This Mother’s Day has me thinking about my lineage of mothers, from my mother to her mother to her mother. And also my father’s mother and her mother.
All of these women have had an impact on who I am today—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Their lives have directly affected my life because not only did they give birth to my parents and grandparents, but the way they lived influenced my parents and grandparents and ultimately me.
This pondering prompted me to pull out an old photo album and some framed photos and a book and a photo of a photo. I’m fortunate to have access to photos of my mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers when they were young and middle-aged.
My maternal side
This is my mother in 1944 from her photo album from that year.
Below is her mother, Irene Smith Robinson.
And with her mother and brother (below).
I don’t have a lot of memories of Grandma Irene. We visited her one Sunday afternoon each month after Granddaddy Ivens’ death (when I was in the 3rd grade). I think the visits were the same when he was alive, but I don’t remember as well. Sardis was about an hour and fifteen minutes away from our home at Ebenezer Crossroads. We’d miss church that Sunday and drive while Grandma Irene was at church, and we’d arrive just in time for Sunday dinner. Grandma Irene was tall and skinny at that point in her life, which would have been mostly the 1960s and early 1970s when she was in her 70s.
She died when I was in the 9th grade. She made a really good macaroni and cheese casserole. I also remember pickled beets and asparagus casserole. I don’t remember any conversations, though I do remember that just about every visit she’d tell me my eyes were turning brown. I have hazel eyes (like Daddy). Grandma Irene and Mama had brown eyes.
This (above) is Great-grandma Sallie Robinson Smith in a tintype. She was Grandma Irene’s mother. She was notorious in Sardis (from what I’ve been told). Mama said Sallie wore the long dresses of the 1800s well into the 1900s, and Mama found that embarrassing. My cousin told me that his father said that when Sallie walked down the street, everyone—men, women, children—got out of her way. Mama’s family was pretty much estranged from Sallie. One of Mama’s stories was of her driving home from college in Milledgeville when she heard Sallie’s death announced on the radio (back then radio stations would read a list of local deaths), and Mama said she slowed down so as not to get home in time to go to the funeral.
Sallie looks intimidating to me in this photo. I don’t think I’d mess with her! I do have a very sturdy oak table that was hers. Mama and her daddy found it at the dump and recognized it as Sallie’s. They were offended that she hadn’t offered it to them but instead threw it away. They saved it, and Mama refinished it and made it our kitchen table. Now it’s my kitchen table.
My paternal side
Effie Waldhour Seckinger was my father’s mother. This (below) is the Grandma Effie I remember. She lived across the road from us and was a major influence in my childhood. She died the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. She had a great sense of humor, and I loved to “pick” at her. She’d give it right back, which delighted me. She was a steady, accepting, calm presence, very devoted to family and church. Mother to eight children, outliving her husband and two children, she hosted extended family at all of the major holidays. I have wonderful memories of playing with my many cousins at her house.
You can tell this is a photo of a photo. I have it in a prominent place so that I can see it daily.
This is her mother, my great-grandmother Addie Helmly Waldhour (with her husband Jacob Radley Waldhour), from a photo in the book Images of America: Effingham County by Historic Effingham Society. I knew little about her and didn’t get curious until my father had already died. I asked my Aunt Leona what Grandma Addie was like, and all she could tell me was that “she was prissy.”
This is another photo of a photo in the Images of America: Effingham County book. Grandma Effie is on the far left and her mother, Addie, is in the center wearing a print dress with a dark jacket and pin on the shoulder.
I have so many questions I wished I asked about these women in my lineage. What I do know is that they all were mothers. And from what little I know of most of them, they mothered in various ways, no two alike.
I’m grateful for all of them, for the influences they’ve had on me, both positive and negative.
All of that together has been a part of the foundation of my life and the lessons I’m learning. These women, these mothers, live on through me and all of my cousins and my cousins’ children and grandchildren.
So on this Mother’s Day I honor them all and give thanks for their lives. And for their far-reaching influences.