Sunday, April 1, 2007

Memories of Mickie

After wondering for the last day or so what my next blog post was going to be about, I found inspiration in a post on Dear Myrtle, entitled "Influential Grandmothers." Myrtle encouraged her readers to take the time to write down a few recollections about their own grandmothers. I'd like to start with my mother's mother, Mickie.

Mickie was born Margaret Anne Keller, on July 1, 1919, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of Edward Adam Keller and Margaret Elizabeth Wrede Eifert Keller. She was Ed's only child, but she was the fourth child of Elizabeth, who had three children from a previous marriage: Julia, George and John Eifert.

Although she was named Margaret, after her mother, she was given the nickname Mickie by her Aunt Mary (her father's sister), because she liked Mickey Mouse so much.

I remember her telling me stories about her childhood. Her mother tried to be the disciplinarian, but her father spoiled her. She learned to drive sitting on her father's lap when she was just 11 or 12 years old. Ed and Elizabeth had moved to Belleville (St. Clair County), Illinois by that time, and they owned a confectionery. Elizabeth ran the store, and Ed was a barber. Unfortunately, Mickie's mother died when Mickie was just 14 years old. Although there's never a good time to lose a mother, I know that Mickie's teenage years were rougher than ever because of her loss.

She married my grandpa, Orville Creal Wilson on October 1, 1936. They went to Waterloo, Illinois, and eloped. Starting their married life during the depression made them appreciate all that they earned over the years. Mickie told me that in the early days they just ate the vegetables and fruits that they raised. They lived in the city, but their little four room house had an acre of ground, on which apple, pear and apricot trees grew. They also had an asparagus bed, gooseberries, blackberries and a large vegetable garden. Once a week Orv's parents would bring them bacon or meat, and they usually ate that on Sundays.

Besides her family, Mickie had two loves: dogs and growing flowers. All the time I knew her, she always had at least one dog, and usually there were two or three. She inherited a love of growing flowers from her mother, Elizabeth. Mickie enjoyed growing flowers from seed, and watching them bloom and multiply. She had a real knack for that -- and even managed to grow a California Sequoia tree in her yard in Belleville, Illinois (from seed!).

In 1957, Mickie was in a car accident that nearly took her life. Thankfully she survived, but unfortunately, one of her legs did not, and it had to be amputated below the right knee. The hospital she was in was a Catholic hospital, and conforming to the doctrine of the time, her amputated leg was embalmed and buried. Mickie had a wonderful attitude about her "disability." She always said that she "literally had one foot in the grave!" Her acceptance of the loss of her leg and her decision to not let it stop her from living her life to the fullest led her doctors to ask her to tell her story to other new amputees over the years.

When I was four and then again when I was six I spent a week in the summer with my grandparents. My grandpa had not yet retired, so he was working during the day, but Mickie and I would go all over St. Louis sightseeing: watching them build the St. Louis Gateway Arch, visit Grant's Farm, the St. Louis Zoo and Shaw's Gardens. She took me to the beauty salon and got me my first "permanent wave." We went shopping, and she let me wear her costume jewelry!

One of the other things she enjoyed doing was crafts -- she had a creative flair. Over the years she must have made hundreds of Christmas ornaments, and she also crocheted beautifully....especially the little fine crochet-work, like on the edges of dresser scarves and handkerchiefs. One of my favorite heirlooms is a lovely hand-crocheted tablecloth that graces my dining room table year-round.

My grandfather Orville was the love of her life -- and they were married 59 years when he died in 1995. Mickie lived until 2000, but I know she missed him every day of those last five years. She loved telling family stories -- in fact one of the best gifts she ever gave me was filling out the "Grandmother's Memories" book I gave her one Christmas. She filled in all the blanks, and then wrote in the margins, too...packing it full of all the memories it would hold. I treasure them all.

Among the life-lessons I've learned from Mickie are these: 1)Don't take yourself too seriously: nobody else will! 2)Bad things happen, but you can get through them if you try hard enough. 3)Enjoy the beauty in the world God gave us. 4)Don't pass up a chance to pet a dog!

Thanks, Gramma. I love you.

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