You can now find me writing here...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Timeless Tuesday: Grandma Skaggs

Grandma with my cousin Chantell.

My brother Barry, my sister Diane, Me, and Grandma Skaggs.

I was just reviewing old Timeless Tuesday entries and I was thinking about why I started these in the first place. Once we were visiting western Kansas, my sister and I with the kids, and we were on a little family road trip. Big Sis and I were just yacking away as we often do, and I heard from the back seat, “Shhh… everyone. They’re talking about Grandma.” My niece said she loved when my sister and I told stories about when we were kids. She especially loved hearing stories about my mom. Only one of my mother’s eight grandchildren really has any memories of her.

At the time I started writing Timeless Tuesday entries, I was thinking about collecting stories about family members to share with the nieces (and nephew!). It also struck me that I hadn’t shared any stories of my grandmother (my mother’s mother) in the entries I had collected so far.

Grandma Skaggs was a constant figure in my life. She moved her mobile home out to the farm when I was fairly young, so she was close enough that I was able to drop in and visit her whenever I wanted, and I did so often. She spent a lot of time at our house, too. Grandma, Aunt Gerry and my mother were always gardening together—sometimes flowers, sometimes veggies-- and preserving what they harvested together. The three of them got together to watch soaps daily and trips to town for shopping were often joint events, as well. It was pretty much a ritual that they met for tea mid-morning every day. I always looked forward to summer when I was out of school and could be a part of their gatherings.

Grandma served Tang out of those colorful, metallic cups that were so popular in the 70s. I can’t think of Tang without that metallic taste. The two go together in my mind.

She was something of a quiet soul, but always good for a hug or to go adventuring with my mom and I. She read Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. She also loved to embroider. She made quilts with handprints and the names and dates of all the babies born in each branch of the family tree. She would also embroider themed quilts, like the shapes of all the states with the capitals, all the presidents faces, or squares with each of the state birds.

Grandma wasn’t much of a story-teller, but it was her past that always fascinated me. She was one daughter in a family with six boys. She had a sister who died at birth. Her mother passed away when she was only four years old (a month after the birth of her second son born after my grandmother). Her father remarried and Grandma always kindly referred to that woman as “the woman I thought of as mother.” Her daddy’s second wife had a stroke which left her disabled. She died when Grandma was in her early 20’s.

The way I understood the story, Grandma’s brothers all fully expected her to stay home, remain single and care for their aging father. I always got the impression that she had done a lot of the raising of her brothers, as well.

It was hard to get a story out of Grandma. Most of what I knew about her life came from my mother. I remember asking her about meeting my Granddaddy, however (always Granddaddy, never GrandPA).
This is what she wrote in “Sketches of My Growing Up Days,” a collection of stories I begged her to write for us when I was still a teen.

“That was about the time that the bridge construction group reached Rayville, and that was the group that Elkin Skaggs was with. He boarded with my school friend’s mother’s boarding house, so one night she asked me if I would like a blind date to go to a show. It was a blind date for about 2 miles to the town before I got a good look at who I was with. It wasn’t long before my plans for nursing school I made were put off. That was the beginning of the years of going places and seeing things.”

(Grandma went back and got her nursing degree when she was in her 40s. She was actually the nurse at the hospital the night I was born. She loved taking care of the babies in the nursery and did so for many years.)

As Mrs. R.E. Skaggs, she moved a lot. My granddaddy was part of a bridge construction crew that took them all over the south, from Louisiana to Texas. He also spent some time building cabins for the workers in the oil fields. Sometimes Grandma would travel with him from job to job, and sometimes he would get her a place in Dallas or Houston where she’d stay a while with the kids as he moved about and visited when he could.

She had five children, three of them grew to adulthood. My mother was the middle child.

Ethel Pauline Sorey Skaggs
July 31, 1908-January 23, 1999

Grandma and me, Garden of the Gods, Lucas, Kansas, 1986.


chantell said...

I love it. Great pictures, and great memories. I like seeing old pictures.

Jeremy said...

Awesome, great memories, got to love the tang, rocks, dried fruit... Etc at grandmas. Keep this up we don't get to visit the past enough.