Monday, September 22, 2008

The Matriarch

Today, I am celebrating my paternal grandmother, Madora Bond, born in Jefferson Massachusetts in September 1896 and who lived most of her life in Leominster, Massachusetts, a booming town in late 1800s-early 1900s, a prosperous town that lured French Canadian immigrants seeking jobs and a better life for themselves and their families

Madora had several sisters: Blanche, Viola, and Irene - there was a brother too but his name escapes my memory. She married Noe Pierre Valois also of Leominster whose father owned a meat market. She was mother to Robert, Norman and Richard

And grandmother to Pat, David, Nancy, Susan, Donna, Shelly, Norman, Steven, Christine, Katheryn, Rickie; greatgrandmother to Amy, Jonathan, Sarah, Robbie, Kimberly, Dustin, Christopher, Esther, Ari and Noah and great-greatgrandmother to Anthony and Victoria.

My grandmother was strong, feisty and bold with a funny sense of humor. She loved life, enjoying dancing and parties, music, crocheting, the Red Sox, and 1949 Plymouth

Family mythology has a store of delicious stories about my grandmother. It is said that she would sneak out of her bedroom window at night to go dancing and that she wore trousers when it was absolutely verboten

My grandmother was a factory girl working in the local shirt factory that made Arrow shirts to be were sold around the world. Her job was sewing pockets to the fronts of men's shirts.
She did this for decades

At the end of a work day, factory girls were offered bags of shirting scraps for pennies. These were used for quiltmaking. My grandmother's sisters turned their scraps into beautiful quilts with intricate designs. Not so my grandmother; she would rather be dancing and she hurried through the task giving short shrift to design and color. She made one quilt but didn't finished it until years later when she was pregnant for my father, a very utilitarian quilt..

While my grandfather was fighting the great war, he was jilted by his girlfriend. My grandmother turned this event into an opportunity for herself. Story has it that she was sweet on him and boldly began writing to him. Perhaps she wooed him. In any case they fell in love and were married when he returned home. He was handsome and elegant. But the effects of mustard gas made him weak and sick for the rest of his life; when he died, he was only 58. During his married life, he was seldom strong enough to work; it fell to my grandmother to hold the family together with wages from the shirt factory.

Perhaps Noe wasn't strong enough to work. But family stories attest to the fact that illness didn't prevent him from ruling the roost with an iron hand. He demanded accountability for the smallest expenditures. My grandmother was compelled to record every purchase into a little black book that he kept on a shelf in the kitchen. One day, it is said, that she told him she would not continue this practice; she needed to have a few coins for spending money. He acquiesed. He chose every piece of furniture and made every purchase large and small without consulting my grandmother although it was she who earned the dollars that made it possible.

My father Robert Noe was her first child, born in 1921. I was her first grandchild, born in 1944 while my father was in the European theater. For a time my mother and I stayed with my grandparents. I was the daughter they didn't have: they loved me and spoiled me. Even after my father came back from the war, we lived only a few streets from them; there were lots of visits and over-nights there.

Laying in bed in the early morning at my grandmother's house I would listen to her moving around the kitchen starting breakfast. I loved the soft sound her slippers made -- a kind of scuff scuff scuff sound as she walked about the kitchen making coffee for herself and cocoa for me. Breakfast was always a 'folded over marshmallow toast' that I thought was the best breakfast in the world.

She loved her family and we came first. She wanted us near. And more, she demanded to be an integral part of our daily lives. She drove a 1949 Plymouth. Blue with grey furry seats. It had been my grandfathers; she drove it until she no longer drove at all - into the 1960s. There she'd be .. .. .. put-put-put-ting along in her little blue car. Often arriving at just the wrong time (according to my mother) .. .. but she never came empty-handed; she always had a treat. Donuts or dessert for a little visit during the day.


2nd gen said...

Your grandmother must have been a wonderful person and very beautiful. I am enjoying checking out your blogs, you have a way with words. Thank you for sharing.

Pat said...

Thank our Barb, for your reading my blog and giving me nice compliments. Last night, I was invited to join a group of women who journal - the group is called journaling for wellness. My first thought was, "well, I dont' journal". Later, I thought, "well, of course I do. I BLOG".