had some wonderful role models. Being the third generation, I love seeing how my life has been shaped by the women who preceded me and loved me.