Friday, February 09, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

18. What I remember about my great-grandparents is this.

I started to write what I know about all of my great-grandparents, and that was going to take weeks, since I know a lot of family stories. And then I re-read the question and realized it says, "what I remember". Not so much. A more manageable task.

Although my Great-grandmother Lucinda Clarke Herndon was alive when I was born, she died when I was very young. I don't remember much about her, except for sitting at her feet and listening to the radio. I also remember her telling me that I could do it, whatever it was. She married in 1895, refusing to promise to obey. My Great-grandfather, Benjamin Herndon, didn't want her to promise to obey, since he might tell her to do something that was a mistake.

My great-grandfather lived until I was in high school. He was a tiny man, the only one of my mother's grandparents who didn't have the round gene. Much shorter than his six foot son, even shorter than his daughter, if I am remembering it correctly. By the time I was 12, he was shorter than me. I'm sure he didn't have white hair when he was young, but that's what he had when I knew him -- white hair and a twinkle in his eye. He was a farmer back in the day when you plowed with a horse and later when you had a machine instead.

As a farmer, he had barn cats to keep down the barn mice and rats. But, until he was elderly and long retired, he never had a cat in the house. When Aunt Julia moved back to Modesto to live with him after her mother died, she bought a house in town that they moved into and she got a job. One day she looked out of her office window to see a tiny kitten at the side of the road. Being concerned that she would wander into traffic, she rescued her and took her home. Great-grandpa didn't think that cats belonged in the house, but within a few days of being home alone with this sweet and clever little animal, she was the light of his life. He would brag about Punky as long as you would allow him. Barn cats are smart, but they don't do their smart things in front of witnesses, and Punky had no place else to do hers. And farmers don't have the time to watch cats, while retired gentlemen do. Great-grandpa had never known that a kitten could figure out how to open the cupboard or that she would feel so soft and comforting when she curled up on his lap or on the back of his neck and purred. I remember him telling me, in total amazement, that he used a pillow to sleep and Auntie didn't and when Punky slept on his bed, she put her head on the pillow and her body on the bed, but when she slept on Auntie's bed she curled up her whole body on the pillow.

I played many a game of Chinese checkers with my great-grandfather, but I don't remember ever winning any of them. I do remember him coaching me on how to play a better game. Auntie told me once it was about the only game he did play, and so he was a very experienced player.

He was always kind to children and gave me a feeling of connection to earlier generations of the family. When I was little, he sold some of his land and was given the privilege of naming the streets. He named the street between his house and Grandpa Percy's Herndon Road. His house was on the corner of Herndon and Joyce. No matter how far we wandered in later years, it gave me a feeling of being grounded to know there was a street named after me in my family's home town.

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