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Showing posts with label great grandmothers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label great grandmothers. Show all posts

Friday, February 17, 2017

Opal's Button Box

Nora's middle name is Opal.  Named for her great grandmother, my mother, Opal Terrell Teal, she does not yet realize all the ways she connects with her great-grandmother every day.  Since we share a home, she is with me often and does not yet know when she calls me - "Granmary" or climbs in my lap, she is connecting not only by relationship but in ways that I grandparent.  My own grandmother modeled grandparenting for me, but Opal did so by being a wonderful Nana to our boys. Then there are countless ways that come into everyday life - the results of my upbringing in a home with parents who valued faith and family.  Last week, Nora discovered the magic and mystery of Opal's Button Box.  The buttons in a discarded kitchen cannister are leftovers from not only her many years of sewing but also her mother's, my grandmother. They never threw buttons away but saved them carefully for reuse and repurposing. If a shirt could no longer be mended, they cut off the buttons and saved them,  using the fabric scraps in another way. There are baby buttons, the one or two buttons from a card of buttons purchased to march down the front of dresses and blouses and coats, shirt buttons, glass buttons, plastic buttons, wooden buttons, and metal buttons. Nora is only beginning to discover the thrill of handling them, and ways she can use them. So in this photo, she finds the fun in making print and pattern in play dough - all with Opal's buttons. Since then, she has carried them around in one of her own boxes and speaks with pride of her own buttons.  She says buT Tons, and I love it.  Today, she told me she needs more buttons.  She is acting true to her heritage.  Mother would be proud.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day Gift

As so many will this weekend, I am thinking of the gift of my mother, and her mother before her. I think of what a gift being a mother has been for me. And I am so proud and grateful for the young mothers who are part of my life right now because they loved and married my sons and became the mothers of my grandchildren.  I could paper this page with pictures of these mothers. Instead, I have a picture of this white iris which once bloomed in my grandmother's yard. It would be an entirely imaginary story, but it could be that it was cultivated in her yard by her own mother, who lived with her until her death in 1940, the year of my birth.  Because that great grandmother was born in France, and would have known her French heritage, it could be that she loved the iris flower, the French royal standard fleur-de-lis.

Iris grow not from bulbs, but from rhizomes which must be thinned out by dividing every few years.  So at her Bullard, TX farm,  Grandma Terrell would have divided her white iris, given some to my mother, who did the same by giving some to my sister before she moved from her home in Jacksonville.  Last year, my sister moved and divided iris in Round Rock, TX  to share with me before she moved.  Last week,  Joe "dug" Grandma's White Iris so that we can take some to our new home.  My lovely daughters-in-law will receive presents from husbands and daughters - probably flowers and pretty trinkets and breakfast in bed.  But they will also be given a small ZipLoc bag  filled with  brown twisted roots and shoots, a gift of story and perseverance.  Happy Mother's Day!



Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Song and a Dance

In all the cleaning and clearing projects I have been working on, I sorted through a drawer that held piano music that belonged to my Mother.  My grandparents lived very modestly in a white frame farmhouse on a hill in East Texas.  There was an outhouse and a water well  because there was no indoor plumbing, even as late as the 60's when my grandfather died and Grandma Terrell moved to town.  But Opal was their only daughter and there is much evidence to prove that they doted on her. They bought her a piano and gave her lessons, many done by a mail order music course, but also piano lessons given in person by Mrs. Moss. The music I inherited has been a delight to me. I have enjoyed playing through it and thinking of other hands that played those songs.   I have not treated it with the care I probably should have, but I have done something I think Mother would like more - I used it.  In previous posts, I have talked about the story of this music.

When I was sorting through the crumbly pages this time, I was doing so in order to pass the music on to Nora Opal Parker, since she carries Mother's name.  Knowing that I might not be turning the pages again myself, I may have looked more closely. But I don't recall ever seeing this title before.  It is a piece in a book of waltzes and fox trots. There must be a story in that title!

