Monday, November 08, 2010

Discovering Charlie


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.










13 comments:

Hilary said...

A lovely introduction to your Mom-mom. I didn't know that you were adopted, Michelle, and when I saw the photo of your grandmother with her father and brother, I thought I did see a resemblance between her and your own childhood photos which you've posted before.

Beach Bum said...

Great post Lime, a totally awesome lady. I agree with Hilary, I see a resemblance as well.

Cricket said...

There's more to it than mere genes, I think. We grow into ourselves, and come to resemble those who have shaped our lives. Look at the married couples who look ever more similar with each passing year - how else would that work?

A lovely post and great pictures. I have a lot of memories. Not so many pictures. Sadly, I think there were once quite a few but they were destroyed in a house fire.

It makes the surviving ones more special, if nothing else.

Suldog said...

Adopted or not, there is some resemblance. I agree with Cricket, in that our appearances are molded by more than just bloodlines. Our life experiences shape more than just our attitudes.

lecram said...

I love this post. But then, why wouldn't I? Pictures, stories and knowing more about you are all wonderful reasons.

Patience... aye, there is far too little of it these days.

Craig said...

Wonderful, wonderful stuff here, Lime.

My (step-)mother (to whom I've occasionally been said to bear some resemblance ;) ) had as her motto, in her HS yearbook -

"Silence is golden, but who am I to make money?"

;)

lime said...

hilary, as for resemblance i have another photo of her as a girl, where she is in the back standing with one hand on a hip. that's the one that makes me really giggle and see a resemblance.

beach bum, once i saw pictures of her as a kid and the high school picture I understood what her friend was seeing. but when you're 10 or so and someone tells you you look like an old lady with short white hair and you know there's no blood it's a bit perplexing, lol.

cricket, very true. i know in mannerisms especially i have acquired quite a number from my family. funny thing is i see my son using his hands in similar subtle ways my brother does. as to your family pictures that is such a sad loss. i'd be devastated to loose the ones i have.

suldog, true, very true.

lecram, ahhh, makes me smile. you've done some really wonderful nostalgic pieces of your family too. time for some more maybe? (she asked hopefully...)

lime said...

craig, LOL, that's fantastic and i think could have applied to my other grandmother who my grandfather said must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.

Logophile said...

You know those studies that have shown marriend people do start to resemble each other?
Maybe some of the same mechanisms are at work in adopted children and their families.

No way they could effect that lovely dark hair and her clever eyes which so resemble you, but still...

(M)ary said...

'Being a man-hater'? Oh. There is a story there. She must have been a little too independent minded for her day. Thank goodness for woman like her who paved the way for the modern woman to be independent without being called a man hater.

Dave said...

I enjoyed this story too Michelle. Its good to recall old family stories and good to see the photos with them. - Dave

G-Man said...

They hade a penchent for Pearls.

Mother Theresa said...

I especially love the unladylike pose in the third picture! So much more fun than a proper pose. Well, I love all the pictures, old family photos are fun to see. And the resemblance thing, well, genes aren't the only thing at work there. :)