“I wonder who that lady is that Grandma is talking to,” I thought. They were out by the road, and had been talking for a long while. I turned my attention to cleaning the dining room.
Afterwards, I picked up a pair of clippers and went outside to prepare a fresh bouquet for our table, gathering a little of this, and a little of that. Some lovely zinnias, sunflowers, cock’s comb, mint, and black eyed susans from Mother’s flower garden. I saw Dad stop to talk to Grandma and the little old ladies near the road as he left for work – he had come home for lunch. Finally, the strange silver-blue car slowly drove up our lane and stopped. I swallowed my nervousness and walked over to see what they needed.
The women hardly looked very old; one lady looked like a taller Irishwoman, her light wrinkled skin and gray-white hair suggesting perhaps seventy-something, while the other, a small, bright eyed lady with curly gray hair I might have placed at eighty – maybe.
They introduced themselves, and the second one (I’ll call her Charlotte) said that she used to live here. “Really? When?” I wanted to know. “I was born on this land,” she said. She pointed in the directions where the old road, the corn house, the three chicken houses, their old home and their garden had been. (I think that she said she is 86 years old).
“We went to school together. Charlotte came from a family of ten children,” the other lady said. “Back then, you could teach school when you were just sixteen or seventeen. My first couple of babies were born when I was still in school,” she explained.
Charlotte talked about walking to the schoolhouse and to church. “I married a Lewis when I was twenty-one,” she said. Lewis is a landmark name in our neighborhood. “What church? Where was the schoolhouse?” We didn’t know of any such buildings around here!
By now, Mother and the other girls had joined us, having heard that an old lady was here who used to live at our current location way back before even WWII had broken out! Mom asked Charlotte about the trees in the yard. “I remember climbing up in a Catalpa tree (and she indicated the large Catalpas in our yard), and falling down and cutting my foot. They put kerosene on the cut. Back then, we didn’t just go get the docs anytime. We only had a car about half of the time, and a horse would have been too slow!”
They spoke of using the cotton flour sacks for all sorts of things, like cloth diapers and curtains. “Disposable diapers are too expensive nowadays,” one remarked.
They saw our Jerseys grazing, and spoke with fondness of milking cows, eating cream with berries, and the days when it wasn’t difficult to buy delicious, real milk.
I was surprised. These ladies were from the generation that had brothers going off to WWII (and they said as much); they were from the 50’s generation of young housewives who cheerfully greeted their husbands in pretty aprons while putting dinner on the table; they could have been my Grandma’s Mother’s Sisters. I have to say, it does make me think about being intentional. Pretty aprons, manly brothers, walking to church, large families, and milking cows don’t save a generation from sin, from being too comfortable, and from forgetting to “… Tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalm 78:4)
“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence…. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…. So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (From Psalm 90:4-12.)
At Mom’s suggestion, I handed Mrs. Lewis the bouquet of flowers I had just gathered. We realized that her family must have worked hard to make this piece of property into a home. She was surprised. “Really? For me? I love flowers! I could cry!” she said. We waved goodbye and went inside.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them;” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
We were grateful to meet those dear old ladies.