they (her children) say she went through a spell when she cried a lot. day in, day out, she cried, my grandmother ballard did. one of her children posits that she cried over the possibility that granddaddy had a girlfriend on the side, to which another reminds us that granddaddy was the town’s sheriff and it was his responsibility to make frequent trips to the . . . i don’t remember what they called it, this bawdy, rowdy house out on hwy 54. another child imagines the tears were brought on by the never-to-be-fulfilled life dreams. (grandmother had what we now call a full-ride scholarship to The Piano Conservatory, but after the first year, her daddy snatched her out of school saying girls didn’t need an education – especially one in music – they only needed a husband.) the third living child doesn’t remember her crying and has no earthly idea why she would.
this morning as i interrupt application of my daily facial moisturizer to allow my retired husband access to the bathroom for the fourth time since i started this activity (usually) of short duration, i imagine grandmother crying because she had no alone time and no personal space. no quiet time to just sit and ponder. i wonder if that’s why she made so many quilts – did the constant whirr of the old singer treadle machine provide walls of sound that served to keep everybody out and her in?
it’s what we do, you know: answer the unanswerable questions through our own filters of knowledge acquired through books and life experiences. sometimes it’s as though we gain permission to be ourselves, other times it gives us insights that explain us to ourselves. now would be a mighty good time to ask those questions as you gather round the tree to celebrate the holiday with your family. and hey, don’t forget to take a tape recorder. you can thank me later.
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While others wore necklaces, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers had a Brownie camera hanging around her neck. Always a personal historian, she’s considering dusting off her old workshops on such things and converting them to online classes. Stay tuned.