Surprised By An Unexpected Gift
Being an only child for four and a half years and the first grandchild on my father’s side, my experience with my paternal grandparents was easy; but it was different fitting in with my maternal grandparents. It was a challenge. Mother was the sixth of seven children, born into a family during a time when energy and financial resources were at a premium. To complicate matters, my mother’s parents had lost a child, a little girl, to Bright's disease not long before Mother was born. Mother Little, my grandmother, had also struggled with her health.
This is the place where a blessing appeared. Mother was born on the tenth birthday of her oldest sibling, her sister Katherine, who took her under her own little fledgling wing right from the beginning. Aunt Katherine considered Mother her own special birthday present and took care of her for most of her life.
Aunt Katherine mothered my mother until she turned twenty-two when I was born. Mother had come to feel almost like Aunt Katherine was her mother rather than her sister. She and her husband were generous with my mother as she grew up, and my special aunt gave her little sister the gift of making her debut and being in the Mardi Gras court, which was a big deal in our hometown of Mobile, AL in the late 1930s. Following that, Aunt Katherine and sweet Uncle William also gave her a big formal wedding. These were huge gifts, and Mother appreciated them tremendously!
Both my mother and Aunt Katherine were devoted wives and mothers and my aunt was busy raising her own five children, but still she contributed to my pleasures throughout her whole life, making me heiress to her generosity. Her middle child Anna Bell was my best friend for many years. I was regularly invited to spend the day and night with them even though I lived a long way away. They lived "out" and we lived toward town. Uncle William did just about all the transporting while driving to and from work. I always had a wonderful time at their house, mainly because of my cousin, who was sweet and lots of fun. We were never bored for a second. They lived across the golf course from the Mobile Country Club, which provided so much entertainment for us, including swimming in the big pool for long periods of time, among other things.
On one visit I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Aunt Katherine was also Anna Bell's Sunday School teacher. I admired her wanting to do that amidst her many friends and family and busy life. In the summers of the 1940s and 50s they would move to their house "over-the-bay", and I was always invited to spend time there as well. That provided even more fun than our in-town houses: bay swimming, boating, playing with lots of other children, and access to The Grand Hotel swimming pool which was within walking distance. Anna Bell could think up all manner of entertainment, and did so without ceasing. I pretty much felt like I was part of their family.
Meanwhile, my mother’s mother recovered from her health issues, and she also became a very good grandmother. Of her nineteen grandchildren, I got more than my share of her attention, as did Anna Bell. Mother Little lived near my school when I was in the first grade, and I could walk to meet her. She often took me to the playground-parks nearby.
As Anna Bell and I grew closer and older, Mother Little took on both of us at times. We were "a barrel of monkeys" in our own eyes and probably a barrel of trouble in hers! Our giggling was incessant and likely hard to bear, as I was often told by my daddy, but Mother Little had the patience of Job and was always gentle and sweet. She was one of my key spiritual impetuses, probably the main one. Anna Bell and I put our trust in Jesus Christ during our early adulthood; and I know that because she loved us, Mother Little gave us her untiring witness to Him.
Aunt Katherine continued to think of me when I was in high school. She helped me find a super costume to wear to a party—I won first place for best costume—I was a telephone! Another time Aunt Katherine, Anna Bell, Mother and I went to visit the college of my choice in Atlanta. While shopping for Anna Bell's new clothes in the city, she became aware that I was not able to join in, gave me money to make a purchase for myself, and I happily bought a beautiful blue sweater.
Even in adulthood, Aunt Katherine cared for me. Sometimes she surprised me by sending a Christmas check, which would last for years. She took me in as a guest on several occasions when I visited Mobile with my husband, then baby, then two children. She came up with a dress just my size when I had a sudden invitation to a Mardi Gras ball; and then she baby-sat for my child on the spur of the moment when I forgot to see to that need. She was also a faithful nurturing sister to my mother as long as she was able.
I so enjoyed the double blessing of my two "grandmothers", both on my mother's side. One "grandmother" aunt, so young and willing to take me into the bosom of her family, and the other real grandmother, kind and always praying for me and teaching me to love and trust the Lord. I hadn't been acutely aware of the great gift Aunt Katherine had been to me until I was recently surprised by this truth. She made my life pleasant and comfortable and my experiences much more broad. I suddenly saw what a difference she made in my life and what a wonderful gift from God she had been.
Anne Drake is a mother of four and a grandmother of ten. She and Henry, her husband of 58 years, live in Birmingham, AL.