Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Theatre
Mother's Day in Appalachia

Granny Sue's Mother

Today's guest post was written by Susanna Holstein.

1Mom early 1980's

Mom, always the English lady. 

"Marigolds are pretty, but they have a terrible smell."

"That Lucy and Desi, they're so common. I don't want you girls watching that show."

"Tea must always be served in an English teacup, dear, with a saucer. And milk and sugar. And brewed in a teapot."

"Depression glass is just cheap glass."

"China made in Japan is no good. Not worth wasting money on."

"Wrap that baby up! Poor little thing is freezing."

That was my mother talking. Her opinions, lightly and carelessly dropped, shaped my view of the world, of housekeeping, gardening, and child-rearing. I followed her rules and her lead, and only recently realized how much she influenced my own likes and dislikes.

Take silver for example. Mom loved silver. Looking back, I bet she would have adored having a real silver tea service but that never came to be. She also liked brass and copper, and there were certain pieces that we kept on display in the house for years, polishing them for the holidays. Two crystal decanters sat on either end of the buffet in our dining room; one held port, the other sherry. I do not remember anyone ever drinking those dark red liquids, but I do recall washing up the decanters along with all the other sparkling serving dishes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

It was surprising to realize when she passed away how many of her likes and dislikes she passed on to her daughters. We all love crystal, silver and flowery English teacups. We all grow flowers, have an apron tucked away somewhere in our kitchens, and most of us still drink tea with milk and sugar. For a long time I did not watch the Lucy show or the Mary Tyler Moore show either ("Common," Mom sniffed). To this day I cannot watch movies with violence or children being hurt, and I'm a fan of happy endings.

2Granny Hagger's 60th birthday, she was visiting us in Centreville April 18, 1954

My English granny, Naomi Florence Hagger, who was visiting us in Centreville, VA, on her 60th birthday when this photo was taken. Granny's tastes and opinions probably had just as strong an influence on my mother as Mom's did on me. 

I was surprised when I found that I actually liked the smell of marigolds, and of a bruised tomato leaf, another scent my mother did not enjoy. And I left the delicate English teacups in favor of the more substantial and, I think, just as pretty German-made cups and saucers. I have never been a big fan of pale pink and green Depression glass, but when I found I really liked the pale yellow version, I felt guilty for years!

My tastes began to become my own when I left Virginia and moved to the mountains of West Virginia. I became intrigued by handmade art-pottery, quilts, and baskets filled my home. I wore jeans and seldom put on makeup (Mom put hers on daily, and "freshened up" with new lipstick and a clean apron just before Dad came home from work). My mother visited my mountain home only rarely, and for the first few visits was visibly upset at the hard path her oldest daughter had chosen. I did not think it difficult at all--to me it was all a great adventure, a challenge to learn how to provide for ourselves in this then-remote place.

3Mom and Sue

Mom and I, 1988, at my son Jon's wedding. 

Over the years my tastes gentled; Mom was surprised on her last visit here in 2003 to find air conditioning, lace curtains and a more civilized way of life--at least to her way of thinking. I went from minimalist to an eclectic, comfortable style that includes all of the things I love in a glorious mishmash that is still orderly--unlike my mother, I do not want "everything out where I can see it, dear." I still recall how quickly she could trash a place, scattering belongings hither and thither, filling a dresser top with makeup, medicines, lotions and creams and completely covering a countertop in less than 10 minutes. She was happiest with a comfortable clutter, as she called it. I can deal with clutter for a limited time but then it has to get organized and cleaned up.

Every now and again, I'll start to say something, and I'll hear my mother talking again. I have to smile because even though she's been gone for eight years, her opinions live on in her daughter's subconscious mind. It makes me wonder if I influenced my sons in the same way. Is it this way with all mothers? Do you still hear your mother's opinions coming out of your mouth?

Susanna Holstein

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I hope you enjoyed Susanna's (Granny Sue's) guest post as much as I did. And my answer to her question is a resounding YES! I hear Granny's voice in my head and I'm positive many of her opinions fly out of my mouth on a regular basis. 

Tipper

This post was originally published on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in May of 2014.

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Comments

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Thank for you posting this, Tipper! It sounds like my mother was so like mothers everywhere, a testament to their wisdom and love.

My Mamaw and my Mom would say purty is as purty does.

My mama passed away last October, and frequently I will open my mouth and sound just like my mother. Just last night, I put a pot of gerbera daisies I had received outside on the deck, so they could soak up the rain that was falling. I told my husband they needed a good drink of rainwater, which is what Mama would say.

Love this. Just this past week I was grocery shopping and as I picked up a cranberry orange bread I could hear my mom say, "that would be so good with a cup of coffee". One of her great delights was enjoying good company, a sweet bite, and a cup of coffee. Mother's Day Blessings to you, Tipper, to Granny, and all the Blind Pig readers.

Precious insights into the relationship with our Mothers. I had the greatest Mother in the world and the best example of a wife loving and being a true helpmate to her husband. Yes, I hear my Mother's words in my head too. One expression was "if you can't say something nice don't say anything." She and my father could have survived with very little. They knew trees, herbs and roots, could grow about anything. I remember someone gave us an old umbrella for our picnic table. The material was starting to come apart. My Mother traced out a pattern on newspaper, bought some beautiful turquoise Oilcloth and sewed up a new cover that she positioned on the umbrella metal frame and hand sewed that in. Looked beautiful! She knew how to put together flower arrangements that she sold for up to $100.00, and she helped her husband cover benches in their covered porch that looked like they were done by pros. Most of all I remember the "Love" she had for her parents and 10 siblings. I noticed that not all families of brothers and sisters had the love and support for each other. Thank goodness, my Mother was not a neat freak and we had a beautiful home, warm and inviting to family and friends. My Mother was truly the light of our home and I hope I never forget any of her "Words of Wisdom."

Tipper,
I loved reading about Granny Sue's Mother and her take on life. I catch both my girls doing and saying just like they were taught. Enjoyed meeting Granny Sue and her husband at Martin's Creek Community Center awhile back. I've got to say Happy Mother's Day to all the moms.

And Tipper, other than my own mommy and my daughters, I think you are the best one in this world. Chitter and Chatter and their dad are so proud of you. Ken

After many years of trying not to do some of the things my mother did, I find myself following her footsteps more and more as I get older. She would hear company pulling into the yard and knock a couple children over trying to straighten up the house. I have an driveway alarm about 300 feet away that gives me time to do an hours worth of clean-up in the five minutes before the doorbell rings.

Thank you Susanna for the insight into your Mother. I daresay comfortable clutter allows one to grow up without many of the hang ups associated with living with a neat freak. We had the clutter, but also a Mom who loved Depression glass, Carnival glass, and would stop at every yard sale in the county. Those are our favorite memories of Mom. One thing I have learned is that many interests and hobbies can create a world of clutter. My Mom used to say, "You won't remember me by how neat my house was."

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mothers who help shape our lives.

Families and their interactions take on a life of there own. Thanks for the reprint, it's a wonderful reminder of what families, and mothers, are like. Like it or not we are formed by our parents!

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