Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lola, laughing

Mammaw (my grandmother Lola) was born 111 years ago today. She lived to the age of 92 and made the best of every single day. When I was a child, she was my rock, my safety and consistency. Sometimes, when I wrap my arms around myself to ward off a chill, it's Mammaw's soft girth that I feel beneath my fingertips. And more and more often these days, it's her face I glimpse when I look in the mirror.

If positive outlooks could be measured, Mammaw's would have been off the scale on the high side. She saw the good in everyone she met, and her joy in being in their presence showed in her face. I know how hard she worked to keep house for a family that included four generations, but even as I remember her cooking or hanging laundry on the line, I see her smiling, her face serene and worry-free.

This photo was taken when my grandparents visited relatives on the East Coast in June 1954:

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see Mammaw's unbridled joy at wading in the ocean, probably for the first time ever.

Approximately a year later, sometime in 1955, the broadway musical Damn Yankees introduced new song lyrics to America: "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets." Teased about the song, Mammaw smiled and replied, "It's true. I do get whatever I want -- but I always know exactly how much I can want."

Mammaw may not have been rich in the way of worldly goods, but in choosing to be happy with whatever life served up to her, she had the world by the tail. And she offered it to all of us who loved her.


  1. Velvet,

    Lovely story and a terrific photo of a beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You have/have been blessed with so many wonderful family members. I suspect you have more in common with Mammaw's ability to see the good in things than you realize. Thank you once again for sharing your family. Carmon

  3. That's the kind of grandma everyone should have. I'm envious of people like her, with her outlook on life. I can see why you loved her and still remember her so well.

  4. Hi Velvet,

    Reading this entry, I could have *almost* believed you were talking about my grandmother. I had a very similar relationship with her, made even more special by the fact that she and my "Poppy" more or less raised me for the first 5 years of my life as my Mum had to go out to work to support us after my father walked out on us when I was only 3 months old.

    My grandmother too was always happy, and everyone she came into contact with always walked away with a big smile on their face. She was a very special lady. She passed away last year at the age of 93, and the only thing I really regret is that I wasn't able to get a chance to tell her how much she meant to me. She'd been suffering with Alzhemier's for around 10-12 years before she passed, and it used to break my heart seeing that once bright, happy and cheerful woman reduced to such a sad state.

    However, there were times over those last few years of her life when her spirit would shine through, and you could be forgiven for believing in those very rare moments that there was nothing wrong with her. Those were bittersweet moments.

  5. Classic photo. Nice story. You have some wonderful characters in your family.

  6. I always wanted to be the kind of person that other people would describe as someone who 'made the best of every day'.

  7. Happy birthday Mammaw! You left Velvet with a fortune!

  8. What a beautiful tribute to your Mammaw. And you're right, when I enlarged the photo - her smile made me smile. A wise woman, too. We don't all know how much we can want.

  9. Holly, thanks, I love this photo.

    Carmon, Mammaw's ability to find the good in anybody is a trait I've tried to develop. She was a lot better at it than I am.

    Janet, not only that, but she baked good sugar cookies, too.

    2catsdesigns, our early histories are similar. My dad left us when I was 3 mos. old, too, first to go in the service (WWII), then for good when I was five. (I'm glad he popped in long enough to provide me with a little sister.) We lived with my grandparents most of the time from when I was born until I was 14. Your grandmother does sound a lot like mine. I'm sorry Alzheimer's robbed you of precious time with her.

    Duly Inspired, practically everybody in my family could be described as a character. Thank goodness for the wonderful ones.

    Rhea, welcome. I'd like to be described that way, too. It's a shame about all those times I've wasted sitting on my behind watching TV or daydreaming.

    Third-Cat, I need to learn to spend that particular fortune more freely. Sometimes I'm a little stingy with it.

    Jackie, thank you. She was wise in every way that mattered.

  10. Oh, Velvet, I do love this photo. She looks simple, perhaps, typical housewife type...but you can see in her soul with her standing in the ocean...that she is of a deeper sort. It is such a good image, a special memory!


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