Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Honor of Lillian Williams

Lillian Williams

Today is Mother’s Day.  Personally, I view it mostly as a Hallmark holiday but now that I am a mom, I absolutely 100% take advantage and let my boys pamper me all day. Unfortunately, my own Mother will be in New Mexico so we won’t be able to toast the day together, but thank goodness for Skype.  At least it will allow us to share our sentiments face-to-face.

If any of you have been following my blog, you know that my Nana passed away in March so this will be my family's first Mother’s Day without her.  But she is not the only mother in my life that I will be missing.  I know that I have spent a lot of time writing about my Nana, but I also had another wonderful grandmother who sadly passed always almost 7 years ago.

In her memory, I would like to reprint a commentary that was published in the PV News back in 1998.

A Post Mother's Day 'Thank You' to Grandmom

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day.  Most folks spent their special time having brunch or dinner with their favorite mom.  Unfortunately, my mother and both my grandmothers live out of state, so I wasn’t able to spend the day with them; However, I did put in some heavy-duty telephone time.

While having a conversation with my paternal grandmother, Grandmom, I found out that her women’s club had honored her as “Woman of the Year” at their annual Mother-Daughter banquet.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy and proud this made me. Not because I don’t know how wonderful this woman (who spent many years changing my diapers) is, but because I understand how much our family takes her for granted.

While in college, I had the opportunity to interview Grandmom for a women’s studies course.  I was surprised by how little I actually know about her as a person.

Although Mother’s Day has come and gone, I want to use my voice to honor my grandmother, Elsie Lillian Williams.

Elsie, who prefers to be called Lillian, is mother to eight children and grandmother to 16 children.  She’s 70 years old and married to my grandfather, Pop Pop, and she has never learned how to drive.

These were the obvious things I knew about her, but after our three-hour interview, I learned things that really surprised me.  One of those shockers was that Grandmom had always wanted to be a journalist – just like me. She thrived on writing in school and didn’t pursue her dream only because, when she was younger, women weren’t really expected to get an education; they got married instead.  This is exactly what my grandmother did when she was 21.

I was surprised to learn that before Grandmom married Pop Pop, she had dated the captain of her high school football team.  I couldn’t even imagine Grandmom liking someone other than Pop.

I guess my grandfather couldn’t either because, on their very first date, he proposed to her.

What did Grandmom say?

“You’re crazy. You don’t ask people to marry you on the first date,” my grandmother said, “he looked at me said, ‘You do if you know what you want.’”

Six months later they were married and, in December, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

For all those years, in my ignorance, I thought my Grandmom’s only job was as a stay-at-home mom because, even after her own chicks had flown the coop, she usually cared for her own grandchildren or other local children.  Boy, was I wrong.

Grandmom got her first job bagging potato chips when she was just 14 years old.  She said she would work from 4 to 8 p.m., sealing the bagged potato chips by running them through a wax machine.  She made $10 a week doing this.

After high school, she got a job at Hamilton Watch Factory in Pennsylvania.

“But when war was declared, the factory began making time bombs,” she said. “They laid us off, but I was supporting myself so I couldn’t go with being unemployed.”

That was when she went to work at a lace factory, making curtains.

I never knew my grandmother had paid room and board and lived on her own from the time she was 17 to 21.  I couldn’t believe this woman, who was always surrounded by children had been an independent working woman.  I had always been proud of her, but I gained this awe-inspired respect for her.

The reason Grandmom had to go out, get a job and live on her own at an early age was because her father had been very ill, and he couldn’t support the entire family.  The cause of his illness was interesting in itself.

“My father was in the cavalry when he was 18 years old,” she said. “He went to war, and was mustard-gassed in France.”

Grandmom said the gassing had disabled him for life, and there was no medication that could take care of his cancer.

Until she was 17, she lived in a small home with her parents and eight siblings in Pennsylvania.  When she had to get her appendix out, she chose to board with a family that had an extra bedroom.  After she got better, she just stayed there because, for the first time in her life, she had privacy -- something she selflessly gave up only a few years later.

There’s never been a time when I thought my Grandmom wouldn’t be there for me.  We’ve always been extremely close and when I asked her once what her goals for the future were, she gave me this incredible answer.

“My goal in life is to be the best mother and grandmother that I can be,” she said. “To help in any way that I can in my home, church, and just try to do my best in whatever I do, that’s all I can do.”

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