Facets of Lucy

Looking at the various side of a life


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Lesson on a Snowy Day

It’s a snowy day today and they’re encouraging everyone to stay off the road.  I’ve been thinking about my grandmother lately and this cozy day inspires me to write about her.

My daughter, my grandmother and I

My daughter, my grandmother and I

I really only had one grandmother.  My other grandmother left the family when my father was only five.  He was raised by a step-mother who was our grandmother, until my parents divorced.  Apparently, that also concluded my grandparent’s relationship with us as well.

My mother’s mother was always there, however.  When my parents split, my mother did what a lot of women would do, she drove us to her parents’ house.  I hadn’t been there in a long time, if ever.  We walked into the kitchen where my grandparents sat playing cards with my great uncle and aunt and, I’m sure enjoying a drink or two.  My grandmother showed us around the house, helped us see where we would sleep and to settle in.

I adored my grandfather.  I have written about him time and again.  He was the best person I still have ever met.  My grandmother, who had 7 children and 31 grandchildren, was always on the move but never unkind.  She was just busy and didn’t enjoy children underfoot where my grandfather delighted in having grandchildren in his lap and willing to be taught.

Things I remember about my grandmother:  My grandfather didn’t think she knew how to handle money, so he made her save for things she wanted or needed via cards that banks used to offer that would hold dimes or other coins.  You saved your money on these cards and then used them.  I remember she got a new winter coat that way. Granddad even named someone else his estate’s executor, so sure he was that she would spend wildly or be misled.  I remember my grandfather did not like her to smoke, so she never smoked in the house but would often return home from errands or visits smelling like a chimney.  I remember she came to visit me in my college dorm and, after my mother left, sit back and lit up  (when one could still do such a thing). While he may seem harsh, my grandfather was actually very respectful and loving to “the Mrs.”, and expected the same from everyone else.

Nellie as a Young Woman

Nellie as a Young Woman

I didn’t know what made my grandmother “tick”.  She wasn’t a woman prone to long conversations – she always had too much to do.  She enjoyed crocheting.  She cooked a lot, but that may have been just because there were always mouths to feed. They had a small farm which every spring featured a huge strawberry patch.  She would use us grandchildren to pick the ripened fruit, one of my fondest childhood memories (Hello!  Pick two, eat one…)  Well, it was one of my fondest memories until I mentioned it to her in her later years and she said, “You damn kids only took the easy ones on top and I had to go back over them again”.  Crushed.   One thing she and I had in common was our love of old things – especially old photographs and books.  I inherited some of both when she passed in 1992.

Nellie (Back, Middle) and Family

I never knew my grandmother’s “people” as country folk might say.  I did hear she had relatives of some sort in a larger city about 4 hours away but I didn’t know who they were and they never visited.  So one day recently, I started digging through materials I have at home which is predominantly genealogy about my grandfather’s family.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  I found a letter from the Children’s’ Home Society of Virginia, dated March 13, 1958, addressed to her.  It said:

Dear Lucy’s Grandmother,

We have your letter of February 27 requesting help in getting a birth certificate.  You were born during the period when births were not   in this state and we do not have sufficient information in our records to have a delayed certificate filed for you.  However, I am enclosing a notarized statement which I believe will serve in most instances where a birth certificate is required.

Well, that was a kicker!  I had no idea she was ever in a “home”.   Behind it was the notarized statement which said, in part, “[She] came into the care of said Society at the age of six years and six months, and was said to have been born on November, 8, 1909 in Nelson County, Virginia.”  Six years old!  My heart ached for my grandmother.  Because I know this, too:  During the depression, my grandparents couldn’t provide for their children, so my mother and her siblings were also placed in a children’s home for a few years.  It must have broken her heart to have to do that to her own kids.

I dug deeper, needing to know more and wishing I knew enough when she was still alive to ask her questions.  But this is something she never mentioned.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  Well, it doesn’t fill in the softer questions but it certainly answered my main questions.  My mother had gone through a genealogy phase years ago and she had written up some information on my grandmother.  Let me tell you, you could flesh out a novel from this story.

