Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Favorites # 21- Amazing Women

Sunday Favorites is a meme that allows us to drag one of our old posts out of mothballs and into the light of a new day. After all, only so many posts can be on the first page and once they move down the stack they are seldom ever looked at again.

You can check out this Sunday meme at Happy to Design hosted by Chari. Heck, you might find some great stuff to read.

Like last weeks post this is a reprint of one of the post I made on another blog that I have since abandoned because I could not keep up with more then one blog. I called it Amazing Women and it first ran two years ago this month.

Amazing Women.

I have posted before about how creative my mother was at finding ways to keep her children both busy and profitable. One summer mom had me making and selling pot holders door to door around our small town. One day I finally got up the nerve to knock on the door of an old lady that had the reputation among the neighborhood kids of being a descendent of the “wicked witch” that chased after Hansel and Gretel.

I will admit that I found everything about Mrs. Kelly and her home to have another world sense about it. She lived in a small three room house with a weathered picket fence. Neither the house nor the fence had seen a coat of paint in decades, and the yard was overgrown with all types of unusual plants some of which appeared to have dried up years before. Mrs. Kelly and I formed a bond that first meeting, and from then on I would drop by as often as I could manage. She must have been in her eighties at the time but I don’t recall ever asking her how old she was. Mrs. Kelly’s house was dark, and had a strange smell that I could never identify. A combination of wood smoke, coal oil, dried herbs hanging in bundles from the kitchen ceiling, furniture polish, and rheumatism medicine among other things. The front room was very formal and had large chairs that felt like they were made from some type of coarse animal hair. The drapes were dark and heavy. I later learned they were made of a brocaded velvet. Everything in the house was old and worn but it all had a well scrubbed and polished look about it.

A coal oil lamp hung from the ceiling of the kitchen and there was an old iron stove against one wall used for both heating and cooking. Beside the stove a much dented cooper pot held big chunks of coal and an old trunk missing the top was full of logs. The table was always covered with a stiff linen cloth and there was a small loom in the corner that I learned was used for making tatted lace. Mrs. Kelly was a short, thin lady who wore thread-bare cotton dresses with a knitted shawl around her shoulders. The corners of the shawl crisscrossed her chest and were tucked into an apron at her waist. The long dingy apron, securely tied at her waist, was used for everything from securing her shawl to carrying vegetables from her garden to taking hot pots off the stove. Her snow white hair was in a long braid down her back or occasionally coiled around her head.

Mrs. Kelly lived in her little ramshackle house since long before the area was incorporated into the town and before all the modern housing developments had built up around her. She continued to live on her little piece of ground the way she had since she was a new bride more than sixty years earlier. Since we were living in the middle of town in the 1950’s, she was considered to be an eccentric for choosing not to have electric service in her home . She was constantly shooing off the kids that wanted to take a short cut through her garden or pick the flowers along her fence so she developed the reputation of being a wicked old witch.

Mrs. Kelly and her house were certainly different. But, the woman that I got to know just wanted to be left alone to live life on her own terms. She seldom left her place but never seemed to need anything from anyone either. She was a warm, friendly, lonely old lady who liked to serve tea from a cracked ironstone pot covered with a quilted rooster she called a tea cozy. We had honey in our tea and little sandwiches she made from thin slices of home baked bread with the crust cut off. She told me stories about growing up poor in Ireland and what it was like to come here as a immigrant . She talked about her dead husband and the babies she lost and the children she outlived. She showed me how she made the tatted lace she sold to a bridal shop in New York city. But, mostly she just reminisced and I listened.

Mrs. Kelly was the first of many women like her to come into my life over the years. These were women who managed to live to a very old age and remain in good health. Active, quick witted, sharp tongued women who faced life without flinching. Most grew up dirt poor, worked hard and learned early how to be creative at making do.

I am proud to currently have two of these ladies in my life. Tess, at 87 still keeps a home that would make a perfect cover for Home and Gardens magazine. Her cookie jar is always full of fresh baked goodies and the freezer stocked to feed an army should the need arise. Both Tess and her guest room are so comfortable, warm and inviting that you want to move in and never leave.

The other super lady is my own mother who at 82 just finished competing in almost every event in the local senior Olympics and brought home 14 gold medals and two silver medals. Since she was the only competitor in her age group to enter the 100 meter swim and the 100 and 200 meter sprint her goal was to beat her own time from the year before. Can you imagine running 200 meters in 56 seconds when you are 82?

What an inspiration they are. I just hope I inherit their longevity and a fraction of their energy.


  1. Rita, awesome post! And awesome ladies. Your Mrs. Kelly reminds me of Mrs. Smith.( no services in the house, at all ), lived alone but appreciated company and baking goodies on that huge wood range of hers. Miss her, I do :(

    And kudos to your Mom! Heck I'm near 42 and can't run that fast-LOL! HUGS!

  2. Whew ... I've a huge lump in my throat ~ this is such a lovely tribute! The way you've written, I can SO visualize that parlor/front room!
    Somewhere above, I'm pretty sure, Mrs. Kelly's smiling.

    Have a great day!


  3. Hello Rita...

    What superb post and honor to women everywhere, my friend...I'm so glad that you chose to share this inspirational piece with us today for Sunday Favorites!!!

    I loved reading about your Mrs. sounds like she was quite the lady! Her decision to do without the "new-fangled" convenience of electricity is very admirable! It sounds like she chose and purposed to live a "simple" life...hmmm, I'm a bit envious! Your Bess sounds like a lovely lady, as well...the perfect picture of a woman who cherishes her home and way of life as well!!! Girlfriend, I am totally envious of your Mom's energy and fortitude! have this "state of mind"...what a blessing!!!

    I can see that these three women have really had an impact on your own life, my friend! We truly "carve" out our way...don't we? And we just may never know how we may influence someone else...that's kind of exciting! I think about this often!!!

    Have a super Sunday, my friend!


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