Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cool Chicks

One of the things I love about my mom is that when I instant message her on a random Tuesday afternoon asking if she feels like going on a mini road trip to look at gravestones, she replies "Sure. What time?"

We went to my mom's hometown of Little Compton, Rhode Island, and had a look around a couple of graveyards. In the picture above, my mom is standing next to the memorial for Elisabeth Alden Pabodie, daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of the Mayflower. John and Priscilla were later immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Courtship of Miles Standish, in which John Alden and Miles Standish vie for the hand of Priscilla Mullins. Nobody knows how much of the poem is fact or fiction; however, if she was deciding between the two, in my opinion Priscilla made a wise choice. According to what I've read, Miles Standish was a bellicose creep with a Napoleon complex.

I love the way the carver continued the letters above if he ran out of room -- note the word at the end of the first line. It's actually "Body," but the Y is very small and placed above the D.

The creative spelling is interesting, too (I looked at my mother and said "Dyed what? A shirt? A bolt of cloth?"). Coincidentally, I've become obsessed with a genealogical mystery from the year of Elisabeth's death, so I've spent a bit of time recently looking over documents from the 18th century. The spelling is enough to make me dizzy after a while.

This is my grandma's headstone. She was a hot ticket. When I was a kid, she drove a convertible and took us on foliage rides. Her favorite color was red and she wore it with abandon -- clothing, lipstick, accessories. In the summertime she favored large straw hats with flowers on them. (My mother claims that the flashy dressing gene skipped her generation, but I have seen my mother in a large straw hat with a flower on it. Just sayin'.)

Gram was the kind of person who shouldn't have been asked a question unless you wanted her unvarnished opinion. Actually, she'd often give her opinion even if you didn't ask. Looking back, I like that about her -- she always spoke her mind honestly and without apology.

Despite her shocking lack of cats, I have a particular fondness for Auntie Grace, my mother's maiden aunt. She was my grandfather's sister and a force to be reckoned with. Auntie Grace was a sharp businesswoman who worked for the Fall River Electric Light Company in the early part of the 20th century, and then ran the Simmons family grocery store after her brother's death. Auntie Grace's last words, uttered in the hospital emergency room in ringing tones, were "Young man, you're hurting me. If you can't do your goddamn job, go find someone who can." Now that, gentle readers, was an eighty-six-year-old with moxie.

Those are just some of the women in my family. Now you know a little bit about how I ended up to be so awesome.

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