My Day with My Mamaw…

I promised y’all when wrote my last blog (Reflecting on 101 years of Life)  about my Mamaw that I would follow up with another one about the day I spent with her while working on a project for Developmental Psych in college.   So here it is…

April 2002, she was 86.  We spent the day going through her baking recipes, looking through old photo albums and built a family tree all the way back to my Great Great Great Grandparents.  I can still remember, it was a nice sunny warm Spring day.   One part of the project was to conduct an interview.  Here are my questions and her answers below…

Q: How would you compare your childhood to mine?      A: We really didn’t have a childhood. We didn’t have toys, maybe one toy to share, we just went to school and worked around the home.  We played outside and used our imaginations. We went to church every week.

Q: How many siblings did you have?      A: 5 Sisters & 3 Brothers, all were born at home.  Ona was my twin.

Q: At what age did you marry? How did you meet?  What did you like about him?  When did you get married?         A: I was 20 when we married, we went to school together and were good friends, he was an honest and good worker.  We married on January 30, 1936.          Side Note; supposedly they never kissed before they were married but no one can confirm this and she gave a sheepish grin when answering lol

Q: How long did you attend school?      A: Til 8th Grade

Q: What was school like back then?     A: They were all one room schools, 1-5 grade on side and 6-8 on the other side.

Q: How hard was it to find/get a job?  What was the wage?     A: Not hard.  Housework could be done for $1 per week while I was growing up.  Once a woman gets married she shouldn’t work.

Q:  What were your parents like?    A:  Nice, hardworking people.  They were all farmers.

Q:  Is there a favorite recipe you would like to share?    A:  Chicken-n-Dumplins & Cornbread      Chicken-n-Dumplins, cut up a chicken and boil it to cook it and make some broth, pull out most of the bones, then make the dumplings (cold water, crisco, and self rising flour)  and drop it into the pot and mix it all around.     Cornbread, take cornmeal, self rising flour and buttermilk and mix and bake until golden brown.                                     Fun Fact if you didn’t catch it, mamaw didn’t measure ingredients very often!!  Also if you were eating her chicken-n-dumplings you knew to watch out for a stray chicken bone that may be left in there.  lol

Q: What are your favorite flowers and vegetables to grow?   A:  Peonies, Irises, Roses, Corn, Beans, Tomatoes and White Cucumbers

Q:  Why didn’t you learn to drive a car?    A: My husband did not want her to learn.  Now he wishes he had taught me but its too late now.

Q:  Do you have any theories on life?    A:  Every woman should learn to drive a car and every man should learn to cook.

Q:  Do you have any home remedies for first aid?   A:  Turpentine for cuts and stings,  Castor Oil for a laxative, Vicks Salve for a cold and if those things didn’t work then you just tufted it out.

Q: If you could change anything about your life would you and what?   A:  Absolutely nothing!

Q:  About technology, good or bad, what parts do you like?    A:  Telephone, so I can talk to my friends.  Medical Technology is saving lives.  My mother died from a ruptured appendix and back then no one knew what to do.

Q: What did teenagers do for fun?   A:  Jump Rope, Hide-n-Seek, Marbles, Tag & Run Around the Mulberry Bush

Q: Did you have chores?  What kind?   A:  Yes everyone had chores.  I washed clothes and cleaned.

Q:  At what age did you have your first child and why only 2?   A: I was 23 and only had two because there was a miscarriage between Glenna and Anna.

Q: What spare time activities do you like to do?   A:  Quilt, Sew, Cook, Clean and Garden

Q: How do you feel about women in the workforce?    A: Don’t like it, they should stay home to clean and care for their family.

I am so thankful for that professor who gave this assignment, I now have this scrapbook with all of these memories and history documented to pass along to my kids.   Below are some photos from that day.

It has been one month since you have been gone.  30 days since you took your last breath.  37 days since I kissed your forehead and held your hand.  I knew I would miss you, I mean you are my Mamaw, I was with you or Mamaw Maynard SO Much when I was growing up, but I thought that losing you would be easier to bear because I had been anticipating it for what seemed like years because of your age and ailing health.  I was mistaken.  I am clinging to those memories with you harder than ever before.  I am so happy though, you are where you have wanted to be for such a long time, in heaven with Papaw, Anna and Ona. I imagine you sitting on your porch in Heaven reading your paper while waiting for your pie to come out of the oven.

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Reflecting on 101 years of Life

Mamaw Johnson 2-22-16Yes, I hear you, “Amanda you said you would start blogging more often and to hold you accountable,”   Well everything has mostly went up in the air into chaos the last 3 weeks!  It was the last week of school so I had PTO responsibilities to tend to, and my kids end of the year activities to attend, took the kids to Pittsburgh and back to watch the Bucco’s play, went back home to visit with my great grandmother who turned 101 on June 5th, and then a week in Columbus with the kids for summer camps!  It will get better and more frequent, please just bear with me!  Sign up to follow my blog please.  It will help increase the traffic to my page.

One week and 5 days ago, my great grandmother Ella Mae Johnson celebrated her 101st birthday.   101!!!!  Holy Crap!!!!  Who lives that long!?!?  She does!!   Her quality of life the last 5 – 6 years has not been anything she would have wanted.  That was hard to see.  She would not have wanted to have lived with in home care like she had, she would not have wanted to have been bed or chair ridden, she would not have wanted to lose her memory.   But she did, she lost her ability to walk on her own, her ability to take herself to the restroom, make her own meals, and know who we were when we were there.

