I never held a baby in my arms until I had one of my own, so I had little to base my expectations on. I had watched as aunts and cousins had babies, and had been an innocent bystander as my friends made the same journey as I did through the teen years.
But I was not prepared for motherhood. I had been told that mothering would come naturally, just as it does with the birds and the bees. Not true!
I knew no more how to “build a nest” than I did how to decipher the Wall Street Journal. And I certainly knew very little about guiding children through those turbulent years of high school and college and marriage and motherhood of their own.
It was ongoing and never-ending. I’m still working at motherhood, even today. From teething to terrible 2s, from primary grades to prom night, from marriage to maternity, it has come full circle, twice.
The daughters of our children are mothers. I’m learning from them.
Mothers are, after all, human. But for one day each year, we honor them, warts and all. Like Mother Goose, Mother Earth, Mother Hubbard, and the Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, each mother has her own unique set of troubles and joys, handicaps and rewards, and homemade memories to last a lifetime.
Just think of poor Eve. One son died, the other was a murderer. Talk about functional families.
This year, probably for the first time, our annual Waters Family Reunion will be on my grandmother’s birthday. Carrie Frisby was born on May 11, 1886, in Murray County and is buried at Crandall near her birthplace in the shadow of Fort Mountain.
Her grave lies near that of her paternal grandmother, Mary Margaret Rymer, who is said to be of Cherokee Indian ancestry. The tribal culture allowed women to be the property owners, and family lines were traced through women. Women were almost revered, and Grandma, if nothing else, desired to be revered, obeyed, and respected.
She was only 16 when she married my Papa, who was 26. By then, Papa was educated and employed in a white-collar job. Grandma was illiterate, but managed to do all the things that her Indian ancestor would have done.
She ran a household; planted, tended, and harvested a garden annually; tended a milk cow and a pen full of hogs to furnish dairy products and pork; set rabbit and squirrel traps for more meat; and went fishing at every opportunity for pleasure and for fish for the table.
She ran a hot sewing machine, from the days of the treadle to the fanciest Singer electric. She nursed the sick — family, friends, neighbors.
She went door-to-door in the neighborhood during the 1918 flu epidemic, treating the sick and laying out the dead.
She used remedies probably handed down from her forebears to treat everything from polio to insect bites.
When I think about all she did, I’m reminded of the woman in Proverbs 31 who must have been Grandma’s model. One of the verses describes, briefly, her husband, who “sat in the gates.”
Papa didn’t sit in the gates, as such. He was the wage-earner. His home was his castle. He was the overseer in the shipping department at Crown Cotton Mill in Dalton, a position he held until bad health sent him into retirement in his late 70s.
Grandma and Papa’s grandchildren and younger generations and extended family will be together on Saturday, including those generations of Papa’s siblings as well. And for the first time, a Frisby cousin will attend.
Our memories of Grandma will be as varied as the folks in attendance. She was grandmother to some, Granny Waters to others and Aunt Carrie to countless nieces and nephews. Perfect timing — her birthday, Mother’s Day celebration, and a family reunion, all on the same day.
And if we’re extra lucky, a cloudless sky. All of us will be honoring our own mothers. My mother was Carrie’s only daughter.
I think Mama will be with us in spirit, perhaps taking the day off from her eternal chore of sweeping the golden streets in her heavenly home.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.