Monday, November 19, 2012

Front Porch Hallelujah!

“The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On”

My grandmother Essie Dean Taylor was fiesty but silent when it came to her family. In her mind family consisted of those left behind so long ago in Marshall Texas.

For several years my kids and I would drive to Los Angeles from Arizona where my grandmother lived, take her to the store and load up on groceries.

The last couple of times we drove down, we tried to get her to come back with us. We could see things were changing with her mental stability.

I received a call from my brother Bruce expressing some concerns so the kids and I hopped in the car and drove down.

Our store trip ended up as a family kidnapping.

When my grandmother realized that she had been in the car way to long, that the landscape had changed from lots of freeways to cacti she became furious. The only thing I took from her house was her Bible, the picture of her father and a little yellow duck that she liked so well. Everything else, I left for others to take care of.

Yes grandmother I kidnapped you and I am glad I did.

Those days and nights of worrying eased more than you ever know. All the weight you had lost now began to hug your body because you had someone to look after you.
The onset of Dementia was somehow not as it had seemed when we visited you those days in California. You had always been a very humorous person with a wit that had your grandchildren laughing up a storm.

My regret is that my mother, your daughter did not live to see you here with us. You unknownly asked me often how was Zepher Lee doing. I always answered you with a smile and said she was resting. I know that she would have been very proud because she had always asked you to move to Arizona with her. Her daily long distance calls with you would have been changed to a person to person chat.

Once here and settled, I remember sitting on the front porch with my grandmother asking all sorts of questions. Oh how she hated that! Her mind was telling me that it was none of my business and that I was too nosey. Her family was her business and hers alone, and then she would clam up. How was I going to thread that needle and find out my family history that I so desperately had been seeking since the early 1990's.

On one of those last "sitting" on the porch days, I said to her something like I wonder what your daddy's mother looked like. She looked up and said, "You mean my grandma Mariah" I thought I would jump for joy.

Halleluja,Halleluja I silently thought. After all those years of asking, I finally got a name.

With a quiet voice I said to her, what about your grandfather, was he a nice man? Her reply was that her step grandfather was lawrence. She mentioned her father Joseph's funeral and two cousins.

I was too afraid to get up and get a pencil.

The names she mentioned was Hallie, her husband Willie and another cousin Millie. They drove down from Louisiana she said. She laughed out loud because Willie was afraid of Hallie and towered over him.

Then I made my mistake......I asked if Lawrence is your step-grandfather, what was your daddy's fathers real name?

She looked at me, stared me down and said. "You will never make any money off of my family," and zipped her mouth closed. She never mentioned names again.

I never got another hint about our family from her again. I do suspect though that something deep happened so long ago and the family kept those things within themselves.

I did go to the 1900 Harrison County Texas census and located Mariah/Maria living several doors up from her son Joseph and his wife Frances Dickerson Taylor, my grandmothers parents.

I also found Mariah/Maria and Lawrence in the 1910 Harrison County census living in the same place. I have not found Hattie, Willie or the other cousin Millie nor any last names to go with them. No death certificates for Mariah or Lawrence. I do have a death certificate for her son Joseph but no parents are listed.

My grandmother passed away two years later at the age of 95.

If that day's talk is called an interview then I guess it was. I got names that I never knew, and started another another journey in finding my Mariah's roots. Now if she would only answer me in the way ancestors do, I would be estatic.

After all I did name my blog Mariah's Zepher after her. Halleluja!!!


Kristin said...

I have to agree that something must have happened to make some of our elders refuse to talk about the past. It is wonderful you got those names that you did! And the time with your grandmother.

True Lewis said...

Loved it! That is usually how my convo's would go at first with the Elders. Glad you had the opportunity to take care of her and like you said put your mind to ease. Just one little name can go a long way!

Ms Vicky said...

Thanks Kristen, my grandmother was quite the hoot.

Ms Vicky said...

Isn't that the truth True. I wish there were more elders to pick their thoughts but we have to keep on pushing.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! What a cautioning tale about listening! And kidnapping! LOL.

I traveled from California to West Virginia to spend time and interview my 90yr. old Uncle George. When I got there, he told me to put away my cameras, notebooks and recorders. I was so nervous that one errant question from me would 'shut him down'!

Ms Vicky, I immediately felt your pain! "You will never make any money off of my family,". I've heard that refrain several times before. I ask this somewhat naively; how did the notion of telling the family story was motivated by the opportunity to make money? SMH

Peace & Blessings,
"Guided by the Ancestors"

Ms Vicky said...

Oh how I wish I knew George. I guess that we would have to go back in time and unlock those secrets...

Yvette Porter Moore said...

What a beautiful story! Wish your grandmother hadn't clammed up, but I have found this with my Grandmother also. Thanks for sharing.

LindaRe said...

What a learning experience with your grandmother on the porch. Sometimes we have to wait for the moving of the waters, step in and receive. Once the waters have stopped moving, it is over until the next opportunity.

sjtaliaferro said...


I loved your telling of this story; I was full of laughter and nerves thinking "Please don't say the wrong thing or ask the wrong question." I felt like I was there on the porch with you. Great story!! Now, the rest is up to you.

Ms Vicky said...

Thanks Yvette, You know that there had to be a reason for the silence. Some things we have read from their era have lots to do with it I am sure.

Ms Vicky said...

LindaRe thanks; moving of the waters huh, hmmmmm

Ms Vicky said...

Hello there San! It was one of those wish I had more time moments. Time to ask for another nugget or two.

shelley/minkyadoo said...

First let me say that the picture of your grandmother is beautiful.

With the onset of dementia, I thought your grandmother was about to let it all go. But the long term memory appears to flag what is disturbing. All in all, the effort you put into setting the atmosphere, getting your grandmother to respond, was truly a Halleluiah moment.

Ms Vicky said...

Thank you Shelley for complimenting my grandmother. I think so too (smile) and many thanks for reading and responding.

Mariann Regan said...

This story is so realistic. People want to keep their histories private, or even are afraid to tell relatives. while others, with all good intentions, just want to know everything about the people they are related to. There is that tension. Privacy or a fuller relationship. My second cousin, 94 years old, told me dozens of stories about the family. But when I asked him the meaning of his nickname as a child, "Bully," he answered, "I reckon I'll have to tell you that in the next world."

Ms Vicky said...

Mariann, that is an interesting nickname. I bet g the meaning may be completely different from what it stands for these days.
On the privacy issue I think about all the problems that could have been solved by the generation after had secrecy not been in play.