Miss Ella, one of the main secondary characters in Honor and Lies, is named after my grandma. If you’ve read my blog, you know Grandma will always be one of my heroes.
Re-posted. Originally posted March 15, 2008
After 84 years you have plenty of stories to tell. It’s hard to believe my grandma lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
Grandma remembers living in Bristow, OK, in a nice house. And then she remembers the tent city in Maude. At six years old, she didn’t know how they lost the house, and no one ever told her. But she was old enough to remember moving to the tent city. They were lucky. They had two tents. One for the kids and one for Grandmother and Grandfather. Grandmother had worked as a nurse with the lady who had the big house in Maude, so they were lucky there, too. The big house lady let them set up their tents on top of the hill near the house. The rest of the tent city lived below in a valley of sorts. She remembers going to school with all the other tent city kids. Getting swatted with a big ruler the first day because she wouldn’t stop talking. Loving that teacher anyway because she opened the world and her imagination. She remembers Uncle Robison from Lawton bringing up a big bag of peas and eating peas and only peas for months because that’s all they had. She remembers the doctor operating on her baby brother, removing a cyst from his groin, on the big house lady’s kitchen table and not charging for the operation. She remembers the babies born in the tent city. No doctors. No hospitals. And one baby born way too early so everyone in the camp took turns rocking the baby up and down to keep its heart beating, trying with everything they had for hours and hours to keep the baby alive. And then when it died, she remembers her mother’s nervous breakdown. How she screamed and screamed and wouldn’t stop until they took her away for a while.
Grandma said she’s never seen another time like that.The way the earth baked under the hot sun and day after day after day the winds blew and clouds would build, teasing everyone with the possibility of rain, but then dissipate without offering relief.
It’s so strange to think she and Grandpa lived through that. That the stuff I think of as stories in a history book are their real memories. It makes me thankful for what I have. I can’t imagine existing for months on peas and only peas. Or living in a tent and being thankful because at least there were two and they were on top of the hill.
In Honor and Lies, Miss Ella is a touchstone character. In life, Mary Ella, Grandma, was a role model, a source of wisdom, a person who showed unconditional love. I miss her.
(I can imagine how excited my grandma was to go to school and how much she loved that teacher for opening the world to her. 🙂 I had my own set of teachers who did that. Teachers who helped me learn to read, and then gave me books so I’d continue. Teachers and professors who encouraged me to write. Shout out to Mrs. Tagy–1st grade, Mr. Novak–5th grade, Mrs. Burdette–6th grade, Mrs. Bo–Junior English, Mrs. Gillespie–Newspaper and Dr. Hoffman–all of college, especially grad school.)
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