My grandmother Charlotte (aka Mom-mom) was born in New Jersey in 1912 to a strict, perfectionist Pennsylvania German mother. Things had to be just so and if they weren't it was expected the situation would be remedied immediately, if not sooner. Mom-mom told me how she tried to learn to knit or crochet as a girl. Her patient, more forgiving grandmother was teaching her. As beginners are wont to do, she made a mistake. Grandmother was not worried about it and praised the novice. Young Charlotte presented the nearly finished item to her mother, who noticed the small error early in the pattern. She directed Charlotte to unravel it and fix it. The girl opted to put it down in anger and disgust and walk away from it never to try again.
Mom-mom's father was an Irish immigrant. She was the apple of his eye and she adored him, as is common with daddies and their little girls. She was proud of having a Daddy who worked on the railroad. She never quite forgave her brother for being such a mischief maker that her father had to leave his job and move the family to Pennsylvania to take him away from trouble, which soon found him again in spite of the move. She knew her father carried real sadness over his son and over loosing his own Catholic family who disowned him when he married a Protestant.
People who knew Mom-mom well knew she was every bit a blend of her Pennsylvania German mother and her Irish father. She was proper and precise and expected the same from others though she wasn't harsh about it. She was adoring of her children and grandchildren. She was absolutely settled in her opinions. Heaven help you though if you incurred her wrath. She didn't anger quickly but once the fuse was lit it was best to duck and cover. This picture seems to reveal a somewhat playfully defiant manner in the unladylike sitting position, which surely was never captured on film before or after. Sometimes I didn't quite know what to make of my grandmother. I knew I was loved but the formality was hard for me to interpret when I was a child.
Mom-mom had a low level of tolerance for being called Charlotte by anyone except her age peers. She expected to be addressed as Mrs. R. by everyone outside the family, no matter their station. She had one friend who I always found slightly scandalous when she'd clap my grandmother on the back on Sunday mornings after church as she loudly inquired, "How are ya today, Charlie? Boy, doesn't that granddaughter of yours look like you!" I was shocked that Mom-mom seemed welcoming of such informality. As a kid, I also thought it was strange this woman would draw any notion of a family resemblance since I was adopted. Besides, Mom-mom had short white hair since before I was born whereas mine was long and dark. She graduated high school in 1930. Just before I went away to college she pulled out her old photo albums and yearbook to show me. Under her picture it reads, "Silence is golden, so they say; our studious Charlie is that way." I suddenly understood the patience for the nickname. In the class prophecies it was predicted that she "being a man-hater gives her life to aiding the poor and disabled children." I gasped, "Mom-mom you wanted to be a special education teacher?" (My major would be special education.) She nodded with that silent Mona Lisa smile and I let the warmth of new understanding settle in my heart.