Sunday, July 22, 2012

Traveling Back

Florence and her Kentucky saddle horse, Monte

Ella's Sunday Mini-Challenge at Real Toads is to "time travel to another era" take an old photo and write its story, or whatever memory it evokes in you. My grandma, Florence Fitzsimmons Marr, lived to be two months short of 100 years old. She could remember living, as a girl,  where there were ruts in the road  where the covered wagons had passed by, when her father was working at laying the first railway tracks at the turn of the century.  She witnessed 100 years of history, from days of scarcity and frugality, through the bitter deprivation of the Depression, to the beginnings of the excesses and waste of modern times.

She gifted me with the scrapbook she kept for years, since the turn of the century, and it is a treasure trove of old faded photos of an earlier time. A time before cars, when my grandpa came courting on horseback. A time of simplicity and goodness, and strict mores.

My grandma was the first farm girl to own a horse that she rode for pleasure. She danced up a storm at the town dances, and the town girls gossiped about her when she caught the eye of the handsome new bank manager. She had come galloping into town, stopping her horse with a flourish in the middle of the street. "Who is that?" he asked, and the rest is history. The town girls wondered why he was courting a farm girl, instead of one of them.

Wilf and Monte

When  I knew her,
she was already "old".
In those days, fifty was old,
time for house-dresses and aprons
in the morning,
frocks in the afternoon,
of wash on the line first thing 
Monday morning,
to beat the neighbors',
a time of 
hats and white gloves,
talcum powder and White Shoulders perfume
for Church on Sunday morning,
and strict mores.
What people would think
mattered more than 
 a child's tender feelings.
It was the old ways,
which knew much about 
discipline and obedience,
but not a lot about psychology
and childrens' self-esteem.
It was well-intentioned,
but it left scars.

I loved her.
She was my safety,
my encourager,
my wise teacher,
my guide.
But when I turned fifty,
I realized
fifty was not old at all.
Back then,
fifty was afternoon tea
with the ladies,
elegant little sandwiches,
and dainty dishes of sweets.
Dreams were over,
belonging to the young.
Life was what it was,
well-ordered and comfortable,
the hard years
 all behind her.

Only now
do I reflect on her early years,
when the handsome young bank manager 
came calling
and she she scored a coup
over the town girls
that she still took pride in
at the end of her life.

I remember when
my Grandpa died,
and she remarked, sadly,
"I know what I've lost.
I picked a peach in the garden of love."

I remember the time
in her 90's,
music playing on the turntable,
 her doing a graceful sashay
across the floor of the nursing home,
smiling at me,
a moment when I saw 
straight into her soul,
and the young girl
she once had been.


  1. She seemed like a spunky woman, and perhaps you have the same spunk. She lived through some hard times, but obviously lived with grace. It sounds like she played an important role in your early life. I am glad you wrote this poem.

  2. Awww...I love this slice of your family history. Your grandmother sounds like one of life's gems Sherry. That she rode her own horse in the days when it just wasn't 'lady-like' that she scored a big hit by marrying the eligible young banker. Loved it!
    I love the last stanza. Her sashaying across the floor to music and you seeing her soul as she was as a young girl.
    What a lovely read, and the pictures are, priceless.

  3. What a wonderful story, beautifully told. Such courage and heart, she had! Annette @

  4. Wow, Sherry, I loved reading this post. Good for her, getting over on those townies! And I'm not surprised to see a relative of yours in a picture with an animal. Some things never change, yeah?

    Some of what you wrote made me think of my mother and all the friction between us. Sometimes I wonder how much of that may be generational. She was nearly forty when she had me, and I am youngest by nine years. What the neighbors think has always been her biggest thing, and I couldn't care less what they think.

    Anyway, thanks for this really interesting post.

  5. I enjoyed knowing more about your family history ~ And those pictures are priceless...I can't imagine living in those days of strict moral upbringing but I admire the spunk of your grandma ~

  6. This is really lovely, Sherry. And, what a treasure that scrapbook is!

  7. I, too ,find my view on things and people past evolving as I add years.

  8. Sherry, it's always a bonding and relatable experience for me whenever I read your personal life story. When I read your family stories I feel fused into your soul and heart. Thankyou for sharing with us and I have a feeling I'm not alone in this feeling.

    Gracias mi amiga

  9. What a run through of lady events, Sherry! There are items there similar to that found in novels. You are all the richer given the scrapbook. It would be fun to be given doses of them from time to time. Thanks for sharing, Ma'am!


  10. Amazing how much the Granddaughter sounds like the Grand mother? Lovely piece. I'm sure your Grandmother would be proud! It's nice to remember!

  11. Dearest Sherry,
    You know how I adore my grandmothers, and great great grandmothers too, until today, after they are long gone. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for telling her story.

    I know what it feels like, this coup :) Many look at me and Rudy and wonder, Why? How? Is it true?

  12. I will tell the story one day...

  13. Very tender post Sherry, your words and memories sashay.

  14. That is lovely, Sherry; a truly nourishing and tender piece. Thank you.

  15. Oh, Sherry...such a heart-rendered presentation of your touching and beautifully told. I love what she says about picking a peach in the garden of special. Thank you, Sherry. :)

  16. Sherry,
    This was so wonderful and I love the "peach in the garden of love"..She was the peach ;D

    It was tender and so beautiful!
    I'm so happy you shared this with us!
    Wonderful to read~


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!