 Before the music goes into a box to pass on to Ben and Kristen to keep for Nora, there is one more way to use it.  A few pieces of  love songs will be used to help decorate for a wedding in about a week,  I also think I will sit down and play through some of the old songs again. I think Nora's great grandmother will be listening.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Gifts Continued

As we packed away our home's Christmas dress, took ornaments off the trees, and reflected on all the comings and goings of our busy family during this season, I thought about the gifts we gave our children and grandchildren. We all know our best gifts are not topped with bows and found under the Christmas tree, but I want the gifts that are there to have meaning. Almost always there are gifts of music and books and games. Every year, I like to wrap up one thing for my "boys" - all of them, including their Dad, that will be fun and bring back memories of childhood Christmases. I enjoy giving them things that encourage their own home building and hospitality. But this year, there was a gift for each of our married sons and their wives (plus ones I mailed for my nieces) that took a little explanation. They all know my fondness for estate sales and might have thought on first look that I got carried away when I found a box of old silverplate.  But these gifts were nothing I shopped for, and cost me nothing other than a few minutes' time to assemble them.  

They each opened a tissue-wrapped, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon.  Any questions about the odd set I hope were answered with the printed message I included explaining the origin of the old flatware.  

This worn, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon belonged to Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, your great grandmother. I have had these for many years, and thought for a time to make something from them - a piece of jewelry, a windchime, or kitchenart perhaps.  Somehow, it never seemed right to alter them. Do with them as you wish, but I hope you will remember their story, her story.  Grandma Terrell likely never had a matched set of anything, that is part of  your knife, fork, and spoon story. She lived in the years that I remember her best in an old frame farmhouse on a hill not far from the cemetery in Bullard, Texas where she is buried. In the kitchen where she worked I remember a wood stove, a bucket and dipper which were for water drawn from the well by the back door, and a window at one end where food scraps were thrown out for her chickens.

She worked hard with her hands and loved fiercely with her heart. She had few material possessions, never drove a car, never had indoor plumbing util she was nearly 80. She cooked food that made my mouth water - peas and other fresh vegetables from her garden, biscuits, cornbread, and teacakes for a little girl who adored her ad watched everything she did never knowing she herself would someday have granddaughters. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thank You, Jane!

Coming Into My OwnComing Into My Own by Jane Hill Purtle

I will preface my remarks and commendation with saying that the biggest reason I bought and read this memoir as well as the reason it had such attraction and impact (push and pull!) is that the author's story and mine intersect very personally. We have the same great grandmother. My grandmother and Jane's grandfather Hill were half brother and sister. But the family tree is not the only thing we share. Although we have not crossed paths physically many times in our lives, we are alike in many pursuits - loving art and literature, writing, keeping family stories, nurturing friendships, grandmothering, enjoying gardening and birds, seeking spiritual truths and making faith and family priorities

I may have read it for different reasons than you will, but you will be bettered by sharing Jane's journey.

After I posted the above review on GoodReads this morning, I wrote my cousin a note to wish her Happy Birthday since I read in her book that her birthday is September 13. I told her that on this day (9/11) of remembering many sad things as well as acts of bravery and courage, plus stories of family and faith, I wanted to let her know I was remembering her and her birthday. I am grateful for her story.  Thank you, Jane.

Friday, August 15, 2014


As Nora nears 5 months old, she is increasingly aware of color and patterns.  She is more sensitive to faces, smiling at those familiar to her and exhibiting wariness or alarm at those who are not. She fingers spots and dots on toys, reaches for the bright paisley of my shirt and the textured wood panel of her changing table. Here, she is fixed on the butterfly quilt that belonged to one of the grandmothers she is named for, Opal Terrell Teal.  As I smiled and watched her admiration, I thought of so many stories the quilt could tell.

