My Grandmother's diary

by — Dec. 9, 2000 (Comments)

I wondered into another world when I opened my grandmother’s diary. She began her diary just after she lost her first born son, had my father and was pregnant with her third son. I have a picture of her pregnant with her first son. In the early 1900s, there aren’t many pictures of pregnant ladies, which make it all the more precious to me. She looked young and charming.

She lived in a very small town in central Illinois. Her days were filled with housekeeping, walking downtown to shop, and visiting friends and family. The beginning page talks about Thanksgiving at her mothers. The meal served consisted of chix (chicken), oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, celery, pumpkin and mince pies, and lots of good things.

She raised chickens and ironed for people for extra money. Her husband had a grocery store. She talks about how lazy she is because there are days she just doesn’t want to do the housework. She does manage to get it done, but she was very pregnant during the hottest part of the summer. She visits her mother often.

She talks about her sisters and how they visit back and forth all the time. They eat Sunday dinners at each other’s house, or at their mother’s house. They get together with the husbands on weekends once in awhile and play cards together. The little ones were asleep in the bedroom. I don’t remember seeing the word babysitter. If someone needs help, they all pitch in together.

She belonged to several local clubs over the years. Once when her children were still small, she was in a hurry getting ready to go to meeting, and the baby falls off the bed where she had put him. She picks him up, looks him over, decides he is all right and goes off to meeting. Then in 1930, she was made President of the Patriotic Inst. Louise Fort Council Member 23. In January they all went to the County seat to a tent meeting where Julia Ward Howe came down (from Chicago) and installed the officers. Amazing, I read about Ms. Howe in my history lessons and didn’t know what an important part Ms. Howe played in my grandmother’s life.

She has a sister-in-law, Susan, nicknamed Bird by her husband. She married well. She has no children. Her husband has nicknamed her “Bird” and they travel all over the country, from California to New England. In the winter they travel to Texas. The cars they drive are of the time, early 1900, and the roads leave much to be desired. However, they have friends all across the country and travel to see them.

My father told me that when he was young he used to visit overnight with his Aunt Bird. One Christmas, she gave him a camera. He took pictures continuously. He and his brother had a grand time with it. I can remember growing up; he has always had a camera in his hands. It is a love and hobby he has never outgrown.

Through her diary I learn about the habits and customs of the day. How they spent their time and what they felt. She tells of the troubles that one of her sisters had with her husband. She had a bad marriage and throughout the diary, it took 10 years for her sister to get a divorce. By that time, she had several children. My grandmother’s marriage wasn’t the best either. She had allowed her emotions to rule her heart and didn’t make a wise choice either. He was a carouser and wasn’t quiet about it. She was very unhappy most of the time, but had loved him intensely. She talks about “fussing” at each other instead of using the words we use today, arguing. He did buy her a car, so she learned to drive and went out and about. The weather was never very cooperative during the winters, but she was able to get around most of the time in it. Her marriage ended when he died at an early age of cancer.

The First World War was happening in the period of time. She lived close enough to downtown that she could hear the bells and whistles at the end of the war, but they went off too soon. It hadn’t ended yet. Then when they went off again a day or two later, it was true. The war really had ended.

I read places in her diary her anguish of her life with a husband who is unfaithful, the sadness of losing her mother-in-law and the care that must be given to her father-in-law. The emotions and troubles that we find ourselves in today don’t seem to be much different than the early 1920s. When we remember our grandmothers, do we realize that they were probably just like we are or do we think they don’t really know what fun is all about. I am amazed at the life she led and how she handled her situations. What an interesting and eye opener, reading my grandmother's diary.