Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Maze of Small Town Time

My grandmother and grandfather with their four daughters (Mom on the left).
The faces of my mother’s hometown all look familiar, as if there is a mold somewhere which makes each family member.  A distant cousin has the same nose as my aunt, and the way someone smiles calls up the memory of a long dead parent. 

When I visited my mother, we went out to the local restaurant frequently.  We always planted ourselves where Mom could see who entered and where they sat.  All it took was for me to ask:  “Mom, who is that lady?  Do I know her?”
I know my grandmother is the tall girl in the back, but...

Mom would lean back.  “Well.  That woman is Lydia Roberts.  NOW her maiden name was…..and her mother was….”  The twists and turns of births, marriages, and deaths plus maiden names and odd events that happened down through the years led deeper and deeper into a maze of genealogy. 

Mom knew it all.  All the names and relationships, all the side events that make small-town life interesting, and all the history of decades past were imprinted in my mother’s mind. 

 My grandmother was the same, and I would guess that there was an oral history of telling family lines at Sunday dinners, funeral memorials, and births of new generations.

Mom, who is the lady on the right?

My mother traced back through to the early 1800s, and then, “…NOW Orley Jenkins came here from Kentucky at that time.  BUT his mother’s family—the Jones family—were from Wales.  What was her name?  Lizzie?  NO.  Margaret, that’s her name…”   

She would pause then, glanced at the woman who was eating her fried catfish and coleslaw.  “Oh.  No, no you don’t know that woman.”

I had gotten lost at the second turn in the maze, but I didn’t dare interrupt Mom.  When Mom was weaving her way through over 100 years of people, it was best to let her find her way back to me.