Nellie (Grandma, can I call you Nellie?), was born to Samuel, age 49, who worked as a laborer at a nearby stone quarry and to his wife, Mary, age 46.  I was surprised by their ages until I saw the list of her siblings:

Samuel , born 7/18/1895
William Raymond, born 8/20/1897
Mary Elizabeth , born 8/18/1900
Lulu Mae, born 9/4/1902
Ellen, born 9/29/1904
Marie, born 9/23/1906
Walter, born 9/11/1911, died 9/21/1911

To remind  you, Nellie was born in 1909, making her the baby of a family of seven (not counting Walter who passed away  as an infant).

Tragedy struck the family, when Mary passed away on February 24, 1914.  But the final blow was when their father, Samuel, passed away on August 8th, just seven months afterwards.   I don’t know if there was any extended family but it doesn’t seem so because Nellie, six and a half years old and the youngest, and the others were put in the care of the Children’s Home Society of Virginia.  Nellie was placed in the Methodist Children’s Home in Roanoke, VA, and from there was placed in foster care with a family in a small town about 150 miles away.  Very little information is available but it seems unlikely  that they’d have been able to place seven children together.  It seems that Nellie remained with this family until she was 18.  At that point, she went to live with her sister, Mary Elizabeth who was 27 by that time, and brother-in-law  who lived about 45 minutes from the foster family.

Nellie's Wedding Day

Nellie’s Wedding . Day

This is the happily ever after part:  My grandfather was a good friend of Nellie’s brother-in-law.  He said that the first time he went over to his friend’s house after Nellie had moved in, he fell for her hard and right away.  But he was 10 years older than her and that was a big gap for an 18 year old.  So he was patient.  Well, he said he was patient but they were married on October 2nd, 1929 when she was almost 20 years old.  They were married until Granddad passed in 1991 at the age of 93.  Nellie passed on New Year’s Eve in 1992 at the age of 83.  Together, they raised seven children of their own, and had enjoyed 31 grandchildren and were getting to know all their great-grandchildren.

Discovering the loss and separation my grandmother faced in her early years gives me reason for more empathy for her and more respect for how she grew up and led her life.  I’d love to be able to contact the foster family to learn about her as a girl but doubt anyone who knew her would still be around.  I continue to be amazed by the people I know and meet.  We need to be gentle with one another because we all have baggage and backgrounds that others can’t know.  Nellie’s story may be a tragic one but she’s not alone in having sorrows to bear and most of us don’t wear them where they’re easily known.  And that’s my lesson on a snowy day.


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The Good Cousins

I come from a large family that I spoke of in my second post.  I’ll share again a photo of most of my cousins in front of my grandparents’ house some Sunday afternoon.

Family Photo

Family Photo

I did not have a lot in common with my cousins.  None were exactly my age; none lived in the same town as I did.  They’d lived there their entire lives; we moved close by after my parents’ divorce. Most of them did go to school together, making me even more of an outsider.  So with no close relationships, we drifted apart and I only knew what was going on in their lives through my mother.  As she grew older, I heard less until I couldn’t have told you anything about any of them.

The first time one came back into my life was after my mother had been moved to a nursing home.  She’d been there for over a year and was very unhappy. It was a beautiful facility that was horribly run, but that’s another post.  We were looking for a new place for her and this cousin contacted me.  She and her siblings have a band, and they perform for charities and had performed at many nursing homes in the area.  She gave us the name of one she was impressed by.  We went to look at it and my mother liked it.  She’s been there now for 3 years and it was a good pick.  The facility is not shiny and new, but the staff has no turnover, is truly caring and concerned and she feels at home.

Because my mother had “dainties” that she didn’t want ruined through the nursing home’s commercial laundry, my cousin who lived nearby, offered to do my mother’s laundry for her.  It was at this point when I named her “the good cousin”.  She was just so giving.  When I thanked her, she’d say, “Now you know you’d do the same for my mother.”  Would I?  I’d like to think so.  But I live four hours from my mother and my aunt.  I wouldn’t be tested.

My cousin and I began to communicate fairly often about my mom.  I get there every month but she was my “eyes on the ground” about how Mom fared in-between.  Her sister joined in the conversation and I got to know her, too.  She was also kind.  They became “the good cousins”.  I told them and they laughed.