Opal was my mother, making her Nora's great grandmother.  The butterfly quilt was made as a gift for Opal on her 17th birthday in 1931, a common pattern choice in those depression years that so needed the butterfly's symbolism of hope.  The women who chose these colors and patterns and stitched every tiny, even stitch were Opal's mother and grandmother, making them Nora Opal's great-great grandmother and great-great-great grandmother.  I stood as I watched Nora admire their handwork, thinking of their stories and hers.  They could not have known that almost a century later, a beautiful little girl would so love what they made. But I am confident they know now.  Opal herself did not know when she passed the quilt on to me how I would keep it and love it and give it again.  But I know she joins Clyde and Earnestine in blessing Nora and returning the admiration. Hope is a wonderful gift to pass on.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thinking Pink

My most delightful birthday gift last week was presented as an announcement: "It's a GIRL!"
Our youngest son and his wife are expecting the arrival of Nora Opal Parker on April 2, 2014.  The second part of the gift is her name.  Her name comes to her from two of her great grandmothers.  This is a sweet tribute to Opal, my mother, and I love it.  How she would have loved looking forward to this baby!
Thank you to Ben and Kristen for these gifts, and for our happy anticipation of holding and rocking baby Nora Opal.  The happy news was announced to family and friends when Kristen cut the cake she had baked and showed us it was pink!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


                                                   Opal Antionette Terrell  in 1914

October 19, 2013

Tonight I am in Tyler, Texas – the city of my birth almost 73 years ago. As I stand looking out on the busy street below my hotel room window, I think of my mother and father and the small clinic where I was born. Tomorrow would have been Mother's 100th birthday so we will go to visit her grave in a small cemetery in Bullard, Texas -  a small town south of here where both my maternal and paternal grandparents lived, and where Mother and Daddy met and were married, and where their remains lie, marked by a single piece of granite.  The cemetery is the burial place for many others of my relatives, and is a place I visit not out of obligation or of belief that I am visiting them, but as a sign of respect and a way of keeping our family story. A way of saying “I remember.”

Today is also a day that I gave birth to our second son, who was born only minutes before midnight the night before what was then my mother's 67th birthday. She came shortly after his birth and welcomed her newest grandchild and splendid birthday gift.  Birthing day and all his boyhood birthdays, these too, remembered.  

                                  Opal and her oldest brother, Vinnon Terrell  in  1914

                                         Opal, her oldest brother Vinnon, and younger brother, Travis

                                                            Opal Terrell

Friday, September 13, 2013

Family Photographs

This picture wall is between our master bedroom and great room which also has our kitchen, so I walk through the area many times a day - from first thing in the early morning to last thing before I go to bed at night.  In the eight years we have lived in this house, I have rearranged the wall a number of times, particularly as new babies join our family circle.  Sometimes I stop to adjust a frame or touch a smiling face. Often, I stop, loving the connection with individuals and the gathering of all of us as family.  Those are the times I thank God for Joe and our sons and their wives and our grandchildren.  Through the ups and downs of our lives, we remain connected.  Sometimes I let my eyes travel from frame to frame, praying for daily strength and peace, fortitude in adversity, wisdom in plans, discernment for challenges, joy in new beginnings,   and overall that we will love God and each other well. Soon we will add another photograph.  Our family is growing.  I am blessed and grateful. Our story continues!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Art of Making Lace by Tatting

Both my great grandmother, Ernestine M. Curley, and my grandmother, Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, kept samples of tatted and crocheted edgings and patterns for future reference, much as we keep printed patterns and directions today.  I do not remember my mother, Opal Terrell Teal, tatting, but she loved to embroider and crochet.  I have done my share of needlework through the years:  embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, and knitting but among my needlework supplies I count some of their handed down needles and patterns among my treasures.  In the first photograph, there are 4 of their edging patterns which I framed, among others.  The second row of lace above is tatted lace done by my great grandmother Ernestine.  The shuttle she used is shown in my hand in the photo below.