One week to the day after her 101st birthday she took her last breath and went to heaven to be with her late husband and late daughter on what would have been their birthdays!  how crazy was that!  She dies on her husband and daughter’s birthdays.  I can only imagine the celebration they had in heaven Sunday.  I now think that’s why she passed away early that morning so she could get there and get their cakes made and dinner ready for them.

I knew this was coming, have thought it was coming so many times in the 10 years, but I knew for sure when I saw her on her birthday, that would be the last time I would see her alive.  I kissed her head, told her I loved her, and that it was okay to go when she was ready.

We buried mamaw on Tuesday.  I had cried but not REALLY Cried, I had been too busy keeping myself busy.  So Monday night before the service I wanted to edit a poem for her about a Grandmothers hands, well when I started that it turned into a letter to mamaw of some of my favorite memories, and turned into 3 hours of heavy, lose your breath sobbing.

I will share some of those memories with you today and then there will be a 2nd part to the story on a day that I spent with her for a college project.

I hope this takes you to a place in time with a good memory of your grandparents as you read…


“Mamaw this story at the end of this letter made me think of you, I changed it a bit to fit you better, but first I would like to share some memories with you.

The story is about a grandmothers hands. I remember looking at your hands, and you commenting how ugly you thought they were because of your wrinkles and liver spots. I always thought they were beautiful because you were a hardworking woman and those hands told your own story, kind of like the one at the end of this.   

I am so blessed to have lived between both of my grandparents growing up. I could go down my steps, turn left or right, and end up in the loving home of my grandparents or great grandparents who spoiled me rotten every single day!!!  

 I will always remember playing under the quilting rack in the basement while you stitched away. I will always remember in the mornings playing the Bozo Grand Prize game with your butter bowls in the living room and you would just laugh at that ridiculous show, then in the afternoons watching game shows with you. You cooked cakes for me in any color combination I wanted, even one Halloween making a pumpkin one, having a sleepover with you and camping out in the living room floor, working in the garden and eating raw rhubarb as you picked it, and swinging the days away in your glider and swing.

 Your adorable dresses that you always wore because you were such a lady. I remember how shocked I was when I saw you in pants for the first time, yes they were under your dress to protect you from the snakes but you never wore them so I thought it was so silly you would wear them under your dress. Summers were spent stringing beans and canning kraut and tomatoes in the basement kitchen to fill your cellar. While I may never get up the nerve to use a pressure canner like yours because I just knew one day it was gonna blow to the ceiling when it started to whistle, I will always have those memories. You made the best tomato and blackberry dumplins ever!! I have your recipes for those and your pie crust, maybe someday I will be able to make them close to as good as you did.

You would be amazed at the Lily’s and Hosta’s at my house. They are huge!  I told Reg that I wanted to get a Peonies Bush because you always had one and it had the biggest prettiest flowers on it.

 I will never forget the Christmas card you wrote me right after my divorce when you were begging me to move back home. You doubted my strength and were disappointed in me. I sat in the car at the post office and cried while reading it. I hope that I have proved you wrong and made you proud. My marriage is strong mamaw, and I am so happy now.

 You loved my son Trey so much! You called him “mamaws boy”. You always knew who he was, even when you didn’t know me or thought I was my mother, you would know Trey. I remember the first time last fall that you didn’t know who he was, you were hugging him and looked over and said, “who is this sweet little boy”.   He has great memories of you and was always so sweet with you.  

 I wish you‘d been of sound mind to have really gotten to know my daughter Alee Belle, named after your twin sister and your daughter. Geez, mamaw she is a free spirited child! Nothing like me at her age. But I love her for it and I know you would have too.   You always thought she was me when we were at your house. I wish she would’ve known the mamaw Johnson that I knew growing up. She would’ve loved those days in the kitchen with you like I had. She loves to cook and be outside in flowers just like you. I really need you to teach me how braid or “plat” as you called it, her hair. Mamaw she has the craziest curly hair, & you used to always ask where she got the curls from.

 Okay Mamaw, here is the story that started this silly rambling letter. Please just know that I will cherish my memories with you for as long as I live. I am so glad I got to say Good bye to you last week on your birthday, I knew, deep down that it would have been the last time. I love you mamaw and I know you are flying high as our angel.

 “Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the porch swing. She didn’t move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands. When I sat down beside her she didn’t acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK.

Not wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and Looked at me and smiled. ‘Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,’  She Said in a clear voice strong.

‘I didn’t mean to disturb you, grandma, but you were just sitting here Staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK,’ I Explained to her.

 ‘Have you ever looked at your hands,’ she asked.   ‘I mean really looked at your hands?’

 I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them

Over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.

 Grandma smiled and related this story:

 ‘Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

 ‘They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the Floor.

They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back.

As a child, my Mother had taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots.

 They wiped my tears and trembled when I buried my child and husband.

‘They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were

Uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn great great grandchild.

 Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.

 They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well; these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

 ‘These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life.

 But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to his side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

If you hold your cursor over these photos there is a tidbit about them.


 You see, I was spoiled as a child growing up in-between my grandparents and great grandparents but not with materialistic things, but with love, friendship and play!  They always made time for me through out the busy days of housework and farming.  Those are memories  that can never ever be taken away from me.