Then I discovered this:  their baby brother, who had beaten cancer twice was in the hospital needing a heart transplant.  The cancer treatments had done damage to his heart.  He went through some tough patches and was to go through more long periods of hospitalization.  He is self-insured, being a small business owner.  The medical bills were astronomical.

I asked my mother if there was any fund to which we could contribute to help with the medical bills he was accumulating.  I don’t know if my question got them thinking or if it was already in the works, but a fund was started at a local bank.  To get it started, a local restaurant offered its premises to hold a fund-raiser.  They had the restaurant for 7 hours, from 2pm – 9pm.  Since the “good cousins” and their brothers have a bluegrass band, they know a lot of musicians and a lot of big-hearted musicians offered to perform. My husband and I attended and were deeply moved by how many people were there to perform, to contribute and to support.  Victor was still hospitalized, but was there via Skype.

Since then, their small town community has opened its heart to do anything they could do to help out this family. There have been quite a few fundraisers since the first.  Most have had live music but not all and they’ve built up quite a large fund to help Victor pay his medical bills. I suppose it might be a drop in the bucket by the time he has his heart transplant but the fund has given caring people a way to help and has given Victor a way to recognize how much support and love he has to get him through.  I’ve gotten to know “the good cousins’” brothers as adults, and they’re men of faith and family.  I am honored that they are family.  I’ve developed an appreciation for the depth and width of what the word “family” can contain.

By the way, at the latest fundraiser, there was a wonderful R&B/Gospel singer who performed an amazing set.  She also invited a sixteen year old rocker to join her in the song “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”.  If you want a taste of it, click below. And remember Victor in your prayers that he gets his new heart.  Thanks.

To watch on youtube, click here:  Jane Powell and Logan Stegall 02/17/2013


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A Valentine to My Sisters

Sisters Dad

I am blessed with two sisters.  One is 2 years older than me, the other is 12 years younger.  I grew up living daily with my older sister.  My younger sister, actually a half-sister, was raised by my father and step-mother and we really only shared a roof full-time for one year.  This is my Valentine to them both.Sisters BigBig Sister, Ann.

Who stood on me daily?  Ann.

Who made me scratch her feet at night? Ann.

Who fought me constantly, never missed a chance to tattle and made me generally miserable?  Ann.

But there’s more:

Who helped me figure out how to handle our brother with anger-management issues?  Ann.

Who watched and worried over me during my teen years when the parents were oblivious?  Ann.

Who stayed in contact through the college years, at a time when it meant writing actual letters and getting them in the mail?  Ann.

Who loved my children like her own and spoiled them rotten when she could?  Ann.

And what about Jane?

Sisters Ice Cream

She was like a living toy when she was little.  Once we were in an ice cream store and had just handed her a cone.  She took one lick and off the scoop and it rolled onto the floor.  Before she had time to cry, a customer looked down at her and said, “Look, the little boy dropped his ice cream”.  Jane indignantly said, “I’m not a boy and YOU’RE FAT!”  Ann and I took her replacement cone and high-tailed it out of there.  Good times! She was, despite that episode, always sweet but we didn’t really get to know each other well, and in her teens, she went through the all black clothing and tattoo/piercing stage. I couldn’t relate.

Once she was out of college, things changed.  We were able to redefine our relationship as two adult women.  What we discovered was that we really got along well.  Eventually, she came out to the family and brought her life partner into the clan.  Always Daddy’s little girl, she surprised me by telling me that they were thinking about having a child years later.  I didn’t understand how she’d raise a child purposefully without a father in their life simply because our father is so important to her.  How wrong I was!  Her medically-challenged pregnancy brought all the local family members ever closer and their son is a joy and blessing to them and to us.  Where I worried he wouldn’t have a dad, he has a doting uncle (my husband) and aunt (me) just at a time where we’d love to have grandchildren. There are other family members who also offer strong male role models and lots of love. We’re closer still.

IMG_1520

And, Jane, the youngest one is actually one of my closest friends.  We check in often, keeping up with our daily lives as well as our parents’. We share life’s laughs and challenges and  she’s become an active supporter of organizations aiding people with Parkinson’s disease, which I have.

So what is a sister?

A sister is a best friend who grew up with you but also an old acquaintance who becomes a best friend as an adult.

A sister is the only other woman who shares your history and really knows where you’re coming from.

A sister can give great advice or, like me, terrible advice but can learn from it and  be forgiven.

A sister can give you children to love that are almost your own.

And aunts can be some of the best gifts you ever give your children.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friends, my sisters.


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Daily Prompt: What is the One Thing I Hope No one Says About Me?

I was raised by a woman who cared greatly what others thought about her.  My parents had divorced and she alone had custody ( a normal result at the time) so I give her credit upfront for raising 3 children alone.  But good or bad, our behavior was measured in large measure by possible public reaction.  If I received an award, accomplished a goal or did very well in school, there was no acknowledgement from her directly.  Rather, I would hear her brag about it to a family member on the phone or a neighbor or friend.  Punishment, though, was instant and direct.  I remember when I was little, that the use of dirty words resulted in getting soap in my mouth.   Other “bad” behaviors resulted in “the belt”.  That’s right. I would be hit on my backside with a belt.  You may have heard the classic parent line which accompanied spanking, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurt you.”  No child ever believed it, and even less so when the parent’s hand doesn’t feel the acceleration or pressure applied by the belt.  As I aged, the challenge was to display no reaction – no tears, no screams, nothing.   Once I got to college, I never moved back home, not even to the same town, again. When I had children, I swore not to raise them at all like I’d been.  I bought books which I studied and compared and came up with my own way to raise my children.  I’ve told them flat-out that I had no good example and, so, had to figure it out myself.  They’re all young adults and we have good relationships.

What’s the one thing I hope no one ever says about me?

All together now:  “You’re JUST like your mother.”


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Why I Can’t Wait For School to Start

Image property of Facets of Lucy

Property of Facets of Lucy

I am not a curmudgeon – let me just start with that.  You may judge me when you read what follows but I hope you’ll hear me out:  I’ve never been sorry to see summer vacation end. In fact, I threw a few parties over the years celebrating the first day of school with like-minded moms. It’s not that summer vacation isn’t fun; it is.  It’s not that I don’t love and adore all 4 of my children: I do.  It is instead that I have always LOVED school.  Is that weird?  Even as a child, I loved the smell of new textbooks and getting school supplies I was not a fan of school uniforms but I put a lot of effort in the” first day of school, no uniform required” outfit.

As my children came along,I guess I passed my enthusiasm along.  When they were young, my children and I even had a tradition of buying school supplies on the first rainy day in July.  They were so excited when that  day came each summer. The bonus was that we avoided the crowds shopping at the end of August.  In our neighborhood, we learned teacher assignments by mail.  Then, everyone rushed to the swimming pool to see their friends and play the “Who’d You Get?” game  (now you just post it on Facebook, I guess).  Every year, each of them got their pictures taken under a tree in our front yard.  Such fun memories, especially when they were little so the pictures had to show the design on their back packs.  Yes, the mornings were chaotic at first; it’s never easy to fall back into a schedule. But eventually, school fit easily back into the rhythm of the family.

Are you asking whether I missed them during the day?  Well, of course, I did but I enjoyed when they came home , too.  School, especially in the lower grades, offered opportunities for excited conversations.  In the summer, I basically knew what they did all day.  After school, though, I got the excitement of the day as well as what went wrong.

I loved college, especially, ever minute of it and so I didn’t cry there when we took them to school the first time, either. My husband and I had told stories of our college days and took them on college tours.  And then, of course, after the first one, each child had older siblings to tell them about school as well.  I’m down to my last two in college and, I swear, my 19-year-old waited for rain in July to buy school supplies. We’ve had fun together preparing for them to return and both of them know that I won’t cry when I say good-bye but that I’m supporting and loving this step as well.


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Harvey’s Wisdom

“My 19 year old grandson is coming to visit”, he told me.  I had become very fond of this 92 year old man I’ll call Harvey.  He’s something special, so, since I have a daughter the same age as his grandson, I teased him that maybe they should meet.

“He’s bad news”, Harvey surprised me by saying.  “His mother is hoping I can straighten him out while he’s here”.  He grimaced and said, “My grandson told me that he plans to drive his Camaro here.”. Shaking his head, Harvey wryly shook his head, explaining his doubts that the car could make it to the end of the block.

“My grandson says he’s made some mistakes.  That’s all well and good; we all do.  But he makes the same mistakes over and over; that’s his problem. ‘But Granddad’, the boy replied after I told him that, ‘I’ve had a lot of bad breaks’”.   Harvey paused and explained that his son, his grandson’s father had  passed away a few years before.  That was one of the items on his “bad break” list.

“Do me a favor”, Harvey told his grandson.  “Before you come here, make me a written list of all your bad breaks.  I’m old and forgetful and I’ll do better with a written list.”  His grandson agreed to do so. “Next”, Granddad said, “Rip up the list and don’t bring it up again.  That’s yesterday and its time now to plan for tomorrow.”

Photo Not Available for Reproduction

“What will he do here?  Will he go to college?”  Conversation took a slight detour here while we discussed someone else who had been forced to join the military because the family hoped it would straighten him out.  Harvey, a career military man, said that some branches had quit accepting troubled kids and kids without a high school degree.

“No”, Harvey said, “The boy needs to find a job”.  Again, shaking his head, he said that he had suggested that the first thing the boy ought to do would be to apply to a local grocery store or superstore for a job. But, the grandfather had snorted, “The boy doesn’t want a job, he wants a ‘position’”. “He said he’s too smart for a job like that.  I clapped my hands together and said, ‘Son, that’s perfect!’”.

“If you are as smart as you say you are, you will stand out among all the dumb people you say work at these places.  Your manager will notice you fast and you won’t be long working at the starter position. But first, you need to get the job.  I worked in personnel for a long time in the military, and I’m telling you, you have nothing to offer an employer, outside of how “smart” you are. Right now, you have no skills, no special knowledge to offer. There are a lot of people like you out there looking for a job that are willing to work hard for their paycheck.”

It was obvious to me that the family holds Granddad in high regard to send a 19-year-old to him to help him get on the right path.

“How long do you think he’ll stay here?”, I asked Harvey, “Do you think he’ll revolt with your tough stance?”

“I don’t know”, he said sadly, “They ruined him”.  “We have a family business, and he got his share when his father died.  He has money from that and needs no paycheck to get by.  I was surprised and said that I thought it was more common to hold shares like that until the minor reached majority or even older.  He said that was more common and would have been better but he had no control over the way this was handled.  “You know”, he told me; “Rockefeller believed that leaving money to children was the surest way to ruin them.  But we’ll see”.


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The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen

I have to admit I saw it coming.  The signs were all there: she was much slower than she used to be.  We still spent alot of time together but it just wasn’t as productive as in the past.  Physically, she also bore some scars and, frankly, showed her age. We were old friends as well as co-workers and I was sad recognizing that I might lose her soon.  Now, this will sound cold, but I need someone who can perform duties for me, who I can depend on, who can move forward with me.  So, I started looking around for, not necessarily a replacement, as much as an intern who could slowly transition into the job.

After looking around and researching the possibilities, I found someone who might fill that slot.  She needed a couple weeks before she could come on board which was fine.  But two days after I made the commitment, my old friend died. It really was a shock to me; I thought we had a long time to go.  I grieved, but also reached out to my new acquaintance to see if she could start earlier than planned.  Her timeline was firm, unfortunately, so I was lost all the way around.

Yesterday morning, I looked out my window and saw the FedEx delivery man stop in front of my house.  “Wait”, I thought, “She’s not supposed to be here until Thursday morning”.  But FedEx Man went to the back of his truck and emerged with something that could only be her.  As he walked towards the door, I ran down the stairs to greet them.  After I signed for her and thanked him, I invited her into the kitchen where we began to get acquainted.   She’s shiny and new, has a much better and faster memory than my old friend and really wasn’t set up to serve my needs.  Where was Firefox?  WordPress?  Quicken? It will take awhile until she’s just right for me, but she’s got alot of potential.  In fact, she just helped me type our first post.  Welcome, QueenMum2!