Tatting with a shuttle is the earliest method of creating tatted lace. A shuttle facilitates tatting by holding a length of wound thread and guiding it through loops to make the requisite knots. It is normally a metal or ivory pointed oval shape less than 3 inches long, but shuttles come in a variety of shapes and materials. Shuttles usually have a point or hook on one end to aid in making the lace. Antique shuttles and unique shuttles have become highly sought after by collectors — even those who do not tat.
To make the lace, the tatter wraps the thread around one hand and manipulates the shuttle with the other hand. No tools other than the thread, the hands, and the shuttle are used, though  a crochet hook may be necessary if the shuttle does not have a point or hook.netting and decorative ropework as sailors and fishermen would put together motifs for girlfriends and wives at home. Decorative ropework employed on ships includes techniques that show striking similarity with tatting.

Sewing instruction manual and sample, designed by Sister Mary Loretta Gately, as used in Sisters of Providence schools in the Pacific Northwest, 1908-1917
The Women's Museum, Dallas, Texas (special exhibit Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America, 2009–2010)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Carol of the Birds

I am strangely attracted to a Christmas carol rarely sung -
 treasure of music, words with sweet mystery,
 quiet, wondering melody
Questioning feathered twitters.

“Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.
Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
Hastening we seek the newborn King
And all our sweetest music bring.”

Stirring some ancient warmth within me
I play the notes and sing each verse,
 decorate a small Christmas tree
with vines, berries, woodland birds.

Greenfinch, Philomel sing
Re, mi, fa, sol in accents sweet
from woodland edges, farmland hedges
Noel, Christ on earth with man to dwell

Someone singing this tune for 400 years,
before that, once an older one now lost?
Could it be I am pulled by what I cannot remember?
Song and my great grandmother both born in southern France

She died when I was a baby.
Did she sing it, rocking me
in the old wooden rocker in which I rock my own grandchild?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Honoring People and Places

"We clasp the hands of those who go before us.” – Wendell Berry
Home has for many years meant the place I lived with my husband and our sons (and now gather them with their wives and children).  We have made a home in many places and learned to move on and call another place home.  But, as Eudora Welty says so beautifully,

There may come to be new places in our lives that are second spiritual homes closer to us in some ways, perhaps, than our original homes. But the home tie is the blood tie. And had it meant nothing to us, any other place thereafter would have meant less, and we would carry no compass inside ourselves to find home ever, anywhere at all. We would not even guess what we had missed.
I am grateful for the piney woods of East Texas around Tyler, my birthplace, and Jacksonville, where I grew up. I also warm with a smile when I think of Bullard, the tiny town in between those two.

Both my parents grew up in Bullard.    Because both sets of my grandparents lived there, it is part of the place of my childhood and fondly remembered.  The Bullard cemetery is where a great many of my ancestors are buried: parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and great grandparents!  But this is no longer just a little country community, a "wide place in the road," my Daddy called it.
I read with interest how Bullard has changed and grown.  One of the old buildings I remember as Ferrell's Drug Store used to be the location of the medical practice of the Ferrell's daughter, Dr. Marjorie Roper.   We called her Dr. Marjie. She is a legendary physician and has always been one of my heros.  She practiced family medicine in Bullard for 60 years, retiring, she says, because she was not computer literate!

 I was recently sent the link below telling of her plans to convert the old pharmacy.  I think I need to go to Bullard for a museum trip.  But I will also take some herb bouquets to place on cemetery markers, honoring those who have gone before me.

Longtime doctor transforms historic pharmacy into

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Roses for Your Birthday

Another family birthday comes into view while we are still basking in the glow of last week's celebration for Maddie.  One hundred twenty-five years ago on March 15, 1887, a baby girl given the name Mary Clyde Curley was born to a 34 year old  French immigrant whose husband died during the pregnancy.  This baby was the youngest of 9 living children born to Ernestine, who had buried a child in addition to two husbands, both of whom died before seeing their last child. 

Clyde, as the baby was called, was born into adversity and affliction of circumstance.  But she was also born into a close family circle as her mother moved back home to relatives.  I don't know much about her childhood, but I do know she loved her siblings dearly and spoke of them often.  In 1904 she married Hezekiah Peyton Terrell and gave birth to 3 sons and a daughter.  Opal, her daughter, was my mother.  I became Clyde and Ky's first grandchild.

Clyde Terrell mourned the death of her oldest son, Vinnon, due to a hunting accident on Christmas Day in 1922.  She never drove a car, never lived in a house with indoor plumbing until she was nearly 80.  She raised her family on a farm in Smith County, Texas, drew water from a well, washed the family laundry in an iron wash pot set over a fire in the yard, and hung the clothes on a line outside to dry after which she ironed them with a flatiron kept hot on the wood stove.  She planted morning glories and old maids,  kept a garden for vegetables,  milked a cow, hung slaughtered meat in a smokehouse, and kept chickens for eggs as well as wringing their necks for Sunday dinner for the preacher.  She put up berries and peaches along with peas and green beans in mason jars with sealed lids and baked pies and tea cakes. She lived by "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!"  Therefore, she sewed her own clothing, replaced buttons, turned collars and cuffs on Papa's shirts, and made patchwork quilts with what was left.  She was an adept seamstress, adding embellishments of crochet, tatting, hemstitching, and cutwork to aprons,  pillowcases and tea towels.

I remember being folded into her soft, sweet embrace and never felt more loved.  I remember drinking cold well water from a dipper, picking berries with her, and stubbing my toe on the red dirt road when we walked to the mailbox.  I remember that she welcomed folks to her door and to her table, the same one that my own family gathered around for lunch after church today.  However, she always put a clean white tablecloth on top, and when anything was blooming, a jar of flowers on the table. Whether we were eating fried chicken or cornbread, biscuits or berry cobbler, the food was always delicious and warm and her welcome even moreso.

But most of all I remember her deep faith in and love of God.  She knew God loved her and trusted him unfalteringly. She was a woman of prayer.  She didn't just go to church, it was a part of her and she was a part of the people and their worship and service.  Her pastor and his wife were her best friends.  I loved going to church with her because she loved it so much.  She had tragedies.  She did not have what most would call an easy life.  But she lived in gratitude and praise for the blessings she had. 

Grandma died one month before her 90th birthday in 1977.  I still miss her. This morning just as dawn was arriving, I went out into our garden and picked these yellow roses in her honor.  She had an old  rose bush near the front window of their house at the top of the red dirt road. She often brought bouquets of the blooms in for her table.  They were golden yellow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am thankful. The most important things are not things...God's great faithfulness and provision, His gifts to me of Joe, our beloved sons, and, now, their dear wives and children. My granddaughters are a joy.  It feels like an unbroken circle when I consider how my own grandmother and I enjoyed each other, picking blackberries, giving the ferns a drink with a watering can, making teacakes.

 Among my reminders of her is a yellowed sheet of tablet paper on which she wrote the following poem.  No credit is given, and although I was unaware that she liked to write, several things tend to make me think she wrote the poem herself. She was a woman of deep faith and a reader, especially of her Bible.  There is an occasional misspelled word and strike through which would be unlikely if she copied it.  The phrase "sweet simple things" is used by  Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was Grandma's contemporary.  Whether she herself authored the poem, the fact that I have it written by her sweet wrinkled hand that served and loved her family so well makes it precious to me. Where possible, I have left the spellings and irregularities.

                                          Thanksgiving, as recorded by Mary Clyde Terrell

For simple things I thank thee most of all;
Such things as daily bread and homely talks;
A small green dooryard and a popular tall,
The Joy of lending aid to one who asks;
For wholesome love of kindly common friends
Who stay my faith in all humanity;
For Home lights beconing when days work ends -
For the ones who wait to welcome me.
for simple childlike faith that yet believes -
Our God is real, and heaven waits us still
And that in spike of darkness that deceives
men still may find a Saviour if they will
The majesty of Storm clouds lighting rent;
The surging seas and star bejeweled Sky
Have always stired men's hearts to wonderment,
They stir me - yet a simple Soul am I.
And while thy wondrous works since ancient days
Thrill me profoundly Lord; my heart still sings
a song of gratitude and humble pride -
more than all else - for life's sweet Simple Things.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Glimmers from the Past

I was recently asked what country or regions my birth family came from.  I have some answers and alot of blanks!

I only wish had early known the questions I now have and asked them while those who might have answered were still alive! There are, however, glimmers from the past, and some apparently accurate passing down of ancestral origin. I was born to Opal Terrell Teal and Howard Teal in Tyler, Texas in 1940. My father's mother, Ida Mayfield Teal,  took care of her parents until their death, and only then married, "late in life" was the phrase I always heard. My father, the oldest of 4 children was born when she was 41. I know very little about her background save that she drilled a hole in a memorial coin (given to her father William Mayfield in the Spanish-American war) put the coin on a string for her babies to teeth on! Her husband, my paternal grandfather was a stout man, deaf as a post, red faced and according to family story, Irish, and Protestant.

The information about my maternal grandparents is definitely more detailed and full of stories. I have an ancestral chart which shows my maternal grandfather's maternal line back to the Mayflower and beyond to England and Scotland. I have heard many stories about my Methodist Great Grandfather, John Wesley Terrell. He was an East Texas farmer with a large family, but he was known for generosity.

My maternal grandmother was born to Ernestine Matilde Augier Curley, who was born in Marseilles, France, and  immigrated from southern France with her parents, Bienvenue Pascal Augier and wife Clara Orthinet to a southern Parish in Louisiana when she was a child. Their Catholic past is evident from a small holy water font that was passed down and currently rests in my china cabinet. Just yesterday I was sorting through the stacks of family papers and memorabilia. I can only do this in intervals, a little at a time. Partly because I feel a deep connection to all these letters and kept things and feel a heaviness of decision making as I sift through. I think "if my grandmother and my great grandmother kept these things, who am I to decide they are or are not worth keeping?" I am approaching my 71st birthday and have been avoiding all these boxes and stacks for one reason or another for far too long. I need to organize, pass on what is meaningful, and store in the most efficient way what needs to be kept for the time being. But lest I sound resentful, let me say there is great honor in being the designated keeper of these things, and there is story in nearly everything I touch. Yesterday I unfolded a long piece of delicate handmade lace from the box I marked "Great Grandmother Curley's Things" many years ago. It was probably used as a covering for a library table or dresser. I haven't yet made myself put it away. Touching it evokes a world of question. Did she make this lace, or did her own mother, who would have been my French great great grandmother? As I think these thoughts, I know I will wait until my granddaughters are here so that I can show it to them. Think about it....holding something that your great great great grandmother loved and used.

When they are ready, I will tell how this grandmother lived through a traumatic period in her adopted country's history: the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Spanish-American War, World War 1, and Hitler's invasion of Europe. How during this time, she birthed 10 children by 2 husbands, neither of whom lived to see all their children born. A story is told that her second husband, James Curley, (my great grandfather) was later found to be a fugitive from justice, but no word of what he had done to claim that status. They were married only 5 years, but 3 babies were born during that time, including twins one of whom was still born. My grandmother, Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, was born shortly after his death. When Grandma Curley could no longer live alone, she lived with my grandmother and her family, but she was present at the birth of every grandchild.  With 10 children, that is alot of grandchildren!

"Grandma, I look at your picture. You look so stern and strong. I know that you loved to crochet and do fine needlework because I have boxes of intricately patterned crochet and lace pieces that you used for "go-bys". Even though you died when I was 3 months old, I was told that you rocked me and held me and loved me.  I see in my own granddaughters some of your independence and ability to endure. You modeled faith and faithfulness. They have a deeply rich legacy."

I am indebted to my cousin, Jane Hill Pirtle, for much of the information here. She included this in a story about her own grandmothers published in Filtered Images, women Remembering Their Grandmothers.