Friday, March 8, 2013

The Women Who Inspire Me

Happy International Women's Day! I figured in honor of such a great day I'd share about two of the many women who inspire me the most (next to my mom, of course - but I am going for ancestry here).

Charlene Smith Younger 

Mark Twain had a life similar to that of Charlene Smith Younger in mind when he penned, Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.

Charlene or "Mamie" (I'm pretty sure she earned this nickname partially based on the eccentric, happy-go-lucky movie Auntie Mame") gave so much life to everyone she encountered.  Not one to hide from the spotlight she could walk into a room and you would remember.  She had a smile as wide as the ocean and a laugh that was contagious.  

Some of my favorite memories with my dear Mamie include:

Every Wednesday she would pick me up from school to take me to dance lessons. She was my biggest fan. It didn't matter that I wasn't the best in the class, I was the best in her eyes.  

Every Monday we would meet at the grandparents house for cocktail hour before we left for dinner.  Every Monday she would encourage me to perform for my family while they enjoyed drinks.  So, I was always coming up with new dance or new skits to entertain them.  Based on her reactions to my performances you'd have thought I was more famous and talented than any starlet that ever lived.  

For every holiday, even the small ones that most people forgot, I could count on my Mamie to be dressed head to toe in holiday themed apparel, and most importantly earrings.  Studs were not enough for her, no she always had on huge, long earrings that weighed 5 lbs. each.  For her funeral, each of us wore a pair of her holiday earrings, hats, and necklaces. I was Miss 4th of July so I naturally wore HUGE Star earrings and a gaudy necklace with flashing plastic American flags while my sister walked in wearing her Christmas best and my step-mom in the largest Easter Bonnet you've ever seen.  We were a sight to behold, but I know she looked down in joy that day. 

My sister rocking some of  Mamie's jewelry

Of all the holidays, Christmas was Mamie's favorite.  She would save a portion of her money monthly for the entire year just so she could shower her grandkids. The elaborate Christmas Tree would go up before Thanksgiving and then throughout December a plethora of goodies would appear under the tree from "St. Nick".
On Christmas morning, we would all gather to read the Bible story and then 4 different versions of The Night Before Christmas - her personal favorites being the Texas and Cajun versions. After opening our presents we would have to search somewhere in the tree of the "green pickle" and whoever found it first got a cash prize.  Then it would be time for dinner.  She'd always make her enchilada casserole which I could eat the entire thing and end the evening with a peppermint pig that each person would have to smash with a hammer and make a wish.  Needless to say, she made Christmas traditions something to remember.

In our home town, she was often referred to as "The Gingerbread Lady."  After her brother died, she needed a distraction to pour her heart and soul into so she did what she always did - gave back to the children and to the community.  She would spend HOURS upon HOURS making and intricately decorating gingerbread men, individually wrapping them, and hanging them on a tree outside during the month of December as gift to the neighborhood children that came by.  Watching the happiness on their faces as they came and plucked a homemade, cookie off the mesquite tree in the front yard filled her with joy. She did this for 13 years.

She loved her chihuahua. No one else did.  You could never go over to the house without wearing a shoe that covered your heel or else he'd latch on and draw blood.  She never seemed to notice. He was still an angel in her eyes. This says a lot about her. Literally with everything she always saw the good and loved everyone and everything without guile.

She was a strong Christian woman who helped in the founding of the local Memorial Christian Church where she faithfully served until she passed. Part of her philanthropic, community work included serving thirty years as a volunteer at the Children's Service League. She was a Texas State Board Member of Easter Seals and involved in fund raising activities for the American Cancer Society and the Red Cross. She was President of the Progressive Study Club and served as a charter member of various organizations including High Sky Children's Ranch, Symphony Guild, Pyracantha Garden Club, and of course, Memorial Christian Church. A patriot, she was a past Regent of the William Brewer Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She enjoyed many years as a volunteer for the auxiliaries of Midland Memorial Hospital and Trinity Towers. Socially, she served as President of the Midland Country Club Ladies Association.

On April 10, 1938, she married the love of her life, my grandpa John. They were madly in love, but he had no money and her mother didn't approve of them marrying because she barely knew him.  Mamie knew him though and she was madly in love. And so, she followed him to Louisiana where he warned her that he wouldn't let her go back to Texas without a ring on her finger. She agreed and their elopement ensued.  He couldn't afford a ring, but there was no price for love in her eyes.  She simply wore a string rapped around her ring finger until he could get one.  They didn't stop loving with that same amount of passion for the following 65 years.

Mamie generously poured her heart and soul into serving and caring for others and therefore made it impossible not to love her.  She will be remembered as a gracious Christian lady whose lifetime vocation was to love, encourage, humor, protect, and nurture her family and loved ones. Her most treasured moments were times spent with her family. An effervescent laugh and smile were the hallmarks of her personality .Always seeing the best in people,loving everyone and encouraging them in all their pursuits while bringing an abundance of life into a room are a few of the many qualities she left behind in her legacy. I am honored to be her granddaughter and hope to be even a portion of the woman she was some day.

 Lola Hudson Wilson

I didn't know my mom's mother as well as I knew my dad's mother because she died when I was younger and didn't live as close.  I do know one thing about her and the legacy she has left my family though and that is a legacy of strength. 

Raising three children as a single mother in Washington, DC could have been no easy feat. She worked for the US Department of the Interior which was quite an accomplishment for a woman in the 50's/60's, but luckily DC was more progressive than the rest of the country. Still, it had to be hard even with an income.  She taught my mother how to sew her own clothes, cooked meals for them and took them on road trips every summer to visit relatives. Again, this most have been difficult to fit in between working, but she always did it and cared for her children more than anything else.

I wish I could remember more of my personal interactions with her, but I was little.  However, I am grateful for her example of strength - strength to endure no matter the hardship and hope to emulate that in my life.

Cheers to Mamie and Grandma Lola! I am honored as I strive to carry on your excellent